The Long Road to Shogran, Pakistan

Siri Paye Pakistan

We packed into the van at 2am and found our “beds” for the 8-hour drive to Shogran from Islamabad. Because there were only five of us, I figured this would be a pretty cushy ride and I might actually get some sleep. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was bad enough that one of the two seats I had to sprawl out on wouldn’t actually tilt up, which didn’t allow for a sturdy base to sleep against, but the roads were so bumpy that actually staying on the “bed” was difficult. At some point in the night, I pushed the 16 one-liter bottles of water against my seat row and put my pillow on that to give myself at least a bit of extra room; then I put my foot against the engine hump in front of me to keep myself from falling off the seats as we bounced around.

Quickly though, the night sky lifted and the sun was coming up and I realized there was no slumber for me. Two hours of sleep on my second night in Pakistan was about all I was going to get to enjoy. I sat up and watched out the window as the sun rose and turned everything pink for a while. I felt like I was finally getting to see some of what Pakistan was really like.

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My Arrival in Islamabad, Paksitan

faisal masjid mosque islamabad

After 20+ hours of travel, most everything about landing in Islamabad, Pakistan is a blur–the gathering of my things, deplaning, how did I even get into the terminal? It’s 4am local time and my only feelings are anxiety about finally visiting Pakistan, and discomfort–I want a shower; it’s hot; I’ve been wearing the same clothes for longer than I like; my legs are swollen; and I’m dying of thirst.

I approach the short foreigners’ and diplomat line, wondering how long it’ll take me to get through as a first-time visitor to the country, and pull out my phone to text my friend that I’ve arrived. He said, “I know. I’m watching you. You’re wearing a red sweater.” Apparently there are cameras recording and displaying our images to the entire arrivals area, and I can’t decide how I feel about that.

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Post-Election Commentary: Why I’m Sad and Scared

Smith kids vote

In 2008, I shed tears of genuine elation that we, as a nation, had finally come together and progressed to a point where we elected our first black president. For eight happy years, I lived in relative bliss knowing that this man had my back because he had my nation’s best interests at heart. His administration ended the Reign of Terror enacted by George W. Bush, and it was nice to be able to travel abroad without people asking me essentially, “what the fuck is wrong with your country and your president?”

Two days ago, I shed tears of sadness, fear, anger, and frustration when Hillary Clinton conceded to Donald Trump. All of the hope that I had for continued progress was dashed in that moment. We, as a nation, elected a man who is not fit to run our country.

A lot of people have been posting that it’s “just an election” and that the “liberals” and “elites” need to get over it, there’s no reason to cry. Obama himself said, “the sun will be up tomorrow.” And yes, the sun has come up, and it is “just” an election, but it’s so much more than that. I’ve never been comfortable with people telling me how to feel or to stop feeling a certain way. So I’m here to tell you: feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Cry, if you need to. I’ve cried several times. I know it may seem melodramatic, but I’m mourning the loss of the progress that we’ve made for eight years under the Obama administration. I’m mourning the hope I had for our first woman president–for a president who would advance this country in so many ways and continue to make us a great nation.

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How to get a Pakistani Tourism Visa

upper kachura lake pakistan Getting a tourism visa for Pakistan was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. I was really discouraged after the first visa application was rejected. I spent weeks getting together documentation, filling out paperwork, and more. I spent $192 on the visa application, plus the cost of return mailing in express envelopes. And on top of that, I spent a lot of time, anxious about the status. Did I want to go through all of that again?

I gave myself a couple of days to be sad about it, wrote a blog post about it, and decided to try again.

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I’m a Traveler and a Trump Presidency Scares Me

new yorker donald trump

New Yorker

The upcoming US Presidential Election is not just a huge deal for those of us who live in the United States. It’s grabbing headlines around the world, and most everyone is watching to see what will happen on November 8th.

My travels over the past few months have seen the topic of politics come up numerous times–foreigners wanting to know both my political stance and what I think will happen to the United States and the rest of the world based on the election results.

It’s no secret that I’m a Democrat. I’ve brought up politics and my bleeding-heart liberal ways on this blog before. I don’t hold people’s politics against them; and I hope no one will hold mine against me. My feeling is that politics are exciting to talk about and debate over, and as long as we can have intelligent conversations and discourse about them, we’re all good.

While I’ll be casting my vote for Hillary Clinton in a couple short weeks, the outcome of the election is still one big question mark, and that causes me much anxiety. Why? Because I’ve thought about a world in which Donald Trump is president of our country and that scares me beyond belief.

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Pakistan’s Real Truth

Take a minute to go to Google and do an image search for Pakistan. I’ll wait. What did you find? A couple maps, a couple flags, sure.. but then what did you find?

new york times paksitan

New York Times

new york times pakistan

New York Times

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera

All death. All destruction. All terror. All horror.

When my tourist visa was rejected, I heard a resounding sigh of relief from all my friends and family. They were all thrilled that I wasn’t going because that meant, instead, I’d be safe and sound in my own home country.

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My First Rejection

If you’ve been a reader of my blog for a while or are one of my close friends, you know that my desire to see Pakistan has been unquelled for the past few years.

So, it’s with a heavy heart and much sadness that I write this: I was rejected for a tourist Visa to Pakistan without reason.

hunza valley

found on Wikipedia

This is my first Visa rejection and the process has offered a glimpse into how difficult it must be for people from non-Western countries to secure Visas for travel. As an American, I often take for granted how powerful my passport is and how it allows me absolute entry into almost every country–something for which I’ve always been grateful (and a bit guilty).

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A Long Weekend in Bogota

When my friend Sara Beth and I spotted dirt-cheap flights to Bogota, we knew it was time for us to finally adventure to South America for the first time ever! We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into, hardly planning much before going because we were both so busy with work, but it ended up being awesome.

Before going, we looked at Cartagena, Bogota, and Medellin before ultimately settling on Bogota. While I’d read that it wasn’t a very touristy destination and more of a business city, we still found loads of things to see and do while there, and I’d go back again!

The people were friendly and happy, the weather (while drizzly) was nice and cool, the Andes surrounding the city made for a gorgeous backdrop, the food was delicious, and I loved all the street art.

bogota colombia monserrate

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Varanasi, India’s Most Perfect City?

varanasi india

I’ve taken two trips to India in the past year and have yet to write much on my blog about either of the trips. India is one of those countries that’s so difficult to actually describe, but is so amazing that you want to tell everyone about it.

I was just answering a few questions on my favorite place in the world for another blogger and without hesitation, I picked a place–and not one that I thought I would’ve chosen: Varanasi.

Varanasi is the holiest place for Hindus—both life and death can be found along the ghats the Ganges. It was a place I knew I had to visit when going to India, but is surprisingly not terribly touristy (as compared to places like Agra). It was the last place I visited on my first trip to India. I was tired both physically and mentally; in mid-May it had become exceedingly hot and humid, draining me all of my energy. I was sick of the food; sick of the honking of horns; tired of touts chasing me to sell everything from useless toys to finger paints. But something about that city completely re-energized me.

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The Surprise of Mexico City

mexico city

I have something to admit: for a long time, I’ve been very anti-Mexico. It’s not that I’ve had an issue with the country itself, it’s been more about the people who go there–mainly to the resort areas. I’ve always hated the idea of resort-going, until I recently tried it and realized it has its place. But it’s always left a bad taste in my mouth when people go on and on about Mexico when really all they’ve seen is the beaches at their private resort. You didn’t see the real Mexico. (Whoa, showing a bit of my pretentious side, I guess!)

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