Wednesday, November 09, 2005

It's English Jim, But Not As We Know It

After months of battling to make myself understood through Southeast Asia and China (you just start getting the hang of one language when your visa is about to run out and you have to go to a new country and start all over again) I am once more in a country where I can sit back and be linguistically lazy as here in Pakistan you can always find someone who speaks at least a bit of English (I've also managed to find a couple of people who speak a smidgen of Farsi, which has made me inordinately happy). Well, I say it's English, but it's an English that seems to have been stuck in a Victorian time warp so I am continually being called "sir" (I wasn't even called that when I was a teacher) and asked for my "good name". It's actually rather quaint. But I will try and pick up some Urdu and Hindi as I will be staying here some time.

I have, however, fled from the Northern Areas to Islamabad; not because it's not nice up there, but because I want to get away from the cold and I need to start applying for my Indian visa (which takes some time). It can get quite annoying the hoops that countries want you to jump through before they will let you in, when all you want to do is spend money in their country. At the moment I'm reading a book by John Simpson in which he talks about how people travelled some 150 years ago. The British refused to have passports and would just arrive at borders and demand to be let in, which they invariably were. Bring back the good old days I say! Either way, I will be back in Pakistan after my tour of the rest of the subcontinent and I'll be more thorough then. Islamabad itself is rather uninteresting as it is one of those 20th century inventions that I'm beginning to really dislike: the designed capital city. They all share certain characteristics that make them rather soulless places, like ridiculously wide boulevards and no pavements; no discernible town centre; and people never seem to live there, they always just work there, or at best reside there. As far as they go Islamabad isn't too bad because although it doesn't have a centre, each of its little districts has a central market which is often lively enough.

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