Thursday, April 19, 2012

National Geographic Field Test from the Wakhan corridor - extra dispatch 2



Qyzyl Qorum – life at the end of the Wakhan Pamir / Afghanistan

We had to leave our wedding party behind. Before we left, Malang asked the very young husband if he had consumed the wedding  the previous night and he chuckled and blushed – I think all is good on that end…


Half an hour down the hill is Qyzyl Qorum, a campment of 5 families – the seat of the now deceased Khan: Abdul Rashid Khan. He had 14 kids and 3 wives. A soft spoken man, non-opium smoker, he was well respected by the whole Afghan Kyrgyz clan. I met him in 2005 and 2008. Now that he is gone – he died in december 2009 -  it’s another story…
We stay at his son’s house, Haji Roshan “Khan” . I have to put Khan in brackets, because he is not really the Khan. A Khan needs to be elected by the “Aksakal”, the white bearded men, and he was not – he was just appointed by his father. He is also too young and inexperienced. These days, Haji Roshan spends too much time smoking opium and not enough time thinking of the future of the Kyrgyz – this is the gossip of the land and I would agree with it… I recognize some of my pictures on the wall that I brought back few years ago – nicely framed in some metal scrap. Outside, the light is falling and the girls are milking the yaks. Not much milk in winter. One of the baby yak is fed Nan, the flat afghan bread – his mum has been killed by wolves (or snow leopards?), it happens a lot around here. 


The girls are enjoying the little gossip there is available, probably based on stories of lazy husbands and visits to relatives. Most of the women in the Pamir have not been further away than a day’s walk from their camp – for their whole life...
Arab, one of the youngest kid of the Khan closes the sheep pen using Marco Polo sheep horns. Meanwhile, Karzai, his younger brother, throws the family cat in the air – it’s no fun to be cat or dog in the Pamir…
In the morning, I hear noise coming from the the now empty sheep’s pen. And here is the Pamir football team – most likely the only foot ball in the Pamir. I try to teach them a few tricks and there is much laughter, the kids are so incredibly excited - until a mother comes to scowl one of them. I make a mental note to try and bring a football next time I come up here…
It’s snowing lightly – I see Arab and Karzai in the distance, leaving with the 2 camels. “Mir Ali, let’s follow them, see what they are up to!” and there we are, following the 2 boys. There are going to the Autumn camp to load up on “Wuch” = Hay for the horses.   


We go back after an hour and come by Ikhbal’s place, the last wife of the Khan. She has always been a bit of a joker and I enjoy her company. Currently, she tries to apply make-up bought to itinerant Badakshi traders – by the look of it she has never done it. One of her son tries to help – the other kids are giggling away. Ooroon Boi, an older son of the Khan, comes by asking for help with his computer. His adapter is melted – I am of little help.
It’s time for “Namaz”, one of the daily 5 prayers. Daryo Boi is washing his hands and feet, his new wife for over a year brings the solar powered lamp home.  Daryo Boi and Tella Bu are for me, hands down the cutest couple in the whole Pamir. I have known Tella Bu, the youngest daughter of the Khan (a princess I dare say) since 2005 – the most beautiful and innocent girl. I saw her last year and she must have been going through the hard teenage years – really not so pretty anymore. By some miracle, she is back in full force and seems in love with her man (although it’s impossible to breach that subject around here…) the strong and kind Daryo Boi – I nickname him “Palang”, the tiger. He dreams of having his own house, which would cost him about 1000 USD to build – mostly the cost of the wood for the roof, which needs to be carried from the lower valleys on yak’s back for a week. But he is the poor son of an opium addicted father and only owns 2 yaks and a few goats.
The morning of our last day, before I leave, I want to get into the only vehicle on the whole Pamir – and the oddest sight around her - the “Mobil Madical Unit” bus exceptionally brought over from the Tajik border, which must have cost a small fortune. The story of this bus is a long story -  I won’t get into it - a typical example of people wanting to help, but not thinking it through… The bus was brought here to provide medical help, and after a month, the “doctor” left back to Tajikistan. This was 5 years ago. Since then, the bus is rotting away on the roof of the world… Inside there is expired medicine thrown all over the floor. Arab follows me and plays in the operative theater. Another kid climbs into the driver’s compartment…
Meanwhile, 100 meters away, in Aziz’s house, Nazi Khush is dying. I take a look at her legs, inflated by water it seems. “She is always thirsty” tells Aziz, her opium addicted husband. 
Her kids are watching. In my opinion, it’s a bad case of diabetes – I offer to Aziz to take her down and bring her to the hospital in Ishkashim. He declines – she would die on the way and all she wants is to die here, in her “watan”, her mother-land. She seems ashamed of the situation, which is even more heart breaking – she doesn’t want to be seen like this – asking me to please not photograph her face. Tella Bu comes to talk to her. I photograph them together, Nazi Khush under the bed cover – she is 6 months pregnant and doesn’t have much longer to live. And there is nothing that can be done.
After the 4 diners of goat, ibex and yak meat (we are invited in all the houses…), we go back to Haji Roshan’s house. 


He has pain in his right eye. His mum, Ikhbal, comes in and blows water into hot iron which spreads onto his face covered with a cloth. I jump out of my sleeping bag to photograph this – to the laughter of the Kyrgyz – they find my excitement quite hilarious. I go back in bed to read of Kurt Diemberger’s struggles above 8000 meters on K2 – life seems less harsh that way around here… Outside the snow has stopped and the wind is blowing hell. I leave my book aside. We lay in bed talking at length with Malang and Mir Ali - there is a great feeling between the three of us and I am extremely grateful to this growing friendship.

2 comments:

Altax said...

Cool pictures!!!

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David Humberk said...

Seeing the impact of our own foot or any sort of makes us feel so good.....and same are the pictures shown in your gallery.....lovely concept!!!!!


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