Overseas Assignment 2007: KL to Dubai to Kabul, The Hectic Journey – Part 3

kabul

(Kabul International Airport is next to the US airbase and thus located in a war zone. Image source: Zee News)

Read Part 1 & Part 2 first

We landed in Kabul just after 10.00 am. Surprisingly this time around, the pilot did not make the “crazy loop” before flying down to the runaway (the locals say that if the pilot is doing the crazy loop, it means not safe to land). It was a smooth direct landing.

I was not concerned about the immigration and the customs at the Kabul airport although I was alone (prime target for harassment). I was more worried about my pick-up arrangement.

Immigration clearance was fast but the pick-up of the luggage was a pain. The place was small and not much space for the crowd. Everyone was jostling for space to extend their hand to reach their luggage. And I finally got my luggage, I realised that the handle been cracked open and the combination lock has been totally broken off.

Did anyone out there was trying to sabotage me?

Since the combination lock was broken off, I was afraid whether the contents still remained intact? Or worse, did anyone put anything “unnecessary” (like “I love Osama” t-shirts) into my bag. This was running through my mind as I walked towards the custom’s checkpoint. I could imagine 5 – 6 guards jumping on me, declaring that I have been caught red-handed with contraband items and slamming me into the prison (Malay Mail then would have run the story of the 2nd Malaysian in Kabul prison).

To my surprise, the bag was scanned and was passed back to me with approval. Good – nothing suspicious!

I walked out and just as I suspected, there was no one to pick me up. Great – this means 5 hours wait at the Kabul airport. Not exactly a cosy place to be with heavily armed guards looking suspiciously at me (and my battered luggage bag).

Suddenly a guy appeared in front of me and talked to in Afghan local language. Was he my pick up? I could not understand a word but somewhere in between, I thought I heard a familiar name. So, thinking that it was my pick up, I allowed the guy to carry my bag whilst walking towards the car park.

Big mistake!

When we arrived at the car park, he asked “where is your car?” in Hindi!

I heard the word “kaddi” and questionable face staring at me. Did the dude just said “where is my car?” Damn, I was screwed – and I got panic. This can’t be my pick up. Luckily it was just an old man, looked less threatening and for good measures, there were armed guards all around the car park. I was safe for the moment. The incident of 23 Koreans who were kidnapped were flashing in my mind like a red hot iron.

Am I going to be the next?

I quickly took out the contact number and tried to call my client. Somehow, my international roaming Maxis line was “offline” there. Oh great!

The old man looked at me and passed me his handphone. I scrambled to press the numbers and get a life-saving voice on the other end. By this time, 3 – 4 guys started to surround me and the old man seems to be fending me off from them – like a faithful dog watching over a roasted chicken (me!) against wild wolves.

Someone answered my call but it was a wrong number. I began to sweat. Someone in the crowd pushed away from the old man and tried the contact number on his handphone, spoke in the local language and passed the handphone to me. I looked at his phone and thought “hey, that was the same model that I had – hmmm, wonder how it cost in Kabul”. Oh, what I was thinking!

Not a right time to think all this.

I grabbed the phone and thankfully, it was the right number. I told about my “small” problem that I was having but the client kept his cool and asked me to relax. He said the pick up was on the way – just wait for 5 minutes. A commotion broke off in the crowd and this got the guards interested. They came in and asked something. One guard shouted at someone in the crowd. Then everyone started to leave me and the old man alone.

I turned and saw my pick-up. They came at the right time and we allowed the old man to carry the bag to the vehicle that was waiting for me. He got paid – probably happy that he stuck with me till the end. Just when I was driven away, I realised that my message to my wife in Dubai actually went through. This is why the pick up made it in time; otherwise, it would have been a chaotic wait at the car park.

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