My life and work in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province has a certain rhythm: 6am wake-up, breakfast, into the transport, do the inpatient ward round, spend time in the ER, then home for lunch and repeat in the afternoon aiming to get home by 4pm (but usually around 6pm or 7pm!).
Due to security concerns, we are not usually allowed out of our residential compound, except to go to work and then only in the vehicle and only before dark. And so, we spend a lot of time indoors. Though we have an exercise bike, some weights and a punching bag (very necessary for exorcising frustration!) exercise options are severely restricted.
As a keen hiker, this has been a bit of an adjustment for me, especially since we are in sight of some spectacular local mountains where I would love to stretch my legs. In the last few days, however, this established routine underwent an unexpected and refreshing change.
Due to a relative stabilisation of the security situation in the Swat valley to our north, people displaced from the area in the past are being actively encouraged to return. As our town is on the main route to Swat, we have witnessed this procession growing from a trickle into a steady stream of trucks, buses and private cars since the beginning of last week.
Now, while this situation comes with its own frustrations for our project (particularly the daily military curfew which restricts our movements and has led to some very long days at work), it has offered the opportunity for a rare and special experience: a proper walk…outside…on the street!
You see, because of the curfew, the usual access roads for our transport to reach our residence are blocked and so, for the last few mornings, waking extra early to ensure we are moving before curfew begins, we have had the chance to take a short walk to our nearby office where the vehicles can collect us.
This probably seems a strange thing to write home about, but in the cool quiet just before sunrise this is, despite the many challenges, a very special and beautiful place, and a stroll in the fresh morning air does wonders for ones state of mind.
So for all those of you who are able, I strongly recommend you take a walk today. Preferably somewhere scenic, perhaps with someone special. It is a rare pleasure when properly appreciated and a free gift to yourself. ENJOY!