Zerky in Baluchistan

Map of West Pakistan

From JoAnne’s Diary
November 26, 1967
Quetta, West Pakistan (Baluchistan)

We ran out of water this morning and had to take off with our unwashed dirty dishes. Stephanie is sick. We stopped for water at a vacant “Free Tourist Hut,” but after hauling it up in a bucket with a primitive crank, we discovered it was no good. Found some later at a “government rest house.”

Stefanie and Zerky with Bill and Eddy,  trying to get  water out of that well in Afghanistan

Stefanie and Zerky with Bill and Eddy, trying to get water out of that well in Afghanistan

November 26, 1967
Quetta, West Pakistan

Dear Zerky, tonight we are camped in the middle of the city of Quetta in the yard behind the Pakistan Government Tourist Office. We stopped here earlier to get some information and to get rid of our hitchhikers. Now we miss Eddie and Stephanie, but they did not want to go into Afghanistan with us but rather directly into India. Perhaps all their talk about working with Christian missionaries in India was not a scam after all. To our surprise, we had come to consider them both to be friends. But because they had virtually no money at all, they went to the tourist office this afternoon to ask where they might be able to spend the night. The government’s response was for them to come back at closing time when they would be welcome to spread their sleeping bags out on the office floor. Thus it came to pass that in two different Islamic countries in the last three days, perhaps like Blanche in her Streetcar Named Desire, Stephanie and Eddie were able to “depend upon the kindness of strangers.” None of the people we had been talking to in the last two tourist offices could have depended on me for much of anything. While JoAnne and I were in the office that day, your mother asked the woman working there where the three of us might be able to park our van for the night. Since it would not fit into her office along with Stephanie and Eddie, she suggested we park it in the yard out back. I offered to pay but she refused to take anything in return for her hospitality, at which point I learned a painful lesson about the virtues of Islam.

Everywhere we go these days we find the city of Quetta fascinating. It has the feel of India about it; the buildings are low, typically single storied, and generally of very flimsy construction. The streets of Quetta are jammed with carts, donkeys and people on bicycles. Everyone seems to be going shopping. The shops contain all kinds of strange items, the most noticeable of which is the absence of manufactured goods. It is beginning to look like this absence is becoming an index of how far we are from home. Tonight we had curry and tomorrow we shall be in Afghanistan.

JoAnne’s Diary
November 27, 1967

Got our tire fixed in Quetta, where Zerky was butted by a sheep, chased by a rooster, and fascinated by two caged parrots. Canned goods are outrageously priced. We ran into that Swedish couple and four Americans while shopping. Later we lunched with the Swedes at the China Café where they gave us some hash. Arrived in Afghanistan at the sunset prayer hour. The border official gave Zerk some raisins and wanted to know if Tarzan was a cat. Tonight Zerk has found four kids to play with at the Hotel Kandahar, and now Tarzan is getting a lot of attention too. Had a good dinner at the hotel, after which we smoked the Swedes’ hash and fell in love with our little butane heater in the bus.

—Excerpted from Letters to Zerky

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