Sunday, July 5, 2009
we woke up at 5 am to catch the bus at 6, the only problem was that the time had changed back, we had sprung forward an hour, so we were freaking out that we might miss the bus, i prayed and God said we had not missed the bus, which was good. we got on the bus and asked how much 4 seats would cost to gilgit, we wanted too be comfortable, they said 740 rupees, we got in and began the journey south. it was a van like the one we took to gilgit from islamabad and it was packed. we got half way there and we stopped in aliabad and they began to take our luggage off the roof, we had been warned that we would not be able to go all the way to gilgit on this bus, this is where the fun began. the driver came up to us and asked for 740 rupee, we told him that was for gilgit, but he insisted that he be paid the full amount. i am an american, we pay for the service we get and we only got half way, and we told him that, he said no that 740 is for the four seats. we said yes for the four seats to gilgit this is half way we will pay for half. at this point things were getting heated aaron went to find a new bus and i got to deal with our old driver, who did not speak much english. he came back with an english speaking pakistani and told me that it was 740 because we had our luggage on the top of the van, “no thats not right other people had their luggage there as well, i will give you 500 rupee this is more then fair” this went back and forth for a good ten minutes until he finally he begrudgingly took the money. the nice thing though was the sun had returned, or we had returned to the sunlit lands. we got on another bus this time we just had our seats
we started on a bad note aaron was sick with intense cramps, and i had just taken to imodeum for diarrhea, the rest of the time in the village was spent hovering somewhere between needing to go home from illness and just getting by. aaron had giardia. i had altitude sickness. the first three days were incredibly hard, it was cold we knew only two people, and we were both sick. we were at 9,200 feet, i had just gotten used to being at around 5,000 feet in gilgit. one thing that was good was there are two english speakers there, they are punjabi christians working at the school we were going to teach at. the only frustrating thing about them is that no does not mean no, i know this is a purely cultural thing that in the east they are trying to be hospitable to their guest, but im from the west and no means no, here no means yes. would you like some more chai? no thank you, and then you get a new full cup of chai, so being sick was partly a blessing. i never liked school so the thought of me as a teacher is the definition of irony. but teaching was fun, the interesting thing was school was not even supposed to be in session, so we had about thirty students that they roped into coming to learn, it was a grade range from kindergarden to tenth grade. they love songs and would sing them any chance they got, so getting the room to settle down was a real task. but i figured out how, just sing loudly a line from radiohead’s wolf at the door and the shut up it was awesome. unfortunately the trip was not all chai and radiohead, aaron was not doing good, by the third day he had gone into a depression that soon turned into despair. we would pray and worship, and at times he seemed better but he took the rest of the trip hour by hour and moment by moment. i had my moments as well but whenever i would begin to feel down or have a bad attitude i would start to worship and Jesus would show up and things started to look up. i don’t know why this didn’t happen with aaron, or why i didn’t stay in the dumps, i wish i new but i don’t. it was a harsh area, no believers, no green, and no school. we had plenty of down time enough for me to start and finish the fellowship of the ring. one thing that was a blast for me was i got to farm, it was cool. but we need to leave, our time was up and aaron was deteriorating so we looked into the bus south.
two weeks after we arrived in Pakistan the time came for the Afghan team to leave and for aaron and i to head north and leave our leaders for ten days. it was before dawn we woke up and said what i thought was the final goodbye. i don’t know if i will ever see everyone from my school ever again, i doubt that i will see them all in the same place, i love them. they have become closer then family, they know my deepest secrets and darkest places, because they were there as i walked through the pain of giving them to God. they’ve helped me become a man of God and grow up into who i am supposed to be. this parting was painful, my roommate who was also one of the first two friends i made in kona would be leaving, as well as my work duty partner, men that i had spent countless hours with praying and growing as well as having fun with. also two of my leaders, one a man who can see deeply into your heart and pull out the best in you and a woman who has become like a sister and a true encouragement. this parting was painful but it needed to happen, they needed to walk into the destiny that God called them to, and me and aaron needed to do this as well. so we said our goodbyes, then i went back to bed for a few more hours until my journey north was to begin. we woke up, got our stuff and threw it in the back of a truck, had a light breakfast and got ready to depart to jamalabad.
