March 1978–Karachi, Pakistan
After several days of fighting “Karachi’s revenge” I awoke in a pool of sweat sans a fever. My steadfast servant Basheer smiled. I asked him what day it was.
Friday morning hearkened the beginning of the weekend in Karachi. For the first time since before I got sick I felt hungry. Basheer was glad to make a three-egg omelet with toast and coffee. Afterwards, I took a shower and gazed in the mirror. I had lost several pounds. Basheer had been feeding me a study diet of chicken broth and water or orange juice.
For Sunday breakfast before going to work I opened the refrigerator and retrieved a new product I had picked up at the U.S. Air Force commissary in Athens. Wow, UHT milk required no refrigeration and had a shelf life of six months.
I love cereal. I opened a box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, poured the UHT milk over it and waited. After a few moments I saw no bubbles floating to the surface (sometimes bugs got in the packages). The UHT tasted like milk (hard for me to find safe fresh milk in Karachi). The frosted flakes with cold milk were, “Grrreat!”
I punched an extra hole in my belt and caught the shuttle to work at the American Consulate General, Karachi.
Back in the office an unclass message from my radio partner Al indicated he had been on the road since I had gotten sick. He wrote not to worry about his girlfriend (I normally looked in on her to make sure she was okay) that she had been staying with friends from the Thai embassy. He thought he wouldn’t return until this weekend.
Messages were piled on my desk. RCO Robert Roberson came in and asked me how I was feeling. I told him that although my clothes no longer fit that I felt great. He gave me that, “Well, in that case…” smile and said, “Al won’t be back until at least Friday. I’ve got an immediate request for radio support in Damascus.”
Bob Roberson looked at me sideways. “Think you’re ready to travel? I can ask RCO Bonn [Germany] for help…”
“Sure, I’ll go,” I said. Bob hated to ask for help outside his area. After all, from Greece over to India, and all the American missions in between was his kingdom. I had heard that Damascus had the finest souk or marketplace in the Middle-East. My home leave would be coming up soon and I needed get some presents for the family. “When do you need me to leave?”
The RCO straightened up and said, “As soon as we can get your visa.”
“Tomorrow or Tuesday,” I said.
He nodded. “Yeah, I’d have Al head across from Ankara, but the timeframe doesn’t work…”
“No problem Bob” I said. “I’ll catch up here today.”
He handed me a folder of messages and said, “These are priority. The Damascus stuff is on top. I’ll let the post know you’re coming.”
“Roger that,” I said.
Our secretary B.J., who now called herself the Admin Assistant due to a recent change in FS policy caught me in the hall. She looked me up and down and asked how I was feeling.
“I’m feeling Grrreat!” I said, like Tony the Tiger.
BJ laughed. “Take care of yourself over in Damascus, Tiger.”
A confidential, priority message from Am Embassy Cairo caught my eye. RSO Childress had returned from home leave back in the U.S. He reminded me that SY was seeking radio help for the Russian microwave radiation issue. It was a long message about TUMS (Technically Unidentified Moscow Signals). RSO Childress mentioned that they suspected a mysterious local national working at the American Embassy Moscow had allegedly been colluding with the Russian government.
Russian collusion, spies, and secret passageways… I saw the potential for a lot of political posturing in Moscow, which usually got in the way of work. Once again, I thanked RSO Childress, but said, “No, thanks.” I hoped he wouldn’t go over my head and talk to RCO Bob Roberson.
That evening I returned late to my Clifton apartment. Basheer had prepared a baked chicken dinner with potatoes and vegetables. The aroma hit me like a cloud of perfume.
Yeah, life wasn’t so bad…