- Marty Lueders
It is war. They put us on a train and say, Go.
A bell wakes up the engine as we move along past the crowd,
and a childone clear small gaze from all the town
finds my face. I wave. For long I look back.
Im not a soldier, I want to say.
But the gaze is left behind. And Im gone.
-- William Stafford
a freelance photographer specializing in international relief
and development issues, Ive seen, heard and breathed some
of the worst of mans inhumanity, from Bosnia to Rwanda to
Sierra Leone. However, as for all Americansindeed, all of
the civilized worldthe events which unfolded
on the morning of September 11th went somewhere well beyond horror
and changed me in an instant
These dispatches are excerpted from personal emails to friends
and family members and images to clients, which I sent during
what I now look back upon as a small odyssey-- from
Washington, DC to what is now referred to as ground zero
in NYC, to Pakistan and, finally, back home to Jen and the kids.
During those few, strange weeks, I lost faiths, found some new
ones, researched and learned, battled for clients to send
me now!, and tried to find some comfort in dialogues, i-n-f-o-r-m-a-t-i-o-n
or personal imagery. Im still unsure as to whether Im
any better off now than I was at 9AM, when I first turned on the
car radio en route to a freelance job in Washington, DC on that
day. But Ive realized this, for sure: Im vastly better
off than the direct victims and their families, here
in the U.S., around the globe or, now, in Afghanistan.
I wont bore you with the details, but Im not a religious
person. Im not even sure to whom or what I pray, but for
those people, Ive begun.
--Martin Lueders, Oct. 30, 2001
following is a series of email messages from Marty Lueders while on
assignment in Pakistan:
9/21/01 - With any luck, in a week or so, I'm off to document
the mass exodus of refugees fleeing from the potential frying pan of
Afghanistan to the dust-bin of Pakistan (hey-- that's got a poetic ring
to it, eh?). I'll be near the Khyber Pass in one of the larger, established
camps. I'm going there on spec, as my trip to India & Nepal has
been cancelled due to the recent nightmare we call "terrorism"
and (incredibly), I haven't found any editors whom are too keen on the
proposition that this current exodus is an important, historic, symptomatic
event, worthy of documenting...I HATE that! Therefore, I'm going on
the expensive gamble that somebody does/will give a f#ck...we shall
9/26/01 - Yes, I'm off to Pakistan this Friday for yet, another
adventure holiday in a strange land where people inexplicably wobble
their heads back and forth as they attempt to explain, in broken English,
everything from simple directions north to why their religion dictates
that they very definitely cannot serve you "ONE F*%#ING BEER!!!
IS THAT TOO MUCH TO F*%#ING ASK FOR!?!?" in the 110 degree heat...
(answers: 1) "Deez iz obbozit uff soud, yes? 2) They have zero
I'm looking forward to telling the stories and stealing images of the
faces and conditions of people you'll never meet and I will undoubtedly
force some of these documents down your throat at some point shortly
after my imminent return.
Wish me luck, please... I got a funny feeling on this one.
10/2/01 - Steve, my Catholic News Service reporter and I hired
a driver and made it out to Peshawar, a very busy place that, on the
surface, appears to be brimming w/ anti-American sentiment... what lies
beneath could be even uglier. Demonstrations (anti-US, of course) are
planned for this Friday and we will certainly be in the middle of that...
I'm getting very anxious now, and we haven't really been able to do
any actual interviewing, shooting, reporting, as of yet; things move
quickly here, while making the proper contacts, gestures, etc. moves
very slowwwwwwwly. I must say, it's a bit unnerving as we scoot thru
town for appointments and meetings... several times on our first day
here, as we walked thru the busy market area, people whisked past and
whispered "Osama" to us and occasionally threw things from
passing rickshaws...I could do w/out the aggravation, frankly. Yesterday,
we walked past the Taliban headquarters and our contact panicked when
I suggested getting a few photos... "Now is very NOT the time,
Anyway, Groucho Marx was mistaken: Last night, we joined a private club
for ex-pats where they serve beer AND Bushmills so, in all, what am
I whining about? Today, we're working on a story on a Catholic priest
who works w/ heroin addicts and I'm a bit frustrated that we're not
expending more energy on getting to the border, to the new refugees
or to other, less domestic stories. Looking forward to finally shooting
some digital stuff and transmitting to DC in order to justify my entire
existence on this planet. So goes it....
