(I was recently asked why I don’t blog more about my personal life. Well for one my personal life isn’t necessarily that interesting and for another I prefer not to use a blog as a diary as I consider that a bit narcissistic and not really something for general interest. However here is a short entry on a childhood memory)
When I was 12 and 13 and in the seventh grade, I spent a year abroad in Karachi, Pakistan as my mother’s husband worked for the United Nations.
It was an interesting year and Pakistan was at an interesting point in its history. A coup had deposed the Prime Minister Bhutto (father of Benazir Bhutto) shortly before we came there and he was executed during our year there.
One particular thing that I’ve been thinking about lately is the American commissary. This was small supermarket next to the US Embassy that sold US Goods that couldn’t be found locally such as candy like Kit Kat or canned items like soups and Chef Boy-Ar Dee. Their most popular item was alcohol which was very hard to find in Pakistan at that time.
Embassy employees and members of the armed forces were automatically given membership. UN employees had to pay small fee. Others, expats employed by businesses etc. were not allowed to shop there.
Pakistan had great food. I don’t recall ever having a bad meal in Pakistan but there were of course things you missed. There were some families whose kids I went to school with at the Karachi American School who only ate what was purchased from the commissary. Food at that point become something comforting in a hostile environment or at least an environment that was perceived as hostile by people used to something else and unable to open their minds.
Now at the age of 45, I’ve lived abroad almost ten years in the country of Malaysia. I am married to a Malaysian woman and basically live like a Malaysian. I would never think about looking for a commissary here (if one even exists) because you can get almost everything here and the local food is fantastic, perhaps the best I’ve ever had.
The only things I do sometimes miss are certain candy bars such as Three Musketeers (which I was very lucky a few years ago to have student at the international school I was teaching at bring me a box after a trip abroad), chili in a can although TMC supermarket in the Bangsar area of Kuala Lumpur was carrying Hormel for awhile, Hostess fruit pies I also miss from time to time.
The other image that comes to mind from that time in Pakistan was of movie nights. In the parking lot of the commissary in the evening they would show the latest American movies on a wall. They would set up a couple of speakers as sound system on the back of a truck. We would sit in the darkness and swat mosquitoes and eat and drink whatever we brought with us.
Here’s some info on the history of US commissaries in foreign countries.