Buzi 2 September 2014: Not As Paradise As It Seems

Being in such isolated place like Tais, I was totally at the mercy of my host. I could go nowhere without approval from Sisi the Tais woman who brought me here. I had been staying in Tais for more than a week. I wanted to see more places. I wanted to go to Mari, the neighboring village four hours away by walking where Sisi used to live. But she did not allow me, saying that people there would kill me. I wanted our group to depart earlier to Daru, so we could stop in Buzi or Sigabadaru, border villages face to face with Australian islands of Boigu and Saibai. Sisi also did not allow me, saying that the villages were full of raskol (rascals). “But Sisi, how can be raskol there? These are just little villages, everybody knows everybody,” protested me. “No, no. You markai are just foreigner, you never understand,” said Sisi, “These people are jealous people. They will kill you.” Tais, she said, was different from other villages nearby. Tais is so small, the people have abundant food, the church is strong; there is no drinking habit among the people, the village is always peaceful. But I was [...]

May 12, 2015 // 2 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Timbangan Mini | Little Scale (Lahore, Pakistan, 2006)

Little Scale (Lahore, Pakistan, 2006) Waseed is an 11-year-old Pathan boy from Peshawar who survives on Lahore streets by offering weighing service to passers-by. From every customers on his little weight scale, he earns Rs2. Pakistan is among world’s top in term of number of children living on streets, and young boys like Waseed are vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse. Timbangan Mini (Lahore, Pakistan, 2006) Waseed adalah bocah Pathan berusia 11 tahun dari Peshawar yang bertahan hidup di jalanan Lahore dengan menawarkan jasa menimbang badan untuk pejalan kaki yang melintas. Dari setiap orang yang menggunakan jasa timbangan kecilnya, Waseed mendapatkan 2 Rupee. Pakistan termasuk negara dengan jumlah anak jalanan terbanyak di dunia, dan bocah-bocah kecil seperti Waseed menghadapi risiko tinggi terhadap kekerasan fisik maupun seksual.       [...]

November 14, 2013 // 11 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Anak Jalanan | Street Boys (Punjab, Pakistan, 2006)

Street Boys (Punjab, Pakistan, 2006) Pakistan is among the countries with highest number of underage workers. The two Pathan boys left their hometown, hundreds of kilometers away, and survive on the streets of Punjab by offering snacks in bus stations. Anak Jalanan (Punjab, Pakistan, 2006) Pakistan termasuk negara dengan jumlah pekerja anak terbanyak di dunia. Dua bocah Pathan ini misalnya, meninggalkan kampung halaman mereka yang ratusan kilometer jauhnya, untuk bertahan hidup di kerasnya jalanan Punjab dengan menjual makanan kecil di terminal bus.     [...]

November 13, 2013 // 4 Comments

#1Pic1Day: Menggapai Harapan | Grabbing Hopes (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006)

Grabbing Hopes (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006) School children from an elementary school in Langar are happily exercising in the school garden. Despite the isolation and economic backwardness of the GBAO province, education is always on top priority of local governments. The literacy rate is almost 100% and little primary schools are available in main villages. Menggapai Harapan (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006) Murid-murid sekolah dari sebuah SD di Langar, GBAO, Tajjikistan, sedang bermain di halaman sekolah. Walaupun provinsi GBAO terisolasi total dan tertinggal secara ekonomi, pendidikan selalu menjadi prioritas pemerintah daerah. Tingkat melek huruf hampir mencapai 100 persen, dan bangunan sekolah dasar tersedia di desa-desa yang terjauh sekali [...]

September 27, 2013 // 1 Comment

#1Pic1Day: Sesudah Perang | Life After War (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006)

