Seeing with new eyes
Like most expeditions, the final week of preparation was a bit of a blur. Important documents scanned, uploaded and printed in triplicate, permissions confirmed, itinerary finalised and team in place.
A year ago, when we first mooted the idea of taking a team of students to explore this country and get beyond the media stereotypes, people said that it would never happen, that it was impossible and that we were wasting our time.
The reality that it might really be happening began to sink in, gradually at first with the last reassurances to worried family members at Heathrow, then increasingly with the buoyant enthusiasm and excitement during our layover at Abu Dhabi, and finally with the bump and squeak of our touchdown in Islamabad.
However much I know that the media portrayal of Pakistan was overblown, my responsibility for the team’s safety and security weighed heavy.
Everything went smoothly, fixers greeted us in the still humid night outside arrivals, minibuses were waiting, customs seemed unperturbed with all the filming equipment and most importantly all the hard work of the past months means that the team of young people could enjoy, relax and take in the atmosphere. And I could see this country afresh through new eyes.
The jangle and flash of trucks on the road from the airport, the smell, calm, bustle and hum of a Pakistan evening, the allure of a new country, life lived on the street in the open, vats of dye bubbling, rolls of cloth unfurled with a flourish, kind faces, warm greetings, hot tea, experience after experience, preconceptions jettisoned, thoughts shared, and so to sleep.