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A Tribute To The Traveled
 by: Jon Buzdar
 

Pakistan’s always meant a lot to me, both good and bad emotions arising at the thought of the place. It was here that I was born and the place I would visit from time to time as a young child. As a result, I spent more time on airplanes than most of my peers, an opportunity that I truly didn't appreciate till I got older. I could still recall a bit of the language and culture, but nothing that would prepare me for the uncertainties of my latest exploration. I truly believed it was my duty to show others a part of the world that they would probably never see and my hope is that sharing my personal experiences will encourage others to let go of their preconceived notions and embrace the unknown; to see the world through a different lens…


QUETTA, BALOCHISTAN.

We landed at the airport in Quetta, the capital city of Balochistan, and were greeted by our family friend who would be our guide and humble driver during our stay here. The city was hot and dry and the smell of car exhaust and smoke from the food cooking on the side of the street was overwhelming. It was apparent that we were not only in a different country, but a different world. There were very little street signs and almost all of the buildings and cars were old and dilapidated, a beautiful, yet unusual landscape. The lights were bright, the sounds were loud and the smells were unpredictable. All of my senses were triggered. Street vendors were selling recently slaughtered animals and freshly picked fruits that were covered with hundreds of flies. Our home was in one of the poorest and most dangerous streets in the city, but I would later find out that it was also home to some of the most interesting and gracious people in the world. I embraced the unfamiliarity, letting go of worry and doubt, welcoming the adventure ahead.

 
I spent the first couple of days acclimating. I didn't bring my phone because I wanted to fully immerse myself in the culture and learn as much as I could about the people and the region. Thus, without Internet, I had no connection to the outside world or anyone back home besides the occasional phone call to my mother. Putting a pause on the digital world left me with a newfound lust for living my life. I embraced every minute of the day like it was precious.

Every 2-3 hours the power would shut off in Quetta, sometimes for 30 minutes and others times it could last for several hours. The mosquitoes and flies were ceaseless, constantly surrounding my body. In order to prevent malaria, I had to take a quinine pill every week. It took countless upset stomachs, nights of insomnia and difficulty breathing to finally get somewhat adjusted with the conditions. It was such a sudden and drastic change from the Western ways I've grown accustomed to that I felt more nomadic than ever; completely transplanted from my comfort zone into a completely new world. Most mornings I woke up at sunrise with the call to prayer, something unfamiliar to those who haven't visited an Islamic country before. Strange at first but quickly became the way I would start most mornings and the way I knew what time of day it was.


Soon, the things that seemed so foreign to me in the beginning started to become familiar. I knew that the electricity might go out any time and I had my flashlight ready. I adapted to the heat and established a routine that became second nature after the first week or so. I would play with my relatives during the day, teaching them how to play soccer or volleyball. My aunts and uncles would recall memories of when I was a child and I couldn't help but reflect on my humble beginnings. Life in Pakistan was so simple and it was something that I really admired. One of my favorite experiences, though, on this trip was visiting a famous holiday resort called Ziarat, 70 miles northeast of Quetta. I wanted to take the opportunity to document a different part of the city. Through my earlier travels, I felt like I had learned what was appropriate to photograph. While most images I captured were on the move, through the window of a moving car, I couldn't be happier with the way that they turned out. They were absolute magic moments.


Our first pit stop was a local town just outside of the main city. I am normally reserved to photograph people but everyone embraced me with open arms and welcomed the opportunity. Shopkeepers posed for me and passers-by even smiled when I snapped a quick portrait of them. The final pit stop before our destination was a beautiful park with a small tea shop and the first real assembly of trees I had seen all day. We sat and enjoyed the breeze and smell of Juniper trees in the distance, finished our tea, jumped in the car made our way to the destination.


Perhaps my most favorite of experiences was meeting the local children who were reciting prayers there in a small room. It was one of the most heartwarming experiences as a photographer, to see a group of small children have their photo taken for the first time. Every child had a different emotion in the picture. One displayed a smile, one looked off in the distance laughing, one looked away in shyness and some just looked at the lens with a sense of amusement. For me, I saw the faces and emotions of each and every person that I had met along my journey. We finally packed our bags and said goodbye to this city of never-ending adventure; the city that once scared me, then embraced me with open arms.

At first I didn't know how to approach such a tremendous task of writing about a trip that was not only a spiritual, but emotional journey for me in a country that has followed me like a shadow throughout my life. I hope I did the people of Pakistan justice in describing their country and I hope I was able to change your perspective in some way. The people here have so much love for one another in a country that has always tried its best to not fall apart.

Certainly, there's more to this world then what we see and read in media outlets. I've learned that everyone in the world wants the same things: to be understood, to be loved and to experience new and exciting things. There are endless cultures and beautiful people in the world and once you get an idea of how similar we truly are, there's not a place in the world that you won't want to visit. This is a tribute to those who have always searched for adventure and embraced all the emotions that come with it. Maybe we are all nomads by nature, and this world is ready to embrace you with open arms. Let that sense of wonder allow you to roam forever…


–Till the next adventure, Jon Buzdar