Thanks again for your emails: it's good to hear from people I actually
know who don't speak Urdu or wear pajamas all day long...not that there's
anything wrong with that, but I'm surely NOT in Kansas...
Will write later, Marty
Marty's Career Tip # 19: "Try to ignore the fact that the hair
has stood up on the back of your neck at least a dozen times in the
past 28 hours and remember that, figuratively, there is a local Moose
Lodge filled with English-speaking, good ol' boys on the horizon..."
Hmmmmmmm, that was an interesting day... Steve and I hooked up with
our local NGO contacts and spent the majority of the day being bounced
from one bureaucracy to the next in order to get access to the Afghan
refugee camps, which have been deemed inaccessible to foreigners to
the point where Kofi Annan himself wouldn't get permission, although
it was reported that the Paki gov't will be lifting that ban in the
next day or two. Allegedly, after the ban was first imposed last week,
the "Beeb" and CNN were able to bri...oh, I mean DONATE their
way into the camps to the tune of several $1,000's. Thus, the media
rears it's ugly side once again...
We're staying at China Guesthouse w/ a few journos from Singapore whom
were arrested last week for sneaking into one of the camps...apparently,
that's been common here. In fact, some journalists have been pelted
w/ rotten tomatoes and stones, according to the report given to us by
the Minister of Refugees, to whom we pleaded our case today, but to
stopping in a market adjacent to a long-established camp on the fringes
of the city (a pretty bizarre bazaar, filled with tax-free goods sold
by tribal peoples who are autonomous and, therefore, tax-exempt...again,
"we're not in Kansas anymore..."), I nipped off to buy a belt--
gee, I can't figure out why my jeans are slipping round my waist...--
and Steve got into a conversation with a group of young Pashtun-tribe
men who very matter-of-factly explained to him while smiling in that
unnerving way they do, that of course, as an American, he would be a
legitimate target of Jihad the very second that the US attacked their
brother Talibans in Afghanistan... Note to Editor: Can I come home now?
The atmosphere is getting intense here as the hours grow but all the
ex-pats seem pretty cool about it, so I take my cues from them and stay
in to keep my head down and my mind up with BBC and CNN at night...not
to worry. Interesting note: I've heard that since the 11th, the price
of pure heroin has dropped from approx. $800/kilo to $70/kilo...any
investors out there? Please lemme know asap, so I can make arrangements
to receive your money orders...
Finally, aside from whispers of "Osama", followed by sly smiles
from passers-by, I'm somewhat creeped by the fact that children are
selling baseball-style cards, featuring a lovely likeness of the man
himself...if nothing else, it's either a great photo op or a good, collective
ass-whupping from my perspective. Finally, I must comment that, in all
my travels, I've never disliked a culture more than this one...trying
to remain impartial and finding it very difficult, particularly after
being at ground-zero in NYC a mere 10 days ago; it's a daunting, schizophrenic
anxiety-thing spinning round my head. On that note, I'm off to transmit
some photos from today's exercise in humility.
10/6/01 - Hey, Y'all: VERY frustrating-- just spent more than
an hour writing an update on the past 2 days' events, only to lose the
connection (hmmmm, it's as if I'm in a developing country...) Anyway,
suffice to say that the work is non-stop, the heat & dust are unbearable,
the food is ripping a hole in my ulcer, and I've never been happier
w/ the stories we're getting out.
After finishing and filing the heroin piece, Steve & I split up
Friday to do our own stuff. I went to a bazaar w/ my translator and
driver to shoot the vendors selling Osama T-shirts, postcards, etc,
and was surrounded by 50-60 men, young and old, who pelted me with stones
and rotten tomatoes....Wakman, my translator, calmly whispered that
we should probably make a sharp exit, so that was that...nice photos,
though, and since I'm always adamant about supporting the local economy,
I bought several t-shirts. Note to Dennis: THANKS for the Wakman contact--
he's been invaluable and probably saved me from being pulled apart like
fresh bread yesterday...
