William Makaneole moved to Lahore in August of last year to assume the position of the US Consul General. However, he had an illustrious career under his name before the shift, with titles such as the Director for Counterterrorism and serving on diplomatic missions to Yemen, Oman, and Lebanon.
Previously Mr. William held office as the Liason Officer to the Pentagon, where he juggled between the Department of State and Department of Defence to ensure smooth operations. After a career in the foreign office, Mr. William makes his way to Pakistan and into the hearts of his foreign office team with his fun-loving and adventurous nature.
Mr. William is no stranger to Pakistan as he served in the heart of KPK, Peshawar, for a year back in 2017. However, it seems that he’s unpacking the country during his second tenure, that too settled in Lahore – the bustling city of gardens and an abundance of food.
Most importantly, he’s a Hawaii native whose drive for learning seems to be evergrowing. Mr. William is a certified Merchant Mariner, who loves to play the ukelele in his spare time, thoroughly enjoys cricket on a warm day, and might even be caught mixing his own music for friends.
Sunday asked the Consul General about all things Pakistan to hear the perspective of a foreign diplomat. From his daily routine and favorite Lahori food to more serious efforts of the US Mission, we dug deep to get all the insider details about his experience so far.
So far, how are you liking your experience living in Lahore?
“Lahore Lahore Aye.” I love it! There are so many things I can connect with people over here. I’ve been welcomed with such wide-open arms; I really enjoy living here.
Where can we find you on your day off from work?
I’ve been bit by the cricket bug ever since I arrived in Lahore. You’ll mostly find me browsing YouTube searching for cricket tricks to learn. My go-to is Imran Khan, and lately, I’ve been invested in conquering Wasim Akram’s famous reverse swing. Otherwise, you can always find me gaming or making music – my music taste ranges from Billboard top charts to Opera.
What does your favorite Pakistani meal look like?
It looks home-cooked, for sure. While I’ve enjoyed a delicious meal at many Lahori restaurants, there’s just something about home-cooked meals that I can’t resist. Especially the food prepared for me by my friends and colleagues in Lahore.
How have you been handling all the spicy food?
I can handle spice if I know it’s coming my way. There might be a slight problem when I’m caught off-guard with spicy food, but I’ve learned to enjoy it.
Have you discovered any hidden gems for desi food? Any recommendations?
Gulab Jamun! Honestly, everything I’ve been introduced to are gems, but Gulab Jamun takes the cake. I even took some back home to the United States, and everyone shared my love for the sweet treat. Also, an honorary mention for all the home-cooked spreads I mentioned previously.
What are a few places you want to visit in Pakistan if you get the chance?
The Torkham border is the first thing to come to mind since I used to see it in my school books as we learned about the significance of trade routes. I think I made up my mind back then that one day I’d love to visit, but while I was stationed in Peshawar, I never got the chance.
Traveling to K2 base camp would be another lovely retreat, not to forget the Cholistan desert. I find something very peaceful about spending a night in the silence of the vast desert. When it comes to Punjab, I have a few recommended spots in Southern Punjab that I might get to see on my travels soon.
Do you find any similarities between life in Pakistan and back home in Hawaii?
Absolutely! Lahore especially reminds me of home in terms of food, people, and culture. I’m glad to see that Pakistan focuses greatly on familial bonds and celebrations for events like Eid, which is similar to Hawaii. I’ve even found the same plants in Pakistan as we have back home, like the famous Champa, which we use to make garlands in Hawaii.
We found out you’re a musician yourself. Have you gotten the chance to discover Pakistani artists?
I’ve found a lot of Pakistani music on YouTube. If I like a song, I’ll even try to recreate it on my ukelele – it’s a popular instrument in Hawaii. You can even find a video of my playing the ukelele on the Consulate’s Facebook page for a video on Covid-19 precautions.
How is your experience with the Lahori heat? Is it anything like Hawaii?
Not at all! Hawaii has a consistent temperature year-round, staying between 25-35 degrees Celcius. When I first landed in Pakistan during the tail-end of summer, I was taken aback by the humidity levels. Anytime I used to shower and step outside, it felt like I was swimming in sweat. Compared to Hawaii, the humidity here feels like 9000 percent!