Life After War (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006) Madam Dudkhuda is a typical town dweller in the Pamir Mountains. She works as bread baker, earning less than US$20 per month, while her geologist husband only earns about US$150 a year. There is no adequate job offered by the government, so most people in the mountainous province become unemployed or underemployed. Recently some NGOs like the Aga Khan Foundation and Acted provided some training programs to the communities, as well as microcredit financial aid, to help the rebuilding of the economy after years of civil war. Sesudah Perang (GBAO, Tajikistan, 2006) Nyonya Dudkhuda adalah seorang warga kota biasa dari Pegunungan Pamir. Dia bekerja sebagai pembuat roti, dengan pendapatan kurang dari US$ 20 per bulan, sementara suaminya yang bekerja sebagai ahli geologis hanya memperoleh US$ 150 per tahun. Kurangnya pekerjaan yang dapat disediakan oleh pemerintah menyebabkan sebagian besar penduduk di provinsi pegunungan ini menjadi pengangguran atau setengah pengangguran. Saat ini beberapa LSM internasional seperti Aga Khan Foundation dan Acted telah menyediakan program pelatihan kepada masyarakat, juga bantuan finansial dengan skema mikrokredit, untuk membantu pembangunan ekonomi pasca tahun-tahun perang [...]

September 25, 2013 // 2 Comments

Kerman – Life of Afghan Children

New life for Ismail here in Iran, totally different from what he dreamed of before. Ismail, 15 years old, is another ordinary story of an ordinary Afghan who is desperate of better life outside their homeland, and then found that life is not always as beautiful as dreams. The place where Ismail now work in live in southeastern Iranian city of Kerman cannot be called fancy. When others come to the Bazaar-e-Vakil for shopping or sightseeing, Ismail and his three Afghan compatriots work underground, digging holes for septic tanks of public toilets in the old bazaar area. From the dark hole, they brought out stones and sand, to be transported somewhere else. They work from 8 morning until 5 afternoon, earning about 15 dollars per day, much a better wage than the average income in Afghanistan. These young boys came from the northern Afghan province of Takhar, tuck between Kunduz and Badakhshan, about one full day journey from Kabul. Takhar, as I visited in 2006, was a dusty province with similarly dusty provincial capital town of Taloqan, wrapped in time where turbaned men and traditionally dressed nomads from the surrounding villages and grassland fill in the weekly animal market. Was [...]

June 12, 2008 // 0 Comments

Karaköl – Depressed Life

The Gulsaira family I arrived in Karaköl by accident. At first I planned to go from Osh to Toktogul by a direct bus. Toktogul is located on the midway going to Bishkek. But I missed the bus. The jouney then turned to be quite exhausting, as I had to take first the bus to Jalalabad for 100 Som, then 90 Som from Jalalabad to Tashkomur. I arrived in Tashkomur almost dark. Tashkomur is famous for its electrical generator produced by the dams. The town is also a sad witness of the deterioration of Kyrgyzstan economy after the independence. Now it is a quiet sleepy town 2 km away from Osh-Bishkek highway. It was not the place I really want to spend a night. I was lucky when suddenly came a bus signed “Toktogul”. I jumped in, wishing to see my old friends in Toktogul on the very same day. After two hour journey (100 som), the crowded minibus suddenly emptied in the middle of the town of Karaköl. It was complete dark already. The bus didn’t continue any further. It just stopped in Karaköl, and that was all of the journey today. I felt lost. In the middle of night, [...]

November 11, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – Life in Murghab

A morning greetings from Murghab Murgab (Murghab) was promising when it was built. It was a new Russian settlement built as frontier city of Pamir. The highway connecting the isolated mountains to the lowland towns was supposed to bring wealth to the nomadic community. Life had changed ever since. A town was built on the top of mountains. People were educated. Frontier military checkpoints were enforced. But how is life now, after Tajikistan gained independence from the USSR and civil war took place in the new country? The hope of the future had turned to be a bad fate. I had got a chance to know Gulnara, a 54 year old woman working as a primary school teacher in Murgab. Gulnara is the younger sister of Khalifa Yodgor from Langar. But the last time she saw him was 2 years ago. “It is too expensive to go there,” said her. Langar is not too far from Murgab. It is around 250 km only, but the public transport there is very rare and expensive. At present, Murghab-Langar cost 50 Somoni/pax. Gulnara’s salary is only 80 Somoni per month. She hardly manages to feed her family with that money, needless to say [...]