Tomorrow, we're working in the hospital on a piece on malnutrition among
refugees before heading back to Islamabad (I'll genuinely miss Peshawar...)
and then, off to another unpronounceable town. Finally, my "fixer"
managed to acquire an industrial-sized bottle of J Walker Red, so I'm
as happy as.......
- Hello, again: Well, I finally got to sleep at 3AM... it's now 5 AM,
Sunday (thought I'd do something whacky and sleep in...)and I've just
bolted upright in bed after hearing the now-familiar call to prayers
by the "Mullah"(?)-- I think that's the term for the guy who
wails over the loudspeaker 5 times/day...y'know: WAAAAAAAAAAAAA SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEZALLAH
MORRRRRRRRRRRE NOIZZZZZZZZZZZZZE DEN ONE CAN POSSIBLY IMAGIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINE,
ETC., FOR A FULL 5 MINUTES...f*#k me, ragged...I might as well convert
to Islam...is my ugly American side showing? Oh, dear..... Note to self:
BUY LOTS OF COTTON.
Well, I shouldn't moan too much, as we've both met and worked with some
very friendly people who've helped us tremendously. The hard part is
being on the crowded streets (especially with this hair and these eyes...),
where ALL people automatically assume you're A-M-E-R-I-C-A-N. My German
accent has improved greatly:
Filthy, young local guy with menacing expression in market area: "'Ello,
yezzz, wheech country you are coming!?!?
Me: "Ja, ich bin aus Deutschland in die Katzenjammer vielleicht
aus gelesen fur immer anrufen im Sauerkraut Sheise essen, Herr Wobbly
By the time I'm half way thru my Arnold impression, he's waved his hand
and pissed off down the road...works like a charm.
Anyway, time of my life here, really. We leave tomorrow, just as this
place is beginning to grow on me. Shooting digitally for the first time
in my career has been very cool and has enabled me to transmit w/out
too much trouble, which is all relative and entirely the point...
Trying to remain over-all impartial here is truly a test, and I find
myself becoming either angry at the locals' attitude or sad for the
vast majority of people on the street who live in conditions that I
couldn't begin to describe. If nothing, it'll be hard to find anything
to bitch about for a while when I return to Kansas...
Steve and I are off today on a 4-hour ride back to the relative clean
& safety of Islamabad. The sun is coming up so I've pictures to
download before embarking on today's program.
Y'all have fun...see you in just over 209 hours and 47 minutes... Finally,
I leave you with one word: IMMODIUM
10/7/01 - Loophole #9: In developing countries such as Pakistan,
one needn't present an actual prescription from an actual doctor in
order to purchase anything one's aching mind/body desires in the local
pharmacy... Somebody made the mistake of reminding me of that fact en
route to a Catholic Church service which Steve and I were covering this
morning...I had no idea I could sing so loudly and fluently in the Urdu
language...it was so easy by the time that 3rd pink pill kicked in....This
afternoon, Steve buggered off back to Islamabad to work on a few other
stories while I await here patiently to follow up on some unfinished
shots and to wait for A) the camps to re-open to journalists; B) limited
air-strikes; C) the little pink pills to run out.
Tomorrow, a Singaporean journalist pal and I are going to shoot young
men (fundamentalists) who work out in a gym to prepare for Jihad-- I'm
getting tired of that word-- and Tuesday, we're off to a tribal area
to shoot a frontier town where the folk specialize in producing ANY
AND ALL KINDS of weapons on the main road and manufacture heroin...off
the main road....guess I won't be needing those silly pills much longer,
Everything's fine otherwise and I can't help but wonder whether y'all
back there have a better grasp of the probability of strikes than we
do. As you can imagine, the Pakky Guv doesn't play very fairly, regarding
journalism and what we consider breaking news. CNN is really growing
on me. Uh-oh, pill time!
Bye for now, Marty
- Hey, Kiddies: Thanks as always for correspondence....again, I must
reply en masse; tacky but time-conserving..... I don't even know where
to begin in describing events since the strikes began, except to say
that I'm quite secure and comfortably numbed with those little pink
pills, which I've noticed are rapidly dwindling in supply (heh-heh!)
