The other day I went to three Asian nations, all the while remaining about a kilometer from my home. Each year, embassies in Washington open their doors in a show of goodwill and national promotion. Technically, each embassy is a part of that nation, so in effect, I stepped onto foreign soil within the confines of my home city. Embassies are scattered throughout Washington. The logistics of distance and time helped decide the “countries” I visited – Malaysia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
For the general public, there was a lot to see and experience. Displays of art and clothing were common. All had some sort of regional food to try, many to the accompaniment of regional musicians. I saw many expats enjoying familiar glimpses of home.
My view undoubtedly was slightly different, coming through the lens of covering and flowing news events from each of these countries for years. I heard no mention of the missing Malaysia Airlines flight at the Malaysian Embassy. Neither mention of the Taliban nor a photo of former president Pervez Musharraf were evident at the Pakistani Embassy. Poor working conditions at garment factories in Bangladesh were not part of a display of the country’s exports.
As a journalist, it’s easy sometimes to lose sight of anything else happening in these countries other than the stories widely reported. Of course I really didn’t expect to see anything related to these topics at the embassies, and it was a nice respite. There are so many positive things to experience in every country. I’m glad I went “to Asia,” I hope to visit many more times. My only regret is they don’t open the doors like this more often through the year.