The plane landed in Islamabad at 2 a.m. I walked off the plane and squeezed onto a very crowded transfer bus. Men moved over motioning for me to sit on the last available chair next to an elderly woman. The ride was short.
I entered the terminal and immediately saw a man holding a paper with my name scrawled on it. The expeditor my husband had arranged for. I gratefully followed him past long lines designated "foreign passport", "Pakistani passport" and "women and children". He walked right up to the official behind the desk, stuck my passport in his face, got it stamped and we bypassed all the people to the luggage area.
The expeditor opened his phone then shoved it at me. It was my husband. "Honey, I'm here!" I squealed. As my husband was explaining that he couldn't come into the airport the expeditor grabbed the phone from my hand, spoke rapidly to me while pointing and waving his arms around then ran off. I stood there a bit stunned. My first suitcase was coming on the belt so I grabbed it. Thank goodness for bright orange suitcases! While grabbing my second suitcase another man started putting my luggage on a cart. I frantically tried to explain that I should wait for the expeditor. The man began to move with my luggage out of the airport. I went trotting after him, shoving my passport to the official at the door. I followed the man and my luggage out the door and was greeted by a sea faces. 100 Pakistani men with bearded faces in long sand colored robes, crowding around the railing waiting to find the person they knew whom had just arrived. I felt as though I had stepped into a scene from a Christmas pageant where the Shepards were crowding around to get a look at the baby. The man with my luggage was stopped at the end of the row of people wanting to know where to go next. I tried to explain that I was looking for my husband. He handed me a cell phone. I rummaged in my overstuffed purse for my husband's number. The man dialed the number and as I was talking to my husband he said "I see you". The next thing I knew I was safe in his arms. The expeditor ran up saying "I told you to wait for me!" Really? That was what the waving of your arms meant?
We got into the armored car and drove off. It was dark and the streets were vacant. We passed a guard dressed in khaki standing around a fire he had built in the street to stay warm on his night watch. Some jingle trucks drove by, ornately painted in bright colors with their chains jingling along. We drove around cement barricades in the street, the driver flashed a card to a man staring at us though a slit in his burlap like covering keeping him warm. Everything looks so dry and dusty.
Entering the diplomatic enclave we went though checkpoint after checkpoint passing the French embassy and others. Finally we pulled up to a gate. It opened and we drove into a cement and steel area where guards surrounded the car checking under the hood and under the bottom. Finally we were passed through. A walk up the stairs to my husband's apartment and into bed to get a few hours of sleep.
My first impressions weren't bad. After a bit of rest I will be looking forward to seeing this city in the day.