Since my writer split for Islamabad to work on separate pieces (exactly
4 hours prior to strikes...he's currently on his way back to Peshawar),
I decided to work solo on "fringe" human interest stuff, so
after spending 15 minutes in the main bazaar w/ my Singapore Straight
Times correspondent colleague/pal, assessing the potential of shooting
the anti-US protest following morning prayers, I thought it would be
prudent of me to avoid the inevitable tear-gas and piss off to (literally)
Got hold of my translator and found a driver willing to take us out
to the tribal areas (you know-- past the checkpoints that are brazenly
marked with signs stating: NO FOREIGNERS BEYOND THIS POINT!!!...) and
went into the car trunk and over the rainbow to a village where they
specialize in copying munitions from Beretta pistols to shotguns (double-barrel
pump variety) and anti-aircraft guns, etc. Alas, a story I've always
wanted to do, but will require going back to in order to feel completed.
Anyway, Chun Hon (Singa Times) and I hooked up after I returned late
afternoon in order to shoot stuff at a weightlifting gym where young
Afghans are working out by the numbers in order to get in shape to return
to the homeland for Jihad.... "Hi, fellas! Niiiiiice abs ya got
Anyway, I'll bore you with more details later but leave you with this:
As my translator and I were driving back thru town in the late afternoon
from the tribal area, I asked him about a huge construction site we'd
driven past during the past few days and he told me, without a trace
of irony in his voice, "Ohhhh, yeah, next year, that will be the
largest trade center in all of Asia!" Let's just see how many days
of work he'll be getting from me in the remaining week.... actually,
he was already really getting up my nose with his insistence that the
9/11 incidents were an Israeli conspiracy, which is common opinion in
these here parts... somebody send me a size 7 cowboy hat, please.
- Greetings from Asbury Park, NJ: As always, thanks for the emails,
most of which make me laugh, which is useful at the moment, as there
hasn't been much time or reason for that in the past few days. Things
are getting progressively more tense and tentative since the first air
strikes. Fortunately, the local military and police have taken heavy
measures to prevent demonstrations here from getting way out of hand,
as they have in other cities across the Kingdom of Oz... They say that
the Pakistan Congress is currently pushing a bill to officially re-name
the country "Journalistan". There are an estimated 800 foreign
correspondents here. James Nachtwey arrived here in Peshawar a few days
ago (that'll mean something to a few of you...)
Everybody is scrambling to find "new" stories/angles, which
is probably the biggest challenge. The frustration of a gov't ban on
journalists doing anything but drinking tea is beginning to wear on
many... still cannot get access to refugee camps. However, I'm happy
to report that I fell arse-backwards into a somewhat exclusive photo
of one of the first victims of Sunday's first strikes; an Afghan civilian
who was hit in the neck and paralyzed by shrapnel during attacks on
Jalalabad. He was taken across the border in a van and arrived here
yesterday...I just happened to show up at the particular hospital in
order to follow up on a story on young, 2nd & 3rd generation refugees
suffering from malnutrition when a guard ushered me into the casualty
ward to see him laying there, surrounded by family.... very sad, but
difficult to describe. Yesterday was great: I opted out of covering
the yawnable protests to do something I've wanted to see for ages. Called
my translator, hired a driver and sneaked into the tribal area (passed
the checkpoint by hopping into the car trunk, which was either VERY
James Bond-ish or really fucking stupid (it's about 90F degrees and
the roads are teeth-shattering from the front seat, much less the "boot").
Anyway, spent a few hours in the town of Dara Abam Khel, which is famous
for its cottage industry of weapons manufacturing/copying. The people
there can reproduce pretty much anything you show them, including RPG's
and anti-aircraft guns. A pretty surreal place-- no police, no military,
but a lot of 8 & 9 year old shepherds waltzing along the road with
AK's and double-barrel shotguns casually slung over their shoulders.
Bursts of test gunfire every minute or so... etc. It's almost like being
in a third world country here....
Well, I'm up early, so gotta run. I'm curious as to what the feeling
is in the States-- I almost remember what it feels like to be in a country
that isn't entirely permeated with the odor of stale urine and diesel
exhaust...gee, what a happy thought.
