the third cup of tea

I believe that having a cup of tea is an essential part to a good story. Here’s another story of my trip across Pakistan.

Again, we were on the road in Pakistan. This time we were on our way to the city of Peshawar. After driving for hours through dirt roads filled with potholes, we were exhausted. We agreed to stop for a tea break. I cannot say where in Pakistan we were, but it had to have been somewhere on the outskirts of the Swat District.

The tea spot we stopped at was an average Pakistani truck stop that served tea off the side of the road. There wasn’t really anything special about the tea shop itself. I had been to several of these truck stops during my travels, and it actually looked similar to the place where I ate my first meal of the trip. We ordered our tea, one green tea for me and chai for the rest of the group, and began to wait.

A few minutes went by, and this white van pulled up next to us. A couple of men got out of the car. There was nothing unordinary about the men, except the one that was carrying some kind of Kalashnikov rifle. I know nothing about guns, but it was one of those smaller ones, and he had those bullet belts going across his chest.

I was freaking out. It was my first time traveling outside the United States without my parents, and one of their primary concerns was the safety of the country. It was a valid concern, considering the country is on the State Department’s “do not fly there” list. Pakistan is not considered a safe country. With the constant fighting with India in Kashmir to the Taliban attacks near the Afghan border, it has some of the most dangerous borders in the world.

I nudged my cousin and told him about the men. He looks up at them, and you could see his face turn white. He looks at me and without even saying anything I knew the message he was sending me. “Do not look at them. Do not say anything to them. Just act normal and they will leave.”

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A thousand scenarios went off in my head. I thought they might look at us and then sniff out that I was American. I thought they were going to kidnap me and hold me hostage. I thought they might try to turn me into a soldier. Or worse, they might turn me into a suicide bomber. My life didn’t flash before my eyes, but I started to think about all the important people in my life. The thought about never seeing them came to my mind, and it made me shudder.

The men ordered their chai, and soon enough, got back into their van and left. We waited a little while longer before we ourselves got back on the road. Before getting into the car, my cousin whispers in my ear, “Not a word of this goes to your parents. If they hear about this, then I will never be allowed to take you on trips again.”

And I almost listened to him. However, I waited an appropriate six months to tell my mom about it, and by that time it just turned into an interesting story.

 

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