A minivan stood outside, parked in front of the house with the gate still closed. Loud chatters and cheering coming from a floor up filled the house alongside the stomping and fast steps of tiny feet. Cousins and nephews and nieces had come from afar to spend these merry weeks here and the result was serenity coming in scarce. Shy smiles hid behind parent’s their legs and some more brave had tried their English while others brought me tea. But today, on this early morning, everyone was up and at it, as the mentioned van would soon be filled to the brim with children, some mothers and, of course, me. Wrapped in layers, thick scarves and warm gloves on their hands, the bunch wobbled in enthusiasm to the gate like a family of penguins. Waqas, knowing the kid’s tendency to regurgitate during the excruciating long haul, had snug his blanket extra tight and faked his deep sleep while I was getting shoved into the dark corner of the van to avoid constant passport control. Though aware of the chundering children, with the promise of seeing the white we no longer get in the Netherlands, bless global warming, and that on this special day that is my birthday, I had mentally prepared myself for flying chunks and stepped inside.
Getting used to spending hours on end inside these cages, as Pakistan is a vast land, had proven one of the hardest tasks. Swinging from the left to right on the unending meandering roads with as music the sounds of multiple throats spewing and spitting acidic saliva or parts of breakfast made me regretful. “Danny, how are you?” was the phrase echoing the inside for the dozenth time as the kid with his knowledge of English consisting of a total of three words had demanded once again for my attention. Yet, when I returned the question he’d come up blank to only repeat the question. Later on, he’d simply steal my answer, but for now he rotated only between this question and an unintelligible shout. An absolute adorable kid however. Exhausted before arrival, I sat with my stomach twisting praying for the fresh air and with it an escape of the sounds and smells.
Then, some hours in, snow had been spotted and with that, we were close. Halfway up a mountain we parked the car and went for a slippery walk, with a chain of children holding hands. We kept counting heads with every turn and step to keep an eye on all the kids as they had begun wandering left and right when the first snowball had been airborne. It flew high and landed straight on the back of the sister-in-law of Waqas. War had commenced. I leapt forward, sliding into one of the trenches next to a small stairway leading to a building as I got half of the children on my side and preparing me an artillery of snowballs and, cruel as they can be, a handful of ice-balls. The latter, I had sneakily chucked away before turning the sky into a blanket of white as I flung hundreds of balls towards the enemy. Unsure of where they were landing, I had launched my ammo on the hoodie of the youngest of the bunch, followed by a mouthful to one of the mothers and a maid with white trails covering her jacket. Soon, I had imitated Italy and switched sides as I attacked the ones providing me with snow. Soon, the platoon of minions flanked me and covered me in snow until I finally waved the white flag of surrender.
Exhausted at the end, we retreated down to a cafe for lunch to metaphorically smoke the Indian peace pipe. I was out of breath, but it had been an exciting feeling to relive the moment of grasping the cold snowball, gradually leaving tingling sensations in your fingers eventually leading to the numbing, before you douse your temporary enemy in the precious snow. Then you’d return inside, leaving the cutting, icy outside as you warm your frozen hands on a hot cup of tea with a fire blazing. Today had felt like such and along with the tea had come a surprise as a cake with lit candles came brought out. Together, me and the other celebrant blew out the candles and made our wish. Though, to have been able to play like a kid in the snow as the age grows taller, had been a wish come true.
This concludes my posts on Pakistan and with it, I wish to deeply thank all who have been involved in my trip. Waqas, who shared his room during my stay, drove his car hundreds of kilometres to show me place after place, endured the North with me to admire the massive mountains and faced the secret police when a suited man became nagging regarding the strange foreigner. And his family who welcomed me inside, made me feel at home with small to big efforts and with whom I have had many conversations. This includes close family and further relatives. Thank you all and you are welcome in the Netherlands.