10/10/01 - Och, Aye: Well, kiddies, I'm off & running on
my last full day of working here in Peshawar before the long journey
home. I'm leaving this place feeling pretty frustrated, as I think is
the concensus among most journalists here. I've resolved to spend my
last day focusing on a series I've been shooting along the way; environmental
portraits and candids of 2nd generation Afghan kids, born into the refugee
camps and forced to live on what they can scavenge off the streets and
in the markets. This "group" of children are something of
a forgotten generation, or would be if they'd ever received any attention
in the first place, which is sort of the theme of this little side project
that is really all I've been able to come up with as a "story"
to tell as best I can with limited resources and the clock running out.
Today will be the last day of rushing to meet translators, hire drivers,
file images, find clean water to drink-- all the things that add up
to make this assignment a time-warp... something. On the one hand, I'm
dying to get outta here and on the other, I feel like I've achieved
nada and would like to stay til that "closure" feeling drops
in....fuck it-- back to the land of stars and stripes and McDonald's
and all those other symbols.... I will miss this place.
See youse on the other side, Marty
- Hi, Y'all: Today is Saturday, the day I was meant to depart from this
place; alas, as fate would have it, I'm stuck here for several more
days...more on this later. In the meantime, I'm sending along a few,
as of yet, unpublished images from a series on young, 2nd-generation
Afghan refugees. These are people who were born in the camps which sprung
up across Pakistan during and after the Soviet invasion and who've known
no other life than this; unwanted and left to their own devices in order
to survive. They've been largely ignored and flatly denied even the
most basic support systems by this government and, ironically, have
subsisted on sporadic humanitarian aid afforded by countries such as
These two shots are of 14-year old Hameed Khan, who was born with polio.
I met him on the street today, while he was begging in traffic and,
during an interview, prior to my photographing him, he explained that
the 100-or-so Rupees (less than $2) he earns in the course of 8-10 hours
on the street, goes directly to his parents. After spending about 45
minutes with him this afternoon, speaking through an interpreter, I
offered to see about raising the funding-- the plan is to head over
to the Pearl Continental Hotel Bar tonight and pass a hat around to
all the journalists/NGO workers to raise the money... about 2,500 Rupees
[or US$40] in order to purchase a "wheel-cart" for him (he's
that crippled that he needs to wear a protective, rubber pad on his
right thigh, which drags across the ground as he uses his hands to push
himself along...), which he was excited about at first mention, but
later intimated that his parents might not be too happy with the idea
because he would likely "earn" less sympathy, ergo money,
if he were to beg from a wheel cart, as opposed to begging from ground-level
on the street.
I don't think I need to explain the frustration of trying to tell the
refugees' stories, but probably will attempt to do so in a later, more
detailed message...the subtle intricacies of working here at this time
provide enough fodder for a book, a large book, from the perspectives
of both the media and the humanitarian relief agencies. The security
(read: censorship) is choking both parties and this city's only bar,
in the aforementioned 4-star P.C., is filled each night with journalists
and NGO workers, desperate to commiserate over the day's events (or
non-events, in many cases...). Anyway, I've decided to pay less attention
to covering hard news and to forge ahead with the "sub-stories"
such as this one, and worry about the consequences when I return. I
resolve to push hard to get this series published and/or exhibited back
in the U.S., as I've happened across some incredible people whose stories
are just beyond belief.
- OK, then: Here are a few more from the series on which I'm plugging
away: This is 23-year old Abdul Shagoor, who, as a 7-year old civilian,
lost most of his right arm from a chunk of fast-moving schrapnel during
an air attack (during the post-Soviet, pre-Taliban, very tentative period
in Afghanistan, when several warlords were vying for control of the
country.... obviously, the Talibans eventually won, thanks, in large
part, to the Pakistani gov't and the support of our CIA...) on his remote
Afghan village. The three childhood friends whom were with him on the
way back from the fields where they worked together as farmers, were
killed instantly in the attack.
Abdul now lives in Jalozai Refugee camp, 25 K outside of Peshawar and
takes a bus into the city each day to "do whatever he can"
(washing cars, begging, etc.) to earn money. He arrived in Pakistan
a mere 3 months ago and was recently turned down upon requesting a new,
improved prosthetic from a local, German-funded NGO. Also, regarding
the approach to this series, I'm intentionally taking a very straight-forward,
conservative and somewhat low-key and/or boring approach so as to put
a greater emphasis toward the elongated captions (short stories) which,
I think brings it that much closer to a collaborative project between
the photographer and subject, which I vaguely recall having learned
from one of my professors and one of several mentors, Paul Schranz,
although I was pretty high that day and can't be 100% sure...
