We were travelling through the remote regions of Kayah State in Myanmar (Burma) and stopped at a small village. After wandering around and soaking up the village life, here, a small girl was standing by a wooden fence giving us an inquisitive look. She was wearing those famous metal rings around her neck, but this is purely for decorative purposes now and is no longer used to “elongate” necks.
I was staying in a yurt in Bamiyan which overlooked the valley where the famous Buddha statues were destroyed by the Taliban. Having done much in the valley already, I went for a walk near some farm fields where I had earlier spotted the remains of Soviet military vehicles.
Camera in hand, I managed to get some closeups of those vehicles including this T-54 tank. Moments later, a uniformed man starts shouting at me from across the field and began approaching. I watched as he got to my position. I wasn’t sure what he was saying, but he was pointing at my camera and he wasn’t letting me leave. Luckily, a farm worker saw what was happening and came over to help, and he spoke English! He translated saying that the uniformed man was police, and that he wanted to know if I had a permit to take photos. I said that I wasn’t aware of the need for permits. And then he wanted my passport. I showed him my passport, but I didn’t hand it over. As I had refused to hand over my passport, he wanted me to accompany him to the police station. I said no. Lots of shouting. A standoff.
He radioed his colleagues and soon there were several police surrounding me. And then appeared one chap shouting angrily as he walked across the field. It was the boss. Same arguments…he wasn’t going to get hold of my passport, and I wasn’t going to the police station. I said I was British, and that my friends were waiting for me nearby. So I stayed in that field answering his questions on the who, what, why and when of my journey. Anyway, it turns out that they were worried about terrorists from Pakistan, especially with the elections only a few days away. After much talking, they let me go, and I shook hands with the police chief. I was questioned several times by the security forces throughout my travels in Afghanistan, but I guess they had legitimate concerns; literally life and death.
In the Omo Valley, Ethiopia. I was exploring a Hamar village trying to take photos of village life. As I prepared to take photos, this young man automatically tried to remove his Mercedes Benz top as he assumed that I might think that the shirt wasn’t “authentic”. But I indicated to him that the shirt was OK; if that is what he normally wore then that was plenty authentic to me, and plenty interesting enough!