So we just got to Islamabad (I have taken you back a little), we drop off our bags at a friends place, a girl, and go touring the city. That’s how we ended up at Saidpur Village etc. We make friends with an old cab-guy, get his number and call him ‘Chachu’ which means old man or grand-dad. It’s used respectfully but playfully too.
We couldn’t spend the night where we’d dropped off our bags, mostly because I am a guy, and she is a girl, and that’s generally awkward in Pakistan, so we were couchsurfing, with a bunch of guys who called themselves the ‘Expatriate Gentlemen’. Couchsurfing, for those of you are just joining us, is basically a website where you meet someone on the Internet and ask if you could spend the night at their house. It sounds dangerous, weird and a little crazy but it works. Usually people post their photos too, just for peace of mind so you can know who you’re staying with or who wants to stay with you, but these guys didn’t.
They live close to F7 so Chachu drops us off there, and we give the Expatriate Gentlemen a call for the first time. I’m a little shocked when a guy with an American accent picks up, I mean, we’re in Pakistan. He sounds a little irritated that I called, maybe because I had just texted him a few minutes ago so maybe he feels rushed. He says they are ‘just getting ready for you’ and calls in the background ‘ are you guys ready?’ and hangs up, but just before saying he’ll meet us in 10 minutes.
A few minutes later, I see a bald white guy walking towards us, and there are 2 guys with him, one carrying a huge water bottle. It’s them apparently. Quick hellos hellos and assessing the situation, because for all my promoting Couchsurfing, you have to assess the people you are staying with lest they look like they could make you disappear. For me it wouldn’t be such an issue, but I had a friend with me, the Polish girl, so I was being extra-cautious. I like Polish people, the ones I know are super-laid back, and usually late. They’re cool 🙂 and often tough.
So the Expatriate Gentlemen lead us to their lair. We go past a crowded street, and towards a really dark building with dark black soot on the walls. We wade through red plastic chairs that belong to the roadside restaurant outside their flat, and up the dark stairs.
The smell hits you immediately, and the Expatriate Gentlemen apologize faster. Apparently their neighbour stores fertilizer, ammonia or something. It stinks and it’s illegal what he is doing, they laugh. Next door is a lawyer’s office.
There are wires along the wall, naked wires hanging out of electric metres. I make a mental note not to touch the wall if I end up on the stairs in the dark, lest I have an electrifying experience – you saw that coming didn’t you? I’ll leave it there just in case you didn’t.
We enter the apartment, but it’s a room. Well, 2 rooms, since there is what looks like an adjoining bedroom with someone fast asleep on one of the many mattresses on the floor, arranged in a line like a nursery. It smells like cologne and cigarettes, and the AC is on, mercifully because Islamabad summers are HOT. There is also a fish, a gold fish, in an Absolut Vodka bottle and it’s alive and swimming in circles, and sometimes from top to bottom. Not much of a choice I guess. There’s an ashtray, handmade by the Gentlemen, with boxes of Marlboro stuck together. There are phone and gadget chargers strewn all over the place, a very tired couch and a plastic chair. There’s a small table, with a desktop.The computer is on and the screen saver is pairs of flashing boobs in different colours.
Welcome to the bachelor pad.I felt like I’d walked into a comedy set. Especially when the doorbell rang, and it was a dwarf standing there with fresh mango juice for us.
A very good looking guy, and I only say that ’cause really it was part of the out-of-this-world-ness of the Expatriate Gentlemen. He is the one we found asleep. He says he studies medicine, but later on, the others say they are not too sure what he actually does. Apparently he sleeps all day, and then just walks out. They don’t know where to. They don’t ask. He also has connections in Kuwait, that’s where he grew up he says. He’s mysterious.
A really tough-looking kinda muscled guy. He looks like he could smash you. Then he starts talking, and you suddenly think you’re talking to a Sunday school teacher, or a guy who’s so warm he melts blue band – when blue band used to be so hard it used to tear bread. You just can’t picture him doing anything wrong to anyone. Later on we’re out walking, and he gives our left over dinner to a drunk/slightly mad beggar, and one of the other Gentlemen scolds him for giving out next day’s lunch. He doesn’t argue, he just quietly defends his actions ‘ He looked hungry’. He still looks like he could break you. He says his family is feudal, I believe him.
He’s quiet, even his name sounds quiet, he probably breathes quietly, maybe he even runs quietly or maybe he runs as he tip-toes. He wears glasses, huge black glasses, that cover most of his face. He is skinny and his hair is high in the air, in a punk kind of way. He looks like that frontman for Gorrilaz. He studies accounting. He hates that his housemates smoke in the apartment. He hates it even more when they smoke hashish, which is like marijuana, but is made differently and has a different effect and is smoked differently. The point is that it’s illegal to smoke hash, and Gentleman 3 strongly thinks it’s immoral to do so. Once, in a rare fit of rage caused by the other Gentlemen were smoking hash, he went to tell them off to the cop that happened to be downstairs in the restaurant. But it was late at night, and the cop had just lit his own joint…LOL. He never did it again.
This is the man with the plan. The one who initiates everything, probably the one who made them sign up on couchsurfing. He has 2 facebook profiles..or at least 2 that I know of. He has the American accent. He mentions his family being feudal or linked or something, basically he is a very vague person, and also the FUNNIEST person I ever met. He is Pashtun, which partly explains why he looks so white. Pashtuns are often have European features. He is insanely kind, and won’t let you pay for anything. He knows everyone too, so wherever you try to pay he asks the waiter/ shopkeeper/ restaurant manager not to accept your money. He keeps you laughing and wondering all the time. He also has access to weird things, and a few weeks after we met and we were back in Karachi he sent us American army food…how now?
I have never had so much fun staying somewhere.