10/15/01 - It's 9 am, Monday which tells me that the plane I
was supposed to have been on should just about be touching down at Dulles
in a few minutes. Alas, I'm here doing my impression of Bill Murray
in "Ground Hog Day... My driver showed up an hour and 15
minutes late for what's supposed to be a 3-hour drive back to Islamabad
but those clever Pakky military have set up numerous road blocks along
the route and I found myself another 2 hours from the airport at one
and half hours before flight time (my math skills are really improving
here...) so I found a phone and rescheduled for the VERY NEXT FLIGHT
which happens to be this Friday (normally, there are 2 flights/day)
but, due to air strikes, they've cut back. Only Pakky Int'l Air is flying
from here, 2X/week... all other airlines are cancelled, so there's a
stroke of luck. Anyway, I'm happy to report that I managed to raise
5,000 Rupees within the space of 2 hours at the Pearl Continental Hotel
Bar, headquarters for anaesthetized foreign journalists, and am off
this morning to find a wheelcart for my new pal, Hameed. I'm trying
to spend the remainder of this week continuing on my refugee series
and to accomplish some actual news, as the guv has finally opened up
access to the refugee camps. I'd prefer to be on US soil, but, like
it or not, the work continues....
Quick story: Imagine my surprise when, after another long, tedious,
hot, dusty day, I ask my translator whether he'd mind waiting a bit
past quitting time so that I can pop in for a haircut and a shave...
Cut to an hour later (pun unintended...)-- the barber has finished doing
an otherwise impeccable job on my hair, when he casually picks up the
straight razor to replace the old blade with a shiny new one and asks,
in (almost)perfect English, quite slowly as he leans in toward me from
behind the chair, "And WHICH country you are from, good sir?"....
"Never mind that, please just do something with all that hair standing
up on the back of my neck", I reply.
Attached file: "Self-Portrait With Pakistani Barber", a personal
image which altogether sums up the entire three weeks spent...
10/16/01 - Hey, Y'all: Hmmmmmm, it's been a pretty interesting
few days, what with keeping up with ever-changing flight schedules outta
here (AS IN: I should've been home by now, but missed the flight as
a result of.... awwwww, fuhgettaboudit --I'll whine later), anthrax
in the homeland (my turn to worry?), jets overhead, fanatics at street
level...who knows what's next? Anyway, I'm sending attached files that
illustrates a happy story from my end:
was out Saturday afternoon w/ my translator, cruising the streets for
2nd generation Afghan refugees to speak with and photograph, when I
came across a 14 yr.-old kid, Hameed, who's severely handicapped from
polio, (with which he was diagnosed at the age of two) and was begging
in the streets to help support his family-- both parents and six brothers
& sisters. We spent almost an hour speaking and I was really quite
taken by his good nature--he smiled constantly, despite the myriad of
problems which he faces. I'm aware that this was due, in part, at least,
to the fact that he was suddenly receiving attention from a westerner
and was, possibly a bit embarrassed by the crowd that gathered round
within the first 5 minutes.
Toward the end of the interview, before taking any photos--a method
that seems to work for me-- ask questions first and shoot later-- I
asked my translator if it would be appropriate of me to ask whether
there was any one thing that would make things easier for his family
or him, to which he replied that he'd "always wanted, but couldn't
afford a wheel cart"...one of those odd-looking, hand-crank, chain-driven,
tricycle wheelchairs that you often see in developing countries (but
not often enough, if yer know what I mean-- Hameed literally drags himself
thru the dirt to get anywhere, using his hands to push off and swing
himself forward thru the filthy streets...).
Anyway, to make a very long story somewhat shorter, I devised a plan
wherein I would head that night-- Saturday night - to Peshawar's only
booze-serving bar, wait for the NGO workers & journalists to get
a good "piss-up" going, and maneuver from table to bar to
table with a hat out and Hameed's story, the details of which are quite
depressing but, sadly, not unusual.
took less than an hour to raise the $3,500 Rupees (approx. U.S. $55)
needed to buy the cart-thing-- journalists can be pretty generous if
you catch them at the right moment, which is usually about 20 minutes
before they pass out or get thrown in the pokey for skinny-dipping in
the.... never mind-- a different story, altogether. Anyway, I had made
arrangements to meet with Hameed and his father on Monday at 11a.m.
on the roadside near his community, where I picked them up in a rickshaw
and drove them to my guest house to wait for the delivery of the wheel-cart.
