here, there, everywhere


In Asia, Pakistan on November 15, 2002 at 7:12 pm

Yes, I’m actually disappointed.  That’s because when we are finally in a dangerous situation, no one at home has bothered reading about it.  So here’s the story… (read a longer version of the story here…)

On Wednesday afternoon, we finally left Iran and entered Pakistan.  On Thursday we arrived in Quetta, 12 hours before the U.S. executed a Pakistani man who had killed 2 CIA agents in 1993.  He is/was from Quetta and his family lives only a five-minute walk from our campsite.  In anticipation of a violent outbreak, the police gave us extra security and warned us not to leave the campground until they had told us it was safe.  So yesterday we woke up to the sound of fighter planes flying overhead and apparently the police and army had a huge presence in the city.  In spite of the fears of violence, nothing happened yesterday and by last night a few of us were feeling sufficiently bored to hitch a ride into town with some men from the anti-terrorist task force.  The body of the man is being flown back to Quetta tomorrow apparently which means that the possibility for escalating tension becomes a bigger and more dangerous thing.  However, for those of you who know me, you know that this is exactly the kind of vacation I’ve been waiting for and I am definitely LOVING IT!

Pakistan is by far the weirdest and most interesting place I’ve been to thus far.  The transport trucks are completely decorated in coloured aluminum, bells, and chains so if you don’t see them coming around the corner you definitely hear them.  And when our headlights hit the front of the oncoming trucks, it’s like being sent to the circus or some crazy funhouse.  They also drive like they are possessed which is frightening at times since we are now on a single-track, deeply rutted highway, comparable to some mountain trails on the North Shore.  At any rate, Adam is the king of driving and we are still alive.  Unfortunately we can’t see much of the city but this afternoon myself, Arnout, and Jim are going in to see what we can see.

Jim with the driver of this beautiful truck. Taftan

I have tasted freedom in a very shallow sense.  For the first time in 3 weeks I don’t have to cover my head with a scarf.  When we were in the hotels in Iran, we didn’t have bathrooms in our rooms which meant that every time I wanted to wash my face, brush my teeth, or walk down the hall for any matter, I had to put my headscarf on.  Sometimes I made a dash for the bathroom with my head uncovered, but the way the local men looked at me made me feel like I was running around naked.  I also can wear pants again and although this sounds like no big deal, I can tell you that when certain laws are imposed on you, when they are gone it feels like you can breathe again.

That being said, Iran was really a great experience and I would recommend it to anyone.  We experienced no security problems and not one of us was in jeopardy at any time during the 3 weeks.  It’s too bad that Iran has been presented as a monster with zero tolerance for anything other than Islam because the people are incredibly friendly, hospitable, warm and welcoming.  We were often welcomed into complete strangers home and treated like we were family.

As for the rest of our time in Pakistan, 5 of us including myself, are planning to fly up to Peshawar tomorrow night for a few days to check out the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, and to see if we can get access to the city of Darra which is where they manufacture every kind of gun under the sun.  We’ll then take the bus to Islamabad for a day and then down to Lahore where we’ll rejoin the rest of the group.  I think 7 days in this country is far too short, but I guess I can always come back.

This is not rush hour, this is the usual traffic backlog in any village en route to Quetta. photo: Eric Baxter

photo: Eric Baxter

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