October 31, 2006 // 0 Comments

Murghab – The Dudkhoda’s Family

Boys of Murghab, in front of Tajik banner with the tricolor flag and coat-of-arms, of which important element is a snow mountain “Pamir will be better…. Pamir will be better….” – Dudkhoda My first impression of this 39 year old Tajik man was really not so good. this man tried to hug me and kiss me when I was sleeping next to him under the same blanket on the floor in the Kyrgyz restaurant in alichur packed by the Kyrgyz drivers. He also made me to pay his bills in the restaurant. But later I found that he had story worth to tell. He arranged for me a seat in the Kyrgyz truck, along with him, who returned to his home in Murghab. He was actually a passenger of the truck, not being able to pay the ride with money but offered the drivers a dinner in his hosue in Murghab. I came along with him, sitting along the way to Murghab (100 km) for free. Just near Murghab, there were two military checkpoint. The Kyrgyz drivers failed to do registration and they became easy target of the military man in the small dormitory. “Hey, brother, you should follow the [...]

October 29, 2006 // 0 Comments

Khorog – The Journey to GBAO

One of the two brothers, fellow passengers on the journey to Khorog, GBAO, Tajikistan GBAO, the Gorno Badakhshanskaya Avtonomnaya Oblast (Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast) is my main reason to come to Tajikistan. It is dominated by the minority Ismaili Badakhshani Tajiks and Sunni Kyrgyz. It has majestic mountain architectures. But the main reason I want to go to this restricted area was its history. The province was supporting rebel side in the civil war of Tajikistan. The province suffered a lot from the blockade of the central government. Going to Tajikistan is already something strange for my Indonesian friends in Kabul. “Why going to Tajikistan? It is a poor country.” Going to GBAO is another thing to be objected by my Tajik friends in Dushanbe. “Why going to GBAO? It is so far and poor…” Even the Tajik diplomat in Kabul raised his eyebrows when my embassy staff insisted to get a Tajik visa together with GBAO permit. “Is he really a tourist???” For the ‘GBAO’ four letters to be added on my visa I had to pay a painful 100 dollar fee. It is a bureaucratic country, and my embassy told me to follow the rules, as for this [...]

October 18, 2006 // 0 Comments

Dushanbe – Tajikistan, First Impression

Just across the river border, even the grilled meat looks very different, despite of the same name, kabab. Oh, it also gets a Russian name here, sashlik. Before actually physically stepped on the country, I had heard, and seen Tajikistan when I was still in Afghanistan. It is the country idolized by many people in the Badakhshan province. It is the country of freedom, flourished by goods, electricity, and public services. It is the country where women can walk on the streets freely without fear of not covering properly. Now, I am in Tajikistan, seeing and experiencing what man of the northern rural Afghans dreaming about. But for me, Tajikistan is not about dream. According to a reference, the average salary of the people in the country was only 61.81 Somoni (US$ 19.93/month, 2005) and average pension was as low as 16.92 Somoni (US$ 5.23/month, 2005). Life cost is not cheap at all, at least in Dushanbe, compared to the low income statistics. Long distance transport was incredibly expensive, comparable to Afghanistan, as oil costs almost 1 US$ per litre. 93% of Tajikistan’s land is mountains, making it only 7% inhabited and potential for agriculture. It has distinctive four seasons [...]

October 8, 2006 // 0 Comments

Chekhcheran – The Capital of Ghor Province

A boy from Chekhcheran selling bushes for fire. “We are the center of Afghanistan. But why we are so poor?” – a villager from Chekhcheran The capital of Ghor province was a famous arena in Afghan history pages. It was mentioned many times by Babur, the great Moghul emperor. It was also expecting to prosper much further in 1970’s when there was a plan to build road through the Central Route of Afghanistan, thus connecting the Europe as far as to New Delhi. But Chekhcheran today was an isolated town, far from both Herat and Kabul, suffering Taliban attacks in few years back, and now was desperate for further development. The road in the whole province was unpaved, and it was not lit by electricity at all. The whole province had to rely on private generators to produce local electricity to watch TV (no radio signal in the whole province), light the rooms, listen to Indian songs, and run businesses. At night, it was a complete dark. “We are the center of Afghanistan,” said a local man, “but why we are so poor? Why our life is so difficult?” Chekhcheran, geographically, located exactly at the center of Afghanistan. The man [...]

