INGULFED

In Shanghai

Archive for tea

If you are drinking tea…


Full story over at The Express Tribune.

They invited me in for tea, six Patan engineers and construction workers and an older man, to their gated compound. We talked about the Taliban, Judaism, Islam, and guys from Kandahar and why they like little boys so much. We made lots of butt jokes. We had dinner. Now we’re friends on Facebook.


Be sure to check out the videos from Afghanistan here: VIDEOS!

All the photos from Afghanistan are here: PHOTOS!

A slideshow of the men from Bamiyan is below —

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Into the Woods


Sri Lanka Part Nine

Sri Lanka Part Eight

Sri Lanka Part Seven

It was in the town of Hali-ela, where I thought I’d lost the car keys but had them in my pocket, where I had bought packets of spices that I really did lose and never cooked with, that we turned west, away from Badulla, up into hill country.

A sundried man gave driving directions: it would be two and a half hours, he said.
But the A5 — it’s an A-Class road.

“It is thirty-two miles,” he articulated, too much like a soothsayer reading a bad omen.
“Okay, fifty kilometers.”
“Yes. Thirty-two miles.”
“So… about fifty kilometers.”
“Yes. Thirty-two miles.”

The A5.

Three and-a-half hours later, we were there. If you are ever in Hali-ela, you mustn’t argue with the man outside the appa stand.

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(في هذه الظروف (جزء الثاني — Under These Circumstances (Part Two)

Part One
Part Two

“Let’s go, man.”

We took the long way back to the parking lot, every moment asking why? — why are we doing this? why are you doing it with me? Given each action, each movement, under what circumstances would they make sense? If you’re trying to rob me? If you’re just trying to hang out?

“I don’t normally come here,” Salim said about the downtown quarter. “But I like to walk with company, because of this one.” He patted his belly.

He walked me into a falafel shop — I’d mentioned I was hungry. I ordered one, then two, and Salim paid. Weird. Sure, they were about 50 cents each, but when did a cab driver ever take his fare to lunch? Either he felt it was only fair considering how many thousands of dollars of electronics and dirty sweatshirts he was going to steal from me, or he bizarrely wanted to make a nice gesture for a tourist in his city.

Whatever his game, I decided to fight back. We paused at a streetside tea vendor. I paid. Maybe if I was nice enough, and melted his heart with warm mint tea, he’d call off the hit.

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Azerbaijan Three: The Trick — أذربيجان ثلاثة: الخدعة

Previously, in Azerbaijan:
Azerbaijan One: The City — أذربيجان واحد: المدينة
Azerbaijan Two: The Escape — أذربيجان اثنان: الهرب

Our destination was big: not here — but still we found it hard to find. It was either linguistically or culturally impossible to ask directions, so we turned like explorers of old to our (iPhone) compass and sought a course north and west out of Baku. We ended up going south in heavy traffic. So we paid five manat and followed a taxi, our Azeri Sacajawea, to lead us to the great wide west. And very suddenly, over a few hills and around a bend or two, the city was gone.

After such inauspicious beginnings, a traveler may succumb — opting for a nap instead of ten hours on the open road. But should you defy the dead end, you explode like a stallion from the starting gate of every detour. Extend your middle finger to lockers of gates. This is your lightening rod.

The M1 highway was quiet; old Russian cars straining to go highway speed, a few new models, rickety sedans filled to burst with apples. The road flattened and the scenery changed instantly. Thirty miles inland, the capital seemed a continent away, with its industry and trade and petroleum. Here, a man sold sweet, ruby red pomegranates by the roadside. A couple dollars for a kilogram.


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Azerbaijan Two: The Escape — أذربيجان اثنان: الهرب

Previously, in Azerbaijan:
Azerbaijan One: The City — أذربيجان واحد: المدينة


I woke at dawn, as one tends to do in such pressing times. One day down, a whole country left to see. With a visa costing about a buck-eighty per hour, I felt like I was back in a Parisian club with a 20 Euro cover charge, and I’d be damned if I wasn’t going to get my free drink.

A day earlier, we had made plans for our getaway — a hired car and driver, unquestioning and ready to make the drive way west. The negotiations went as smoothly as they could have, considering our plans (visually aided by screenshots of Google Maps) were conveyed through an Azeri-speaking Iranian to an Azeri with almost no English to our driver, an Azeri twenty-something with an endearing stutter. But with no hope of understanding, we sat back and hoped that through this series of telephone translations, something was being conveyed. It seemed to work out, and our man signed on to pick us up at 6 AM for a two-day trip costing less than a two-day car rental. And Misha, the owner of our hostel was coming, too. This was a man who had fought for the Russian’s when he was only 18, and who had fought the Armenians when he was 22 in the region now secessionist and under military control. I wouldn’t tell him I wanted to go there.

Misha explains with pen and paper.

Misha lifted his shirt — a wide scar tore from chest to navel: two bullets had ripped through his stomach and out his back. Without the words to explain, he grabbed my hand and dragged it down his thigh a few inches above the knee. A bump — shrapnel rooted like an enemy flag pole. The President had visited him personally at his house in gratitude. Or to pay him. Or to give a speech… something was lost in translation.

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