What’s a message you’d give to Sunday readers?
I’m looking forward to my remaining two years here, given the warmth and hospitality I’ve received from the people of Punjab. It’s only motivated me to improve the bilateral relations between Pakistan and the United States.
Our relationship is 75 years strong, and I’m grateful to be the steward of this relationship in Punjab. I continue to meet new people, from policymakers to entrepreneurs, eager to make our partnership stronger. More than meeting people, I want to build relationships. I can’t stress enough how much I truly enjoy living in Pakistan!
How does it feel to be on the other side – a man living in a foreign land?
I’m very comfortable living in a foreign land given my career path. I’ve spent a generous chunk of my life living overseas, but my team in Lahore makes the experience all the more enjoyable for me.
What’s your perception of Pakistan (especially living in the heart of Punjab – Lahore)?
Lahore is the cultural heart of Pakistan. Much like the rest of Pakistan, it has a rich history, which dates back to thousands of years. When I was assigned to Lahore, my peers at the White House were envious of my travels since they’d visited in the 80s and 90s as well. They were the ones who helped me research and prepare for my posting, and now I get to see everything I read about!
Any cultural shocks once you came to Lahore?
I won’t use ‘shock’ since I am pretty open-minded. However, I was surprised to see the warmth and hospitality of the locals and how I felt at home so effortlessly.
What’s a souvenir you would take back home?
Gulab Jamuns, of course! And a cricket kit too! Both things I discovered upon my arrival in Pakistan. I still can’t get over how I lived so long without such a wonderful sport like cricket. I always knew about it, but I only started playing once I got here, and it’s slowly become a passion.
I also enjoy Multani blue pottery, and I’ve already started building my collection.
How have you been dealing with the ongoing smog crisis?
The air quality lately has been very distressing. Air quality is crossing hazardous levels, which makes me very worried for the people of Lahore. We’ve been working with our partners to tackle the impacts of climate change, and improving the air quality is a crucial aspect of our mission.
Our Embassy and three Consulates have reference-grade air-quality monitors, whose data is publically available. This data is being used by government bodies and NGOs to develop efficient policies to curb the smog crisis.
Our Mission Pakistan collaborated with the Ministry of Climate Change and Ministry of Energy to launch the US-Pakistan Climate and Environment Working Group and the US-Pakistan Energy Dialogue. I want to bring Grants.gov to your attention, actively seeking proposals for collaboration in climate change efforts.
We are currently facing a global challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. We heard your song about the importance of getting vaccinated. What measures has the US Mission taken to support the Pakistan government in tackling the pandemic?
Through COVAX and bilateral agreements, the United States has successfully delivered over 300 million vaccine doses to 110 countries. Out of which, 42.6 million were directed towards Pakistan in our ongoing efforts to help other countries recover from the pandemic.
We’re currently working on strengthening rapid response teams in 155 districts in Pakistan, procuring test kits, lab supplies, personal protective equipment, and providing training in Covid specific protocols.
Would you please share some of the great work of the US Mission across Punjab?
Pakistan has the world’s largest FullbrightProgram, through which multiple students travel to the USA each year to pursue a postgraduate degree. We are committed to providing Pakistan with state-of-the-art educational and professional skills through our programs like the International Visitor Leadership Program, the Global Undergraduate Program, and so on.
An average of 800 Pakistani students travel to the USA each year through sponsored exchange programs, and thousands more go to study on their resources. More than 900 students and young professionals are enrolled in our English language learning programs.
The US Mission is committed to empowering the Pakistani youth, educationally and economically. Our programs create economic opportunities and prosperity for our Pakistani partners, and we hope to continue with these efforts.
Any words of wisdom for young aspiring professionals in Pakistan?
Life can get tough, but always stay consistent. Don’t lose focus on learning. I still learn new things each day, so there’s no age for learning. Set goals for yourself, no matter how unattainable, and work towards achieving them each day.
We’re glad to hear from the US Consul General himself, and it warms our heart to see the love and comfort he’s received in Pakistan. Sunday is excited to see the future endeavors and projects of Mr. William as he progresses with his tenure in Lahore. All the best!