The crossing; from Iran into Pakistan
I’m sitting in Alexine while I feel someone stares at me. It’s the Afghan man who has been imprisoned for no reason clear to me and I dare not to ask. His hands hold the bars while his beard tastes the freedom behind his jail cell.
Signing our lives over to the Levies of Pakistan
We are at the Pakistan levies of Taftan. We have just signed over our lives to the levies who are supposed to safely guide us through Baluchistan and out of Baluchistan as quick as possible. The area is marked red on every map our government has made of the area. Tribal issues, kidnappings and human trafficking. And to make sure tourists are reaching the rest of Pakistan safely the government has given the levies the task of guarding them.
With a Kalashnikov around his shoulder he walks over the compound, looking quite content with the situation. He laughs and his big yellow ring on his finger blings eventhough the sun has disappeared. Which is a blessing for us. Even though it’s still too hot. It’s mainly the humidity that makes life here unbearable. But not for the levies that is keeping us safe, guarding the Afghan man and talks to his wife on loudspeaker at the same time. I’m intrigued with these people. Who are they? Why are they levies? What is a Levie anyway?
The Levies of Pakistan
The Levies force was established in 1859 in the Malakand area during British rule, and later expanded to Dir, Bajaur and Orakzai agencies.
The Pakistan Levies, also called the Federal Levies, are paramilitary law enforcement organizations in Pakistan that have a primary mission of providing law enforcement, providing assistance to the police in maintaining law and order, and conducting internal security operations below the federal level.
Do you have kids? Why not? Problem?
He is also curious. Asking if we have kids. Shocked at our answer. He tells us he has seven. Had I must write, because three have died.
The Afghan guy shouts and gets out of his cell. He has to pray he says. And so he gets out of his cell and starts praying. The levies are joking, I only hear the word Taliban. Their laughing shows he’s no real danger but still. Is it already funny what’s happening at neighbouring Afghanistan to laugh about this? I took off my headscarf the moment I got in this compound but the women in Afghanistan cannot. They have to wear burqas in this heat. They aren’t allowed to go to school, to work, to be human. There is no time to joke. And it makes me wonder even more why this guy is in jail here. Here, where tourists should be protected from the dangers of Baluchistan. I just signed over my life to these men and it doesn’t seem they take it that serious. So maybe I shouldn’t either. I just go with the flow and hand out cookies instead. Like I did at the musical in primary school. I didn’t like the singing or being the center of attention so instead I handed out cookies on stage. My best friend Nena, was the same but handed out needles instead 😉 (the musical was about a hospital so the needles were legit).
Back to the compound where we’re at. We’re not allowed to go out, no bazar to visit or local food from the neighbouring cafe. Instead, sweating and making friends with this curious group of Levies.
Women are for reproduction
Alexine is surrounded by cars not even half her age but in quite the bad condition. That’ll be fun tomorrow. We will drive in columns to a city called Dalbadin. It’s not too far but will take about six hours anyway. Mainly because we have so many stops along the way. The next day we’ll drive to Quetta. Again, not the farthest we’ve ever driven but they say it takes up to 12 hours. So we have to get ready to a couple of loooong days. Meaning I’m checking the engine of Alexine. Luckily I do it now because I find her oil level is a bit low. Time to add some. Besides some things were losen because of the bumpy Iranian roads. I love it, working on Alexine. And in an environment like this it feels a bit surreal.
Men with turbans, beards and perahan tunban (clothing), some having a gun hanging over their shoulder and me, a woman from the Netherlands in clothes way to colourful for the occasion with her hands dirty in the engine of her car. These worlds couldn’t be farther apart from each other, yet they cross. It’s good that they see women can do stuff too. Whether it’s cooking, giving birth or fixing the engine of a car. The whole border crossing people talked to Yuri, not to me. When they talked to me they only asked if I was his wife and if we have children. Ugh. But okay, I’m in a different world now where women are downgraded to reproduction machines. And yeah, not all women. There are incredibly strong and brave women fighting for equality and actually showing it is possible. I salute those women and will share some of their stories along the way because we are going to meet some of them!
We are in Pakistan!
It’s getting more crowded at the compound. More beards walk around speaking loud and quick. Some pay the Afghan man a visit in his jail cell. I’m not sure why exactly. Do they know him or is it because they don’t often catch a guy like him. Anyway, he’s still there and there seems to be no hatred between the levies and the prisoner.
One of the levies is cleaning veggies. Not sure if they cook for us, this is a whole unknowing adventure. We honestly and absolutely have no idea what we’re up for. I didn’t read too much about it because I don’t often find blogs a good source. How ironic right? 😉 No that’s actually why we never write as if we know it all, we just share our experience through a journal. But that means that sometimes we have no clue what we got ourselves into. Like now. We are in Pakistan. Not part of the plan. And we didn’t even plan that much anyway. The only thing we know is that we want to get out of the heat as soon as possible and into the mountains as quickly as we can. So we drive north, to the Himalaya. Never thought Alexine would see those giants, but she will! And we will 😍
But first we have to go through days of escort through Baluchistan. Getting used to a new language, money and customs. Oh and food, but we are eager to taste Pakistani food. We were a bit disappointed by Iranian / Persian cuisine so hope it’ll be better here. Writing about food, I haven’t eaten anything today yet. Just drinking water, and sweating. That’s what the heat does to you.
The Afghan man is not the only one staring at me. The levies as well and I wonder if I took off my headscarf too early. But it’s just too freaking hot. I ignore them and continue working on Alexine. And while I say that the Afghan man gets chocolate and water and smiles as if he’s a little kid. This man can’t be Taliban right? Well if he is I hope we won’t find out. We leave in only 12 hours and I’m too tired for anything to happen. I’m sure we’re gonna be okay. Everyone seems relaxed and so are we!
Love, Milene & Yuri
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