we stayed at the Horizon Guest house here in Gilgit, it has one floor and an accessible roof, when you look out you are surrounded by mountains. mountains taller than anything i have seen, on a clear day we can see rakaposhi’s peak in the distance. the food is excellent. i was in the biggest room basically because there were 6 guys so we were all together. we had orientation about the different people groups and what has been going on in the northern areas. we spent two weeks together as a large team, and with the other westerners. it had been three days and they found my bag unfortunately it took another week for it to get here. “but alex did you just have that one set of clothes?” no the blessing of being overweight in my bag was that i put some clothes in tim's bag so i had a few clothes. my bag did arrive and it was one of the happiest moments of the trip. we worked at the school as well as in an orphanage. now you might still be wondering about the ipod well i had been wondering how to use it for Gods glory and i finally found a way to do it. in kona i bought a five way head phone splitter, and on the plane i picked up a bunch of head phones, so one day at the orphanage i brought my ipod and the headphones. i got to introduce these kids to music and sounds they had never heard before. there was one little girl there she was clearly the runt of the bunch, and i felt like God wanted me to bless her so i let her use my personal head phones. she could hear the music in both ears while the other kids only got one ear bud. i played everything and anything for them, but it was viva la vida by coldplay that made the moment for me, and this little girl. i love that song and she did to, watching her as she heard the sounds of coldplay for the very first time was amazing, an entire new world opened up and her face lit up time and time again as the song flowed, this was one of the happiest moments of this trip. but all the happy moments as a team couldn't last. no the afghan team need to go to afghanistan.
people would ask me back home, “alex aren't you scared of terrorists?” and i would always say no, but i met one, it was no man, it was a road. the Karakorem Highway, calling it a highway is generous at best, its closer to a navigational hazard then anything. at first its a nice easy road that you can just drive but that is near islamabad. you see in america we have smooth stretching vistas of concrete that has been engineered so that the driver or rider feels the most minimal discomfort, this is not america, and this is not an american highway. we left at 3 am, at first it was no big deal i slept most of the way till breakfast. the breakfast was great. we went to what i can only describe as the mountain dew cafe, due to the fact that the entire front and side of the building had mountain dew logos painted all over it. our driver and our guide helped order the chai and food, it was wonderful i really enjoyed it we had naan and bratha, two types of flat bread, and dhal, which is a type of lentil. after breakfast we continued our journey. driving the KKH is something i will try to avoid and here is why, first we are stuffed into a tiny van that has been made to cary as many people as possible. what that means is its to small for me, the planes were more spacious. secondly the road itself is so riddled with pot holes and land slides that it feels like you are in a constant earth quake, i can not tell you how many times i hit my head on the wall or ceiling during our 19 hour journey north. the one thing that is good about the drive is the beauty of pakistan, the mountains and valleys and the indus river, my only regret was not being more awake for the ride. everything was fine till Kohistan. kohistan is a state here in Pakistan, it is traditionally a rather fundamental part of pakistan. I'm not sure how long we had been in kohistan, but its where we decided to have lunch, dark men with long beards and dark stern expressions surrounded us, the clearly out of place white people, i didn't eat, partly from feeling sick but also the heaviness. i felt it all around me, darkness pressing in an oppression that was trying to pull me down to the pit and never release me. we got back in the car and i asked for motion sickness medicine. and it hit me, I’m not sure what hit first the medicine or the enemy. my entire body began to tingle and feel fuzzy and then the oppression, the depression, the stress, the heaviness hit, but the thing that stuck out was the complete lack of hope. they have no hope, their is no savior in islam, even if you are the best person allah can still throw you into the fire. and then for the first time in ten years i began to cry, i wept for these people that had no idea about the overwhelming love of Jesus, they were going to die and go to hell because no one had told them yet. i wept and prayed and worshiped and my friends prayed for me. and then i fell asleep. after that i was in and out of conciseness till we arrived in gilgit.
wednesday, dawn, march 28th. i had been traveling for 48 hours but i made it. Pakistan. but not everything did make it. we went through customs, and i got the first stamp into my passport, then i went to claim my bag. baggage claim is the most nerve wracking part of any trip for me, you wait and wait, and wait, never knowing if they lost your bag. so i waited and waited, and waited, the carousal slowly emptied, my team had all got their luggage, but i was left wanting, and God reminded me of something he said to me on the plane to san francisco. i was on the plane and God spoke to me and said my bag would be lost for three days, i of course rebuked the devil that i thought i heard, but it turns out i heard correctly at least that my bag would get lost, it was. their wasn’t much left to do but go to where we were staying. we were staying at the comfort in, for you with an imagination forget what the west looks like, or how a western hotel seems. it was more of a big house then anything, some rooms had western toilets others had squaties. my room was completly pink, pink carpet pink drapes, pink satin comforter, it was awesome. that day we had breakfast and then i crashed, i slept the whole day, apparently i had jet lag, you catch it on planes when you travel half way around the world. i woke up that evening and had dinner and then an unexpected surprise. you see the next day we would be going to Gilgit, and we were leaving at 4 am to get there, well around ten aaron and i got on the internet. the last time i saw my friends in kona i thought it was just that, the last time i would see them, it wasn’t. Aaron has Skype and since it was night here and morning there we skyped everyone back in kona. having people that you know love you is great but what is better is being able to talk to them. for two hours we did just that talked with our friends back in kona, they told us about what we had missed, but mostly we just missed each other. we had been through a transformative experience together and we all wanted more of Jesus in our lives, i have never experienced this kind of love. but i was no longer in the west, i was now in the east and things are different here, like the ability to stay online or have constant electricity. so of course the power went out and i went to bed at midnight, hey i had to get up in three hours and drive to gilgit the next day.