Pakistan and Other Strange Places (or how we spent the second half of 2018)

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When all else fails, self-medicate.   Dope worked to dull the pain  from my surgery– thanks Jill for the idea.

 

Warning: this post covers almost six months, so its a bit long. Skip to the pics if you want  a scan.

This is how we spent the second half of 2018:  We took four RV trips, I gave four speeches at a m/c rally, attended a climate summit in SF, took two train trips, flew to PV a couple of times, went to Pakistan for the first time, I worked with the Trump Administration and to top it all off –  I go under the knife for a 4 1/2 hour surgery.

One of our pleasant surprises of the second half is we use Thor (25 ft Class B RV) much more often than we expected and in a totally different way. We bought it for long, meandering trips as well as a second bedroom in PV.  But most of our trips have turned out to be short stints to beaches and lakes in which Bogart and Squirt can run free.   We’ve made a “Thor Weekend” really Plug & Play as we can be packed and ready to go in under an hour.   There’s an RV park on a beach 45 minutes from downtown LA..  We go there most often despite being directly beneath LAX’s runways and across the street from a huge sewage treatment plan and oil refinery:)

Going to Pakistan wasn’t on my bucket list.  The Taliban. Radical Islam. Osama bin Laden and the land of the Burka sums up what I knew of Pakistan before getting the invitation to speak at the 021Disrupt conference in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city.  I could only stay 3 1/2 days, so KR didn’t come along.

Let me cut to the chase.  Here’s what I encountered in Karachi.

  • I continue to be surprised that there are young, enthusiastic entrepreneurs in most emerging countries and Pakistan is no different.  The 021Disrupt conference drew 500+ entrepreneurs, students, and investors. I met with a great many very fine young people who were all earnestly trying to build a company.  But, like most every other developing nation, Pakistan’s entrepreneurs have little support from government, businesses, investors, universities and other stakeholders. It’s this “ecosystem” that accelerates innovation in developed nations.
  • Pakistan is country of paradoxes for an American entrepreneur.  First, the country was created specifically so that Muslims could live the life that their religion specifies.  This is not just a country that has a Muslim population, its a country that was created for them.  It’s a country which is tightly controlled by its federal government and military.  Yet,  I didn’t see a country that looked 100% traditional Muslim.  At least at the events I went to — diplomatic, entrepreneurial, academic, social — there was a mix of traditional and Western dress by both the women and men.  The women I spoke with were smart, articulate and independent.  Net net, it felt comfortable.  I discovered to my surprise that no alcohol is served anywhere except private clubs and only available for sale in black market stores.
  • I was more aware of security in Pakistan than any country I’ve been to.   It wasn’t blatant, no armed soldiers on street corners and in hotel lobbies as in Ethiopia.  No, it was a serious consideration whenever outside the hotel.  For the first time, I learned what US Green Zones, Yellow Zones or Red Zones meant.  Green = an American government employee on station can go there anytime without permission.  Yellow = an American can go with the permission of their immediate boss.  Red= an American only can go with the permission of the Ambassador.  This was the first time I’d been to a Red Zone.  Yet, it was pretty heartening to listen to Pakistani government officials at a lunch meeting discuss the causes — and potential solutions — of radicalism in a realistic, long-term way.  There was no white-washing.
  • Physically, Karachi is a lot like Mumbai or Delhi.  At 20+ million people, all three cities are of similar size.  Karachi looks a lot like India, except possibly less depressing, slightly less garbage, with more cars vs Tuk Tuks.  Karachi is located in a desert — it gets 2 days of rain each year!  There doesn’t appear to be a lot of infrastructure (sidewalks and things like that) and like Delhi, it doesn’t feel like a walking city compared to Mumbai.
  • Finally, Pakistan provides a real-life prism into the immigration issue.  Pakistan is one of the biggest supporters of radical Islam and supports terrorism against the US in Afghanistan.   Its one of the last countries I’d want someone immigrating from.  Yet, the young entrepreneurs I met would be welcome additions to our country.  All you have to do is look into the eyes of a young Pakistani who visited US once, thinks its a magical place, and desperately wants live here to know what “I want to escape a bad place for the opportunity of America” looks like.  Go figure.

On a lighter note, KR and I went to the annual Horizons Unlimited meeting of motorcycle adventurers in Mariposa, California this September.  Its a three day event filled with training sessions, war stories, how-to sessions sprinkled around meals with fellow motorcyclists.  We all camped in tents at the county fair grounds. We spent five days to and from  the meeting, riding around California’s gold country.  I was asked to make four — count’m four — presentations: “How to go to the Isle of Man TT races”,  a travelogue of our two trips through Europe, unusual places to ride in California, and how to “rewire” your life for travel.  While I was sure the last one would be the least popular, it was actually the most popular and generated the most interaction.  Apparently getting one’s life under control in order to pursue your passion is a pretty important subject no matter the passion..

