I got to the very outskirts of Kunduz and whilst I walked down the street filled with houses, there outside of one sat a man, eating and drinking tea, with little children running around him serving him with tea and bringing jams to him for his bread whilst being surrounded by different creatures from two very lazy dogs, birds in cages in the trees and chickens in fenced off area on the ground. He waved over for me to come join him and I found myself just walking over to him from across the road. There was something about his warm, kind Ace Venture like demeanor that drew me towards him. As I came close he introduced himself and straight away knew that I wasn’t from around there, obviously. So asked where I was from in english. Amazed he spoke english, I immediately asked him where he was from, he replied Afghanistan but said he had worked in Saudi Arabia and learnt what he knew of english from there. As the conversation went on he told me more about his life and his family. He also, to my delight offered me some food and tea, which I agreed to without hesitation. After our meal he asked me if I needed a place to stay to which I said yes. He offered me a place to stay for the night and said if I left in the morning I would make it out of Kunduz fine. But leaving now would put me in the middle of Kunduz come nightfall.
Eager to stick to the kms a day I had set before entering the country, I respectfully declined his offer, exchanged phone numbers and was told that if I needed any help that I should just give him a call and he would explain things for me. And was then soon on my way. As I made it to near the centre I came across a military checkpoint which I thought would be the routine, stop. question. check. question. check. let go. I was very wrong. As they stopped me and questioned me I was very aware of the sun falling low close to the horizon and in the back of my head which may have projected itself to the guards, I was eager to either leave to find camping of leave to find a hotel in Kunduz before dark. They decided to go through everything meticulously. Questioning me about everything the picked out of my pack as one of the guards spoke good english. As one of the guards was searching through my jacket where I kept my phones I saw him take two out but only put one back. As he thought I didn’t see they carried on casually and then suddenly started making a huge fuss about the knife I carried with me and said it was illegal. I replied with “no it’s not”, which seemed by the expression on their face to be a plausible retort to their accusation. After which they flat-out asked me if they could have it. I said they could have it if they gave me back my phone that was in his pocket. Unfortunately the only person to understand me was the man who stole the phone, who obviously wasn’t telling the other guards what was going on. As the guard now… knew that I knew what he had done… he told me to keep the knife and ran into the checkpoint, as I tried to walk after him the other guards both stopped me from following him. So now the only guard that spoke english had disappeared with my phone the other guard decided to try go through my camera. Unfortunately for him he managed to film himself doing it.
When the man returned he told them to go through me things one more time at which he got a hold of my other phone played around with it for a few minutes and then returned it to my jacket.
They then told me to pack my stuff up and told me to go. I packed up and stood there asking the man to return my phone. To which their response was to call their commander and decide to hold me till he arrived. Suddenly everything turned official. They put their body armour on and attached their guns to themselves and walked me to a wall which I was told to sit down next to whilst he held the gun pointed at me.
30 minutes later a group of Humvees turned up and a man came out who looked pretty official, he took one look at my passport, saw I had a visa and look confused at why he had been called. He chucked my passport at me and told me to leave. For a brief second I tried to tell him about my phone but with no one who came with him able to speak english I thought I would cut my losses and try to get to a hotel before nightfall.
When I eventually got to a hotel as night approached, first after going through two security checks, I settled in and went through the phone I had left, to make a call. normally I would pass the British Embassy number on my way down to a name. It was no longer there, the soldier had deleted the number. Good thing amongst other things I memorised the embassy number. So I put it back in and saved it under ‘Dave’, who would delete Dave?
My stay in Kunduz was interesting. The hotel I was in had wi-fi so I thought I would stay a day and take advantage of it. I also wanted to get a change of clothes as I mentioned before they were all very western. So I employed the help of two of the children that worked in the hotel. They led me across the bustling market places to help me change my money and sifted through an unimaginable amount of clothes with me to help me find one that was suitable. When I returned, it was starting to get dark and the manager asked me if I wanted any food, that the young man at the door would go get if for me. I was completely oblivious to the reason why at the time. I automatically responded like that was a strange thing to say, and reassured him that I would indeed be fine and would go out in a couple mins to go get some food. He didn’t show any sign of offence but merely smiled. Before I headed out I stopped to ask where I could go to get a takeaway meal. He said he would come with me and began to walk briskly through the streets with me trying to keep up with the blisters on my soles from walking. As we stopped at a shop I ordered as he translated. We attracted a lot of attention at the shop and the boy from the hotel was subjected to a lot of questions, to which he answered and as soon as we were given the food we quickly made our way back, being the bumbling westerner I am though I forgot to get a drink and asked if we could quickly pop into another shop coming up. He reluctantly agreed and we entered. As I browsed the shop cashier started asking the boy questions whilst looking at me. I found what I wanted to get and placed it on the counter and as I was getting my money ready, the cashier look at me menacingly and said in broken english, that the next town over will cut my head off… along with the visual aid of the finger across the throat, which I personally thought was unnecessary. As I stood there surprised at what he had just said, the boy helping me, grabbed the correct money out my hand and gestured for us to leave, which we did hastily.
Leaving Kunduz didn’t seem to be a problem in my new clothes and my baggage looked a lot less western thanks to my new bag from Dushanbe.