A cup of tea with the Immigration Officer
Trip Start Dec 26, 2003
94Trip End Mar 28, 2005
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Where I stayed
Passu Peak Inn
I thought I would miss China, the generally excellent food (with the notable exception of the Muslim areas), the geographical & racial diversity of the areas I had been in and the great pleasure of finding someone's excrement waiting for me in the toilet as no Chinese male seems to have understood the concept of flushing the khazi after themselves. Oh well, as Jim Steinman wrote and Meat Loaf sang, "Don't be sad, 'cause two outta three ain't bad." Probably wasn't what he was thinking about at the time, though.
My last memory of China will be the man at the army shop, just after the customs, who smiled, shook my hand and then charged me three times the going rate for a bottle of water
The trip continued south through more amazing mountain scenery before the two solemn Chinese army men opened the gates and let us out of China.....
The bus contained only men: A Chinese driver, me and everyone else a Pakistani man. We were accompanied on the ride from the customs/immigration to the actual border by a pair of Chinese army guards. They should have seen how happy the Pakistani men were to be home. As for me, I felt the same excited feeling I get whenever I enter any new country. The one I recall I felt as my plane touched the ground at Kunming airport.
The whole atmosphere change as we entered Pakistan. On the China side, a pair of solemn army boys, on the Pakistan side, the army waved everybody a warm welcome home. The geography remained brown and harsh, sharp, vertical rock faces with big dollops of snow, somehow managing not to fall off the peaks.
We arrived at Pakistani Immigration at Sost and handed our passports in and filled in a health questionnaire, aimed at keeping Sars out of Pakistan, the basic question on the form was "Are you Chinese?" If so, we are going to take you into a little room......
Our passports were meant to be taken down to the customs area where the bus dropped us off. In contrast to the x ray machines as we left China, there was no customs to speak of at Sost. We waited for them for about half an hour before I was told to walk back up to Immigration to collect my passport.
I walked to the door of the small Immigration office, "Hello, I am here to collect my passport," I said.
"Where is your passport, sir?" replied the Immigration Officer.
Panic set it, "I gave it to you!" I replied, above averagely concerned. The Immigration Officer then burst into fits of laughter like he had just cracked the funniest joke in world history, reached into his cardigan pocket and asked, "Is this the kind of thing you are looking for?" handing me back my passport and nearly expiring from laughter fits.
"Sit down. Let's have a cup of tea." So we did. Proper tea. Black tea with milk in it. Perhaps a little sugary for my taste, but proper, nonetheless.
Pretty much everybody that I have met in Pakistan with some education seems to speak English. I took a room at the Passu Peak Inn in Passu, run by the very amiable ex-Army man, Akber. Some Chinese tourists arrived, otherwise I was the only guest at this quiet inn in this quiet town. These people I can tolerate in their own country, but now that I had arrived in jolly pleasant, English speaking Pakistan, I no longer have to live with their odd, usually noisy, habits.
"Crazy people," Akber said of them, "They don't even understand English!" he said, as though not speaking English was the basic requirement of being civilized. Quite, I thought.
Welcome to Pakistan. I certainly felt it.