QAID-E-AZAM Airport – June 28th 2011

Guns guns, bigger gun. At this point the humidity is assaulting me. I feel nothing as I walk into the airport, past all the men with their guns and hard faces. Everything is brown, the floor is a dull brown, the walls are paneled in brown. I walk slowly, confidently, like I travel all the time. I’m taking in my surroundings, the cracked airport runway I can see outside the window, the guns, the humidity, the other passengers rushing past me and finally I get to the line. Already I can see there’s a different queue for Indians, already I can see am the only black guy- I always thought it would feel weird, it doesn’t.

I queue in the ‘Other foreigners’ line- that’s not for diplomats or Indians or Pakistanis. It inches along slowly. The customs officer is skinny as hell, make-up on, grey loose fitting pant suit and something covering her hair. She works fast, quickly comparing my passport photo to my face, and lazily points out to where I can find my luggage. Detour to the toilet; take a leak and cleaner forces a tip out of me for handing me tissue to dry my hands. ‘no I don’t have dollars (not for you anyway), heres a dhiram’ He’s grateful though I really don’t know how useful a foreign coin is to him.

The heat, the humidity. Im sweating already. I find my huge red bag, all the time being watched suspiciously by NAVY men, I notice they are all quite old. I’m stopped by one of them, he takes me to another counter, asks for my passport and x-rays my luggage. I’m cleared, I move ahead and am stopped by another NAVY man, he asks me a few questions, ‘what am doing in Pakistan, and if I have a way to leave the airport’. I answer all his questions fast and confidently, but he’s kind of intimidating. I don’t remember his face, but I remember feeling intimidated.

Into the lounge, haiya am actually in Pakistan. Men everywhere, staring at me. (Where are the girls?) All dressed in dull baggy clothes (shalwar khameez) in hues of blue and brown. Then there’s a guy that stands out, he’s in shorts, slippers, and a t-shirt with a stoned smiley face. This must be the guy waiting for me. He waves, I look behind me just to make sure, and I wave back, smiling ‘cause I can’t help it- I had imagined waiting at the airport for hours. He has long hair, he looks sleepy, he looks Indian, he wears glasses, he asks how my flight was. Suddenly there’s this white girl with him, with a very bored/ disappointed look on her face, maybe she thought I’d be better looking. I know her from Facebook and emails full of smileys, she’s the reason I ended up in this country, I shake her hand. A little pretty girl pops out of nowhere, and introduces herself- I immediately forget her name. She has a nose stud, I like it, I always like them. She bombards me with questions, ‘how was your flight, how long did it take you, did you eat, what airline’ as she leads me (with small fast steps) to change my money. The money changer’s friend tries to force a tip out of me, she mutters that he’s an asshole, I decide I like her. She’s Pakistani – she’s dressed traditionally, white pants a scarf, brownish gold sandals and a reddish khameez, I notice as we go back down the stairs.

I am led outside to a white car. As I approach I see nothing else but the girl in the front seat ‘ Uii, is this how they all look?’ I think to myself even as I boil from the intense sun. She’s fair, slender, and has long black curly hair, a long calm face, strong nose, brilliant white teeth. She has a tumbler in her hands. I get into the car and there’s a Pakistani girl driving, I like her immediately, she’s loud and friendly, such an interesting accent and in t-shirt and jeans- not what I was expecting. Hayaye, her name is Haya, lol! The passenger talks, she has a twang, she has flu and she sips tea from her tumbler. She’s not Pakistani, she’s Canadian.

Everything is a blur, everyone’s talking, it’s too bright outside- am I really here?- Tthe 3 Pakistanis break into loud Urdu, the Canadian asks me what am reading, the Pakistani girl that called the guy an asshole is staring at me. I want to laugh at how she stares, but its day 1 in fact hour 1, you don’t laugh at the only people you know in a country. She holds eye contact as I continue to answer her questions, ‘…she either thinks am good looking or is just about to try see if the black rubs off my skin…’ I think to myself. I take out my new phone (why do I feel the need to buy new stuff before travelling?) I take blurry photos of things I don’t know and I know I will delete the photos anyway. I enjoy the AC in the car.

Apparently I am going to live in a posh area, woohoo! EXPATRIATE BABY!!…we get there and and as I hoist my red suitcase up the dusty narrowish stairway, past the smell of cat poop, past the dusty doors, finally to the top floor apartment, in all its glory of darkness and dusty overhead fans whirring all over the place,  I think, ‘…well, I suppose posh is a relative term…’ WELCOME TO PAKISTAN BABY!

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One thought on “QAID-E-AZAM Airport – June 28th 2011

  1. […] remember flying into Karachi for the first time, I had never seen so many guns. I went through checks and checks, attempted small-time extortion, […]

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