terse & at large

GRRRRR. Arrrgh. And sometimes a travel log.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Muzaffarabad, Part 9

Originally uploaded by Terz.

We make an unscheduled stop at the field hospital. Hassan - since he'd been in-country, had been worrying about logistics around the base - hadn't been to the hospital once. While he is given the tour of the place, Pearl and I remain outside. She wanted more footage of the internally-displaced persons and their camp, and of landslides. I just wanted a few final shots of the people and of this savagely-beautiful and flawed valley.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

As it turned out, I took more than just a few final shots. The kids who had been watching us the previous day are bolder; some approach me and quite blatantly ask if I could take some shots of them. I oblige. Then it was the usual crowding around of the LCD as I reviewed the images with them. That seemed to incite some excitement in them. Anything I could do to put smiles on their faces, I guess.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

Then a girl, about eleven or twelve (or older - can't really tell) gets dragged across the road by her friend and is plonked right in front of me, a mischievous grin on the other girl's face and gestures that could only mean I was to take pictures of her. Again, I oblige. The first girl remains silent throughout the whole ordeal her friend has just put her through, then walks away, with some dignity.

After a while, the kids get bored, as do I. They wander off to do whatever it is they can do in their situation - being kids. I cross the road to wait by the van.

More tents have come in since I was at the camp yesterday and I take some wide-angle shots of the place. While I review the images, the girl approaches me again, shyly. I smile, but do nothing else - there are conventions to be observed and while I was going to be leaving in a few minutes, there's no telling if talking to strangers, a male foreign stranger at all that, would get her or her family in trouble.

It's a while before I realise she's been trying to get my attention. I turn the camera off and look up.

She seems hesitant, trying to form unfamiliar words into a coherent sentence. Then it comes out, "You are a beautiful man."

I blink (or at least I think I did - it could well be literal, for my lips were swollen, red and blistered by then, so it could have been just that), and I'm not sure if I'd blushed, then said the only thing that made sense at that time: "You are very beautiful too."

Originally uploaded by Terz.

And I left it at that.

The journey back to Islamabad was a blur. I slept most of the way, trusting this new driver not to drive us into oncoming vehicles or off the cliff. By the time I'm fully awake, we're mere kilometres outside of Islamabad and heading to the PIMA Office for a social call.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

The visit lasted an hour. We touch base with Mercy Relief's partners on the ground, meet the president of the Association, make decisions and take steps to continue our role as a disaster and humanitarian relief agency.

As we left the office, the vehicle goes by some boys selling newspapers by the roadside. Trapped at an intersection, the boy approaches our van but gets no takers for the broadsheets in his arms. Then he pulls open my window and gestures at the camera.

"Shoot?" he asks.

I nod.

I take the picture and he hands me the newspaper. I decline. Then he says, "No, for the picture. Free."


"Thank you."

"No. Thank you," he waves and walks away.

Originally uploaded by Terz.

Related Links:
Flickr Photoset

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9


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