Two Big Trips

It’s a little wacky, having two big trips so close together — it wasn’t my preference, but just the way the dates worked out for the organizers. So I’m feeling a little bewildered as I unpack from one trip only to start immediately packing for another. I know for a lot of people, this is what their business entails, frequent travel, and I love travel, but this is new for me.

(I’m not sure I have good shoes for Pakistan — I have flip-flops, but they don’t give my recovering sprained ankle enough support. I could wear sneakers, but I’m thinking maybe some sort of flat comfortable walking sandal might be best? I don’t own one of those, recommendations of brands welcome; I have a little time I can shoe-shop after teaching today.)

Mostly, I think it’ll be fine. I expect Lahore to be fabulous, the food and culture and shopping to be amazing.

I’m a little disturbed by how many people’s first response on saying I’m traveling to Pakistan is to ask, “Is that safe?” I mean yes, there some areas of Pakistan that are not super-safe, but it honestly wouldn’t have even occurred to me to worry about traveling to Lahore. I wonder how much of my friends’ responses are colored by really skewed media representations of Pakistan; it makes me sad to think about.

I’m not saying my friends are actively Islamophobic, but there’s a way in which it’s easy to have your view of a piece of the world really shaped by the narratives that are fed to you. Obviously, there are aspects of life and politics in Pakistan that people could critique, just as there are PLENTY of aspects of life and politics in America that I will very willingly critique. But if you find that your first assumption about an entire country is that the people who live there are violent — I’d ask you to check that impulse, please. Maybe examine it a little, see if you can figure out where it’s coming from.

Lots of people also seem to assume I’m going to have to wear very restrictive clothing, as a woman in Pakistan. My hosts have checked with their wives and assured me that as long as I don’t wear miniskirts on campus, no one will blink. Travel guides recommend keeping shoulders covered, so I’ll leave my tank tops at home, and I’ll bring something long-sleeved and long pants and a scarf to cover my head if we go to any religious sites, but otherwise, I expect to dress pretty much as I would for teaching here.

On the more mundane front, I’m a little worried about my 13-hr flight to Doha (followed by a 3-hr hop to Lahore, but I think that’ll be fine). The problem is my restless leg syndrome. I was totally fine on the day flight from Chicago to Honolulu — I just pulled out my laptop and worked for most of the 9 hrs, along with watching one silly movie and reading a bit. But the flight back was a red-eye, and I needed to come off it and go in to teach a few hours later, so I really wanted to sleep for it.

I asked my doctor if she’d prescribe me a few Ambien for the flight, which she did, and I took one 5 mg pill soon after getting on the plane. But that wasn’t enough to actually get me to sleep, as it turned out, not in uncomfortable plane coach class conditions. (It’s plenty if I’m in a nice bed.). A few hours into the flight, I was having really awful RLS symptoms in my legs, and since I was in the window seat, I couldn’t just get up frequently and walk around, which probably would’ve been the best way to assuage them. So I just sat in my seat mostly, feeling like there were bugs crawling under the skin of my calves, massaging them as best I could, tightening and loosening the muscles, and that made it just barely tolerable, but not good. I did get up and walk around once, which helped for a bit.

Eventually, I gave up and took a second 5 mg Ambien (10 mg is a fairly standard dose, and my doc had told me it was fine if I took two 5 mg pills), and that did put me to sleep, but that was maybe four hours into the flight, so I was completely conked out when we landed, and the flight attendants had to wake me up as the last passengers were deplaning. I got off fine, and even though I was fairly groggy, made it home, where I promptly slept two more hours before getting up to go teach. But it was a little bit of a saga.

I’d like to avoid that going to Pakistan on another red-eye Friday. My current plan is to get on the flight at 6:30, work for a few hours, but take 10 mg Ambien by 9, and hope to have eight hours of sleep. Part of that is also making sure I can be as comfortable as possible, so I’ll pack a sleep pillow (which I didn’t going to Hawai’i), and be sure my backpack is firm enough that I can use it as a footrest (I’m 5’0”, and it’s really hard to sleep with my legs dangling), and that I have a pillow or folded up blanket that I can use for lower back support.

That’s my only real anxiety about going to Pakistan — being able to sleep some on the plane, so I’m in decent shape to teach on Monday. (I do arrive around 1 a.m., so I can sleep some more once I get to my host’s house, and I get Sunday to recover once I arrive, but it’d be nice if I could spend some of that socializing with my hosts, eating and shopping, rather than just trying to catch up and reset my sleep.).

Mostly, though, I think it’s going to be great, whether I sleep or not. 🙂

(Random photo of one of my blooming cactuses.)

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