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A cheer from the passengers roused me from my reverie. Five hours after leaving Chirman we were finally stopping at a roadside chaikhana (tea house). Moh’dullah found us a secluded spot under a mulberry tree where we could drink our tea undisturbed, even allowing me to stretch my vocal chords a little although a cigarette was still out of the question. Apparently, so, too, was blowing my dust-clogged nose. As I raised a paper tissue Hussain hissed, ‘Not here, not in public! You must never blow your nose in public in Afghanistan.’ I sniffed and turned to watch what our fellow travellers were up to.
In a small, shallow stream running in front of the chaikhana, groups of men washed, preparing to pray. Women, their minds on more earthly concerns, washed their children, or rinsed out soiled baby clothes which they spread to dry on flat stones and branches…
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