Welcome to Pakistan: Don’t Get Sentenced to Death!
“May we remind you that bringing drugs into Pakistan is a serious offence and results in a mandatory death sentence,” the flight attendant calmly announced.
Those were the words that greeted me upon my descent into Lahore airport. “Whoa,” I thought. “Here we go.”
It had been an interesting 24 hours. I packed my bags at my parents’ house, had a nice dinner, and went to the airport. There, I was told my camera backpack was too big as a carry on because the flight was full (a moment I would replay over and over in my head on my two flights with Air Etihad, when I saw much larger carry ons being hefted into the overhead compartments). So, not wanting to send all of my camera equipment into the abyss that is checking luggage, I got a laundry bag out of my suitcase and pitched my camera and lenses and cords into it. Y’know, with a few pieces of clothing to act as a buffer. I don’t know what I must’ve looked like in the airport, with my purse and a laundry bag slung over my shoulder.
Quite posh, I should think.
On the first flight – just over twelve hours to Abu Dhabi – I decided to watch a movie before attempting to sleep. I chose “Hector and the Search for Happiness” as it seemed thematically relevant. Plus, I love Toni Collette and she’s in it (albeit briefly) and this is one of the films I wanted to see at TIFF last year.
Well, I should’ve read the Rotten Tomatoes reviews before making this decision. That, or just fast-forwarded to Toni’s part.
Honestly, this movie is awful. At various times I thought, “I really should stop watching this.” But I kept thinking maybe – just maybe – it would get better.
The real clincher was the racist way the film dealt with “Africa.” No, not a country in Africa, just “Africa.” Where of course the protagonist gets life advice from a sick orphan, has a close encounter with a lion, and gets kidnapped at gunpoint only to eventually be released when he name drops a non-African gangster who is somehow in charge and is warmly welcomed back by adoring African women who make him sweet potato stew and dance for him. (Spoiler alert: Don’t see this movie)
Seriously, people. The other places he goes to are deemed worthy enough to be properly identified. He goes to “China” specially, Shanghai. Not just “Asia.” He goes to Los Angeles, not just California or the United States or the Americas. But when it comes to Africa, he just goes to Africa. No specific country because don’t you know that all of Africa is one homogenous country?
Finally, I made it to Abu Dhabi airport where, on my walk from the plane to the terminal, I passed the City of Manchester Football’s private airplane. Kinda cool.
Things I found reassuring about Abu Dhabi airport:
1. The presence of WH Smith and British chocolate.
2. A doodle of a penis inside the stall at the women’s washroom, proving there are the same idiots all over the world.
3. No snow or ice!! 20 degrees!!
Things that unsettled me about Abu Dhabi airport:
1. Somehow, it was evening again and I found myself waiting in an airport at 9pm two days in a row.
Other notable occurrences on my voyage to Lahore:
- Flying over the mountains in Iraq and Iran was an amazing experience. So gorgeous! Don’t worry – it doesn’t make me want to visit those two not-exactly-super-safe countries anytime soon. But I would fly over them again.
- It really is a man’s world in Pakistan – men are everywhere. When we landed in Lahore, a bunch of men began standing up to remove their carry on luggage before the plane had stopped, ignoring the female flight attendant’s orders to remain seated. At the baggage claim, it was a veritable sea of men, with the few women and children travelling at 3 am sitting on benches to wait.
- In clearing customs in Lahore (which was quite easy), there are some interesting signs for designated lines. The usual “Pakistani passport holders” and “diplomats” and “foreign passport holders” were joined by a line exclusively for “ladies” and one for “Deportees from Saudi Arabia.”
There’s gotta be a good story there.