I’ve been in Washington, DC for exactly a month now. And one thing that you have to do if you work here is networking. Which is an art form in itself. The networking is brutal (and tiring), and after a few weeks you’ll realize your spiel about what you do comes naturally to you. “Hi, my name is Huma, I work as a correspondent for Express, which is a (insert description based on who you’re talking to) would love to meet you and discuss (insert issue here). Let’s (insert: meet/i’ll call your assistant/email). ” Quickly whip out cards and exchange.
The next sound is of your brain cells dying.
But my gripes about having to do the meets and greets aside, DC is a wonderfully weird town. It is wonderful because its small and quiet, and has wonderful architecture, tree lined streets and some gorgeous sights. Everyone is friendly, and there is ample space to walk on the pavements. The food is fairly decent, and it is gorgeous in the spring.
The weird part is how everyone you meet either works for the government or a think tank or for the IMF or World Bank. As someone described it, its “like Islamabad with better restaurants and pavements”. You also witness how World Bank folks > IMF ones (will never recover from the experience of dancing with an IMF geek who gave me his business card afterwards. I suspect he is perpetually in networking mode, even at 2AM). Then, there is the abundance of shiny happy people. DC folks, sometimes its okay to look like slobs, and not as if you walked straight out of the Zara store.
And then, there is the part of being away from home, and you begin yearning for the small comforts. There are at least half a dozen of us looking for a place in DC that serves halwa puri in the morning (am convinced it exists somewhere). Watching the Pakistan-India match in a crowded room at a university and realizing how desperate the Pakistanis were to cheer on something that they clapped and roared when a shot of PM Gilani came on, and after the defeat, a boy turned to me and said, “why do we always have to bear this shame?” The raised eyebrow when you hand your green passport as ID at a bar. And sometimes, just wishing you were back in your room in Karachi, sipping chai.