I finally got the chance to take the Amtrak train down the coast to San Diego and then north to San Luis Obispo.  It was unique mode of transportation from our norm and I highly recommend it.  The view is great, not worrying about the drive was terrific, the food was acceptable, and it made for great scenery — inside and outside the coach.  If any of you are contemplating this trip, email me and I’ll give you some pointers.

I’m writing this post from bed two weeks after going through a 4 1/2 surgery to resection my colon.  Basically, they cut a six inch section out and re-attached the ends.  It’s been quite an experience that I’m glad to have come through fine.  I have one peace of advice for everyone reading this over the age of 50 – get a colonoscopy now if you haven’t had one for a year.  It saved my life.

OK, enough with the words, here’s what all of this looked like in pictures.

Getting met at the airport is a good thing. It kinda spoils you.

Plenty of hookhah smoking at a Karachi restaurant. Lots of hookahs, but no booze. Food was pretty good, a blend of Indian and Thai.

I gave a speech at one of Karachi’s leading universities. Great place. Yet, it was in a Red Zone because it was so far away from the US Consulate that if something happened, they couldn’t get there very fast.

Its a bit disconcerting walking into a room full of people with your pictured blown up on a wall

Entertainment at an evening dinner/reception. They were pretty good, but I still left early: )

021Disrupt conference which had a full house of 500 people for two straight days.

Karachi looked a lot like any city in India.

On my way back from Pakistan I stopped in DC because I was  invited to join the Secretary of Commerce’s Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Advisory Committee (REEEAC). It was fascinating to work across the isle and I met a lot of really smart people.  REEEAC is chartered for two years.

The HU meeting is a totally different kind of event. Three days of motorcycles, adventure motorcyclists, training, how-to’s and…

Camping. This is was considered a great campsite as it was under a tree, which sheilded us from the100 degrees. It’s been a while since we last camped, but we got into the swing pretty quickly

Slightly different deal than Karachi. Lots of fun.

I know many of you think we’re crazy when we say that the best way to meet new people is a bar along the road. Jim is a world-recognized car restorer and mini real estate magnet in LA. A couple of years ago he moved everything to Kernville, a very small town along the Kern River. He now does his car business in this tiny town, and just for the fun of it, bought the saloon we were in.

How many times have you seen similar pictures of KR?  I love them because you can’t really tell what she’s thinking, “I’m ready (for anything), lets go!” or…“What kind of god-for-saken place are you  going to take me to now?” I prefer the first translation.

There is absolutely NOTHING that beats being on the road on your motorcycle with your girl on the back.

The best part of weekend RV’ing is going to the beach or lake and letting our dogs have fun.

No matter where we go, its always great to put the chairs out, grab a bottle of whine, and let dogs have fun. Whether its at Big Bear or

Or at the beach. Even with a refinery and waste treatment plant across the street, its a great time.

On the train to San Luis Obispo watching the coast go buy…

Just like a plane, you can work along the way. Wi-Fi is free on the train though.

While not the Orient Express, the train had business class, a bar car and a dining car with very interesting people watching.

But there’s something to be said for solitary dining in business class on Turkish Airlines..

KR waiting for me to go to surgery

4 and 1/2 hours later, I’m out. I stayed in the hospital for only 3 1/2 days, which my surgeon said was a record-breaking short stay.

Live to ride (forget the HD part).  Nine total incisions of one kind or another.

A couple of weeks later we received a letter from St. John’s hospital.  Karen thought it was a bill.  Instead we got this extraordinary note, reinforcing its extraordinary service.  I’ll be up and around in the next week or two, then its off to Mexico!

That’s it for now.  I’ll try to write more often.

FW

PS:  One fun fact for 2018:  We took 18 trips this year, which is the fewest number in the last four years.  We’re at 42 countries and counting.  We need to pick up the pace : )

 

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3 Responses to “Pakistan and Other Strange Places (or how we spent the second half of 2018)”

  1. Fred and KR,
    Your life and travels continue to amaze us ! Thank you for sharing the good, the bad and the scary life adventures with us. Dennis and Mr. Marley send love and oh yes, our new pup “Gus” sends bite marks that compare to your scar ! On a serious note, we are so grateful you had a successful colon resection and are hopeful you have healed without further treatment. We love you both very much. Have a wonderful Christmas 😘 DD

  2. Fred,

    Great story. Keep inspiring and fostering my interest in overlanding.

    -Mark

  3. Hi Fred and Karen
    Glad your okay Fred,
    Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
    Scott,Pie and Shilo