The Afghan Refugees in Pakistan

Continued

Hitchhiking in the Most Dangerous Part of Pakistan

The German countryside air was getting from chilly to cold. Everybody went to pick up jackets and gather more firewood, Nina played the German hitchhiking song again and we sang along.

Even after years, I would still remember the glowing faces of those lovely people, remember the chirping of the insects in the vast fields surrounding us and the sweet smell of the amber.

Dunia was a Russian girl studying in Berlin. She liked to wear simple clothes. She spoke with such a simple, calm and sincere voice that I did not feel any pretension or pride in it. Six years ago, she and her friend went on a journey for the first time, hitchhiking from Moscow to Scandinavia. They had never really traveled before.

The first driver was a guy called Bairam, about 40 years old and originally from Baku, Azerbaijan. The ride went on fine and peacefully until Bairam confessed that in his younger years he was jailed for killing two traffic policemen. It must have been a gigantic shock for two young girls hitchhiking for the first time! However, Bairam brought them to their destination just fine.

They did dumpster diving for the first time and lived in alternative communes in Sweden for the first time. Their journey went on and on for 5500 km and from then on, neither of them ever stopped traveling until this very day.

The road is the most fascinating charmer. Once you see the amazing freedom one can gain on the road, there is no way that you will stop anymore. You will just travel to the end of the world, and the end of your life.

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Not just in Europe, Dunia also hitchhiked in Pakistan and Iran. In the north of Pakistan, there were many Afghan refugees, some fleeing the Soviet invasion in the 1980s, some fleeing Taliban, some fleeing the US invasion in 2001.

When she and her friend were traveling there, she got sick. The driver who gave them a ride was a young taxi driver, a refugee from Afghanistan. He offered to help them and to host them in the house of his parents. They agreed. He drove them outside the city, in a seemingly rather dodgy neighborhood. It was totally dark. When he stopped the car and they got out, there was no houses to be seen. For a moment, they were scared, then the driver went up a mound. There was an almost invisible curtain. He lifted the curtain and light came out. The house was simply built into the hill, like a cave.

They met the parents of the driver. The driver explained the situation and left shortly. The parents brought dates to the guests. As you could imagine, they did not speak English, German or Russian. However, like many experienced hitchhikers, Dunia hitchhiked a lot in Iran and learned Farsi there. In Afghanistan there were two main languages, Dari and Pashto. Dari was a language very similar to Farsi and even could be considered a dialect of Farsi. So they could more or less communicate in Dari.

They had a look at the house. It was in a very poor condition. It was unimaginable for human beings to live here for even one year. Yet, this old couple had lived here for many years after fleeing from Afghanistan. They were among the poorest people in the world. Other peoples, no matter how poor they were, they still had a country of their own. These Afghan refugees even did not have their country anymore.

The old couple were quarreling about something. The mother was complaining and the father was blaming her for nagging too much. The mother was talkative and started telling of their great misfortune. They fled Afghanistan after Soviet invasion in 1979. They were treated like animals, almost dying several times. ‘It was all the Russians’ fault’, she was complaining.

Then the mother asked Dunia where they were from. After half a minute silence, Dunia replied: ‘Russia.’

Then there was a long silence.

You might think that as they suffered so much because of the Russians, they would turn against Dunia and her friend, or at least kick them out. No, they did not do anything like that. They treated them as guests until Dunia recovered and left, safe and sound.

You see, even in the most dangerous areas of the world, with the poorest people in the world, there were the shinning rays of hospitality and humanity.

Just after they left, when just walking around in that part of the city, Dunia and her friend were spotted by some journalists and they took a photo of them, which was published in the national newspaper, titled ‘Tourists Exploring the Off-beaten-track part of Pakistan’. Everywhere they went, people would recognize them and have photos taken with them. They became famous in the country.

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Hitchhikers’ Wedding

Dunia was married to a German guy, who was also an experienced hitchhiker. They got married in a town in Denmark near the German border. Why there? Why not in Berlin where they were based? Marriage in Denmark was the easiest, requiring the least documents. The Danes, you see, were sensible people and saw no reason why two consenting adults could not get married without a long bureaucratic process. They hitchhiked all the way from Berlin to there, got their wedding in 3 days, then they hitchhiked all the way back to Berlin, celebrating along the way by eating from the garbage bins. They hosted a big wedding party in a big hippie commune near Berlin and all hitchhikers were invited, friends and strangers. The party went crazier and crazier. Although they left the next day for travels, the party went on and on. Eventually, the party went so crazy that several people blacked out from overdosing and several ambulances came.

Dunia: I don’t know if you have your dream hitchhiking, but for me, I now have a dream, to hitchhike with my mom. When I first told her about hitchhiking, she was shocked, but gradually she started looking more into it and getting used to the idea. Last year she even told my sister that maybe one day she would also do such a journey. I am happy that my mom is gradually opening her mind about things unknown to her.

Well, for me, my mom will never never hitchhike with me. For her traveling is an unnecessary hassle. ‘Why go somewhere when you can stay at home?’ ‘OK, it is nice to see some beautiful views, but afterwards you still have to come back home! Then what’s the use of it?’ These are the typical opinions of my mom. The Chinese have a totally different value system and culture. Enjoying life and seeing the world have little to no importance in their culture. I am a son, so it was still OK. My parents did not like me traveling like this but they figured out that they could not do anything to change my mind. I know of several Asian girls who were traveling, not even hitchhiking or dumpster diving and their parents get so angry at them that several of them were disowned by their parents. The Asians have a different culture indeed.

There were too many good stories told at the calm bonfire. I could write for 3 days and 3 nights just to tell those amazing travels.

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The next morning I was shown to a wood shed, with the only shower installed. Of course the water was cold. I woke up early and saw this enormous mist floating above the fields. It was dreamy. The whole place was so quiet and beautiful. I felt immersed by the beauty of the world.

At about 9 PM, people started gradually appearing in the kitchen, lazily. With pajamas? No, for many they had only one set of clothes with them, so the pajama was also the regular daily clothes.

There was one thing very special about hitchgathering. There was no agenda. We were just hanging out and well, hanging out. Sometimes people would just disappear and you had no idea where they went. The only occasion when you would see the whole crew was when food was cooked, by the Polish hitchhiker Agata most of the time, then all the hungry hitchhikers would rush to the kitchen and we would have a big happy meal together.

The day was still early and we really felt we had all the time of the world. I felt eternity, although I knew eternity did not exist.

To be continued

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