September 17, 2006 // 0 Comments

Chekhcheran – The Journey to Chekhcheran

Other passenger hitchhiking together with me “This is not the place for humans. This is place for animals” – a driver from Chekhcheran The one-eyed hotel owner of Garmao was a very good man. Not only he conducted body search (taloshi) for the passengers sleeping in his restaurant to find my lost harddisk, he also helped me to get a truck lift from Garmao to the provincial capital of Chekhcheran. There were only two trucks passing the lonely village that day, after I had been waiting for more than 24 hours. The owner, a slim, bearded man, was reluctant to take me. He quoted 400 Af price which was very expensive, as he said, he was afraid that Taliban would specially targeted foreigners. It was only an excuse. The hotel owner, with his big voice, insisted him to take me. He was very authoritative, even the truck owner was afraid of him. Traveling by truck was far more interesting, comfortable, and cheap way of traversing the mountainous area of Afghanistan. It was slow. It broke often. The average speed was less than 7 km/hour. And it had comfortable seat. It was comfortable if you didn’t get the open air seat [...]

September 16, 2006 // 0 Comments

Mazhar e Sharif – The Holy City

The holy shrine The skyline is dominated by the blue domes of fantasy-like architecture of the mausoleum, along with hundreds of white pigeons flying around to seek fortune. Mazhar e Sharif, once a small village overshadowed by the nearby Balkh, now is the biggest city in northern Afghanistan. Mazhar-e-Sharif, literally means Tomb of the Exalted, had passed different path of history Kabul had experienced. It was Russian stronghold area and it was under the occupation of communist general Rashed Dostum, an uneducated warlord who once the big ruler of Northern Afghanistan. Dostum had published his own money, what was known as Junbeshi money (Peace money), and he had his own airlines. Taliban failed to conquer Mazhar at its first attack, but succeeded in 1992 when Mazhar turned to be a city of blood. The Hazara ethnic were slaughtered. The fantasyish holy building is believed to be site where the body of Ali bin Abi Thalib lies Huge poster of the national hero, a Tajik man by ethnicity, Ahmad Shah Massoud Dostum is Uzbek. But not all Mazhar Uzbek like him. “He is a terrorist. I prefer Taliban as they are more Islamic,” said Kamran, a 20 year old man from [...]

August 12, 2006 // 1 Comment

Krat – The Wakhi People of Krat

Wakhan Corridor is always far and mysterious “Zdravstvui tovarech” – a villager from Krat Freedom is what the Wakhi people are longing for. I never expected my visit to Chapursan, the Wakhi Tajik valley in northern Pakistan, brought me to learn deeper about the life of the same ethnic in Afghanistan side of the valley. In Chapursan, 7 months ago, I stayed in house of Noorkhan, a Wakhi Tajiki from Kil village, where sun doesn’t come at all in winter for 3 months. Who expected, deep in restricted area of Wakhan Corridor, I met friends and relatives of Noorkhan. Faizal-u-Rahman, 29 years old, is a cousin of Alam Jan Dario, a famous man from Zod Khon village in Chapursan, who pioneered tourism in the valley. I met Faizal in in Khandud. He was offering me a hitch on tractor to the village of Krat in Wakhan Valley of Afghanistan. He, together with other people from Chapursan are working for an American NGO, Central Asian Institute, and this moment they are building a school in the village. Chapursan is an area dominated by Wakhi Tajik people, same as in Wakhan Valley, and the Wakhi people follow Ismaili sect of Islam. Only [...]

August 3, 2006 // 2 Comments

Kabul – Newsroom Experience

Working in the newsroom Pajhwok Afghan News Agency is the biggest news agency in Afghanistan. I was lucky that I was introduced by a journalist friend of mine to the director of this company. And starting from today I experienced the life in the newsroom. The news of the office came out online and updated in minute basis. The subscription fee might be still high for Afghan standard, up to 200 dollars for big companies, NGOs, and embassies. The website of the news agency is, and provides services in Farsi, Pashto, and English. The director, Mr Danish, is a friendly man, and he provided me some books that I might read before deciding to wander around the country. He even promised some assistance from different parts of the country as the News Agency has several local offices in many cities of Afghanistan. Discussing about the photos Mr. Danish requested me to come to the office early to meet with the photographer of the office. They only have one photographer in this city, some other correspondents in different provinces also provide them journalistic photography. The equipment used is a simple pocket Sony digital camera. Mr Danish said that I might [...]