While we waited there for the delivery, I interviewed and shot, er...photographed,
Hameed's father, Abdul, whose story you'd think was utter bullshit,
until he lifted his shawar qamis (those pajama-looking suits that Middle-Easterners
wear...) to reveal the road map of scars left by schrapnel & torture.
Suffice to say that they were both quite chuffed with the new wheels.
Also, I'd been given far more dosh than was needed to buy the wheel
cart and handed over the change as well, which they promised to spend
(partly) on a few blankets for Hameed's 5-month old sister and 2-year
old brother for the fast-approaching winter and as much education for
Hameed as the remaining 1,300-or-so Rupees would buy-- it costs 100
R/month to attend school in Pakistan, which does a lot to explain why
so many kids work, as opposed to attending school.
Anyway, I thought I'd send along this story, which has a pretty happy
ending and illustrates perfectly the effectiveness of (very) grass roots,
direct action humanitarian aid. As a Dutch colleague pointed out, it
would be cool to do one of these "direct action" aid efforts
once each week, which led to a very loud discussion on the topic of
bureaucracy, administration and diminishing returns within relief agencies.
Suffice to say that, just for a moment there, as I saw the look on Hameed's
and his father's face as the delivery men lifted the wheel cart from
the back of the delivery truck, I felt better than the two of them and
stronger than I've felt in the nearly three weeks I've been here...I
hope that feeling carries on with Hameed.
- Hey'o: This has been my last full day of shooting. I thought that,
as this is my last night here in this incredible sea of huma...ummm,
let's just say "city" and, having just transmitted the last
of my digital images, I'd take some time to put down and send out a
few of the things I've learned and/or concluded in the past three centu...ummmm,
let's just say "weeks" that I've been here:
1. The first difficult task for any foreign correspondent covering a
major, int'l. story in a predominantly Islamic country such as this
is to locate a bar that serves beer, Glenfiddich Single Malt Whiskey,
2. Walk, jog or run there as soon as is physically possible.
3. Quickly learn as many of the myriad of local customs, traditions,
rules, regulations, city ordinances, laws and other "do's and don'ts"
of a particular place BEFORE stepping off the plane...some of these
can only be learned on an "as you go" basis which can, quite
literally, prove to be a painful lesson...I'm referring here to that
Danish guy whose name we don't remember, and who was screaming something
about a lawyer in Copenhagen and a mobile telephone number as he was
being dragged away by the Pakistani "I.S.I" commandos...
4. Camels are bitter, twisted sub-animals which (I learned, lo, those
many years ago in India) should be avoided by any means necessary.
5. Run, don't walk.
6. Apparently, camels have an uncanny ability to sense those whom do
NOT support the Taliban.
7. It's definitely not worth the comedic reputation you receive from
a small group of tabloid journalists by approaching a burqa-clad woman
during an anti-U.S. demonstration in Khyber Bazaar at, according to
the arrest report, precisely 10:47 A.M., Oct. 9 and loudly proclaiming,
"You GO, girl!!"
8. Those electrified tongs hooked up to a simple car battery are not
only still commonly used (according to my wristwatch, which stopped
at precisely 11:23 A.M., Oct. 9), but are still uncommonly effective...
9. Camels are, at the end of another long, hot, frustrating day of being
spat upon, pelted with rocks and rotten vegetables, arrested on blasphemy
charges, etc., ideal for-- as long as nobody's looking - target practice.
Well, the sun is appearing from the East, thru the grimy glass of the
China Palace Guest House (ACTUAL motto on owner's business card: "10%
DISCOUNT IS ALSO CUSTOMER'S RESPONSIBILITY!!" ...am I missing something
here, or is that a really goddamned-weird statement!?), so I'm off for
another full two hours of sleep...
Hope to see you on the "right" side of the Atlantic Ocean...soon.
All the best, Marty