In the gray light of my first morning in Pakistan, the thick salty smell of sulfur introducing me to the seaside city of Karachi, the streets were full of men.
With few exceptions it was men congregating in front of the still dark airport, men piled onto buses carnival decorated with Technicolor and chrome and men weaving through the thickening traffic on motor bikes and rickshaws.
I thought back to my trip to Pakistan in 2006, when one of my greatest regrets was that I hadn't had the opportunity to meet and hang out with more women.
Sitting at a stop light en route to our hotel (also staffed entirely by men) watching a group of teenage boys crowded on the sidewalk watch me through the taxi window, I promised myself that I would pursue more diversity in my reporting this trip and make a point of finding out what women think about this critical time in their country's history.
It didn't take much doing on my part.
By the next evening I found myself at a party with new friends in a wealthy neighborhood, in a suburb of the city. Almost immediately upon arrival in the light strung garden the men declared they would retire to the dining room, leaving us women to enjoy the newly cool evening with windows open and the TV on in the living room.
The Flogging In Swat
At the first mention of gender segregation my heart lurched with jealousy. I fought back the assumption that the men were sitting down to a round of cigarette smoking and political discussion that excluded me.
I feel anxious enough in female exclusive social situations at home, and through a jet-lagged fog I nervously wondered what these women, some in full burka, might think of me, what they might want to talk about.
My questions were answered soon enough as breaking news of the most recent bombing in Islamabad crowded the T.V. screen. The room came alive with political chatter and I was immediately drawn into the fervent discussion about the rising violence in Pakistan.
"Did you see the video of the flogging in Swat?" one woman asked me anxiously, referring to a  grainy cell phone video of a seventeen year old girl being whipped as punishment in the Swat Valley—an area now ruled by Sharia (or Islamic) law and largely controlled by Pakistani Taliban—that has provoked anger throughout much of the country as it's circulated continuously on national and international news.
Before I could answer, Pakistani  President Zardari flashed on the T.V. screen. "Nobody likes Zardari here," a teenage girl seated next to me on the couch in a brilliant pink shalwaar kameez volunteered. "We think he is weak and corrupt."
Soon President Obama, addressing the G20 summit, appeared on the screen, his now familiarly handsome and confident image launching a discussion of Pakistani perceptions of the new leader.
A Look In The Mirror
A question from across the room caught me off guard: "What about the violence you have recently been experiencing in your own country?"
"I think we are all wondering why this violence is happening."
It took me a moment to register that she was talking about the  New York shooting of the day before (which incidentally Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of the Taliban in Pakistan had briefly, and by most standards here, comically, attempted to take credit for).
"You also had a shooting at a nursing home recently as well isn't that right?" the woman, an educational administrator, continued, "Where does this violence come from in the U.S.?"
Struck by the realization that the United States must also come across on the evening news as a violent and inscrutable nation to many here, I stumbled around in a rambling monologue about gun laws and insufficient access to treatment for the mentally ill.
Graciously, a dental surgeon squished onto the overstuffed couch to my right came to my rescue. "I think we are all wondering why," She said quietly, "we are all wondering why this violence is happening."
That sad and quiet "why?" passed between women at a dinner party somewhere in the maze of high white stucco walls that house Karachi's elite became a populist roar the next day.