June 12, 2006 // 2 Comments

Karachi – The Biggest City of Pakistan

May 30, 2006 Karachi Talking about the biggest city of Pakistan, no, it’s not the new capital of Islamabad, it’s the port city of Karachi. Karachi was the capital of the new republic after the partition, but after the capital shift to the north, Karachi still serves as the economic center of the country. Karachi house the mausoleum of the founder of Pakistan, Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, known as Quaid-i-Azam (the prime leader). This mausoleum is located not far from city center, and becomes the main pilgrimage spots for Pakistanis from the whole country. The architecture itself cannot be described more than distinctive, but still interesting place to spot the pilgrims. Karachi also has beaches. Cliffton beach might be the most popular in the city. If there is something that this beach doesnt share with other beaches in the world, it is the camels provided for the tourists to linger around the sand. It is not common for the visitors to swim here, so dont expect spotting girls with bikinis like those in Bali. In weekends, the beach might be crowded, by single visitors, couples, families, and even gay couples, who share affections quite openly on the benches near the [...]

May 30, 2006 // 0 Comments

Thar Desert – Life of Survival

May 22, 2006 Special thanks to Om Parkash Piragani from Sami Samaj Sujag Sangat and Jamal from Ramsar Otagh It’s a vast, hot, dry, dusty, shady desert area stretching from the corner of Interior Sindh of Pakistan up till Rajasthan and Gujarat over the other side there in India. Water is a main problem here, food is insufficient, and education is luxury. Thar or Tharparkar desert is where about one and half million tribal people, living in more than 800 widespread villages, survives their life, with their cattle, despite all of the hardship. Umerkot is a small, busy town connecting the desert to the interior Pakistan. It’s a vital survival for the people from the deep desert. Umerkot is not a common Pakistani city. It boasts the point of world history as the birth place of the biggest Mughal king, Akbar. And what makes the town special: it has the largest Hindu inhabitants proportion in this Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Most of the people, some claimed seventy percent, are Hindus. If might said, Umerkot is the ‘little India’ of Pakistan. The town has some offices, a bustling bazaar, rows of shops, and decent schools. For the people in the desert, [...]

May 22, 2006 // 1 Comment

Lahore – A Peshawar boy in Anarkali

April 29, 2006 The culinary capital of Lahore, Anarkali Food Street He was very young, I suggested that he was only 11 years old. His name is Waseed, a Pathan boy from Peshawar. He comes everyday to Anarkali, with his little treasure: a weight scale. Oh, plus some thick papers for him to sit on. “How old are you?” “Between 10 and 15” But it’s a big range. He doesnt know his own age. Waseed didnt know English. Even his Urdu was limited. I tried to communicate with Farsi, but he knew nothing. He was not from Afghanistan anyway, but his homeland was just next to the Farsi speaking country. He sat on the padestrian path of the food street of Anarkali, Lahore, waiting for customers. Every time a curious fellow tried to weigh on his little scale, he get 2 Rs. He was very young. “You dont go to school?” “No” “Where are your parents?” “In Peshawar”. Peshawar is a city 10 hours away from Lahore by the public bus. The Pathans, people from border area, mostly from Peshawar, are famous to be wanderer around the country to work all the hard works. But being a wanderer at such [...]

April 29, 2006 // 0 Comments

Rawalpindi – Slums

Phir Wadhai February 1, 2006 A whole day in Phir Wadhai. Phir Wadhai might be never been in any places you wanna visit. Phir Wadhai is the most important transport hub in Rawalpindi, where you can get bus from here to anywhere in Pakistan. But as other bus terminals in Java (Indonesia), Phir Wadhai is another stinky and polluted place. First I saw the place at a glance from the bus which took me from Gilgit to Pindi. I suddenly ‘fell in love’ with it. The huge stinky pond of unflowing water flourishing the road, while people selling fruits, grilled meat, rice, and anything ‘eatable’ around the stinky black water. The environment made me curious how people here survive, and at last I decided to spend a full day in Phir Wadhai to discover the life here. Rawalpindi is a harsh metropolitan, with dreams to offer about high income to the villagers all around Pakistan. Here you can meet people from Northern Areas, Balucshistan, Sindh, Punjab, from big cities like Karachi and Lahore until small villages in the middle of Thar desert. The life here is not that easy, of course. Many of these people are uneducated, so they end [...]

February 1, 2006 // 3 Comments

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