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Gideon's Diary
Day 1Day 1
Setting up camp and cutting an alien figure ...
Day 2Day 2
A university where 400 students died in 45 seconds ...
Day 3Day 3
Pancaked houses and a reluctant interviewee ...
Day 4Day 4
Dodging falling boulders on the mule train ...
Gideon's Photo JournalPhoto Diary
Gideon's photo journal from Pakistan

Gideon's Pakistan Diary On Overdrive
Gideon's Pakistan Diary: Watch these clips to see the realities of life in the leveled region and meet people determined to carry on.
MTV News Reports On The South Asian Earthquake
MTV News Reports On The South Asian Earthquake
Desis Organize Pakistan Quake Aid
Desis Organize Pakistan Quake Aid

The massive earthquake that devastated South Asia in October and left 3 million people homeless should have compelled news headlines for weeks — but didn't. Gideon Yago was recently dispatched to Pakistan, where he witnessed firsthand entire neighborhoods made out of tents, a university in shambles and a population clinging to hope. Read Gideon's diary entries below, and watch "Aftershock: Gideon's Diary in Pakistan" on MTV Overdrive.

Day 1, Islamabad
By the time we touch down in Islamabad, I have been vomiting and groaning for five hours. It is a bad time to get sick — we have six days of shooting and a lot of ground to cover before we leave — but this is my luck, just my luck, I think. MTV News wants a half-hour show and five news packages on quake relief, which means hustling to cram in as much as possible while the clock is running. And they've spent a pretty penny flying me 15 hours to get it. "No matter how bad you feel," I tell myself, choking back bile in the customs line, "no matter how bad you think you feel," I say, sucking in the diesel/ burning tea/ tobacco haze that supersaturates the room, "you're better off than whoever you're about to meet." Arrogance? Maybe a little. Self-satisfaction? I hope not. Just realism: I know what I'm in for, what I'm about to see, and it's harrowing.

Pakistan, Kashmir, they are new to me. But the place I'm about to go — that miserable realm of war and disaster — has become familiar in the last few years. My trip is to be another "Diary," like the work I've done in Iraq or Banda Aceh or Colombia or New Orleans. Another digital video tour through human wretchedness and mind-bending suffering which, if done properly, will raise awareness and plant understanding, showing what "it" is like if only hinting at what "it" is. I try to keep an open mind. I remind myself that every tragedy is unique, and also remind myself not to be callous. I clear customs and see dawn spill copper-colored light onto the cracked tarmac. A group of men in shawal-kameez are bowing in morning prayer in front of baggage claim.

We are a bit late on this one. It is almost two months since the quake itself and the emergency wounds — the bleeding leads that initially draw out the news crews — have largely been staunched. Those in dire medical need have either received it or died. Those in need of food and water largely have systems in place to provide for them now. The media scrum has come and gone, no doubt off to cover the threat of bird flu or the great Nick/Jessica schism. But survivors of the South Asian quake face a second act in their disaster, a high likelihood that pneumonia, hypothermia and starvation will claim more victims (47 succumbed to cold last weekend alone). There are almost 3 million homeless people now exposed to high altitudes and hellish cold.

Images From Gideon's Pakistan Journal
 Aftershock: Images From Gideon Yago's Pakistan Journal
There are three of us: Nina Alvarez, my camerawoman; Laura Hill, MTV News' senior production manager; and me. We cut an alien figure here in Islamic Islamabad — two women in Western dress and the nausea-green, dopey kid correspondent following them. I wonder what the locals make of us as the doors to baggage claim swing open to my first view of the city proper: a throng of men, many kohl-eyed and poor, wrapped in shawls yelling "Cab!" "Ride!" in between strings of Urdu I cannot understand. Two policemen begin barking at them and pushing the crowd back. I wonder if a fight is about to break out when, like a bolt in a storm, Umer Mumtaz, our translator, pops his head out of the crowd and yells my name. We are found! And with relief and excitement, we drag our bags over to a waiting car that wafts steam up in the morning cold. Umer offers us tea and cigarettes, which I greedily accept, hoping the cocktail will calm my guts. We are here and we are sorted. Our trip has begun.

Cops stop us for bribes three times on the way to the hotel — our first chance to check in, drop off our stuff and get our camera equipment ready for a day of shooting. The plan today is to shoot at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Islamabad that is now home to about 6,000 Kashmiris who walked days from the mountains to get aid in the capital. After that it is meetings, meetings, meetings: with the U.N., with the Pakistani military and the U.S. military to grease the wheels on three separate stories we want to shoot showing the scope of aid efforts. There are some repeating tropes and schemes between the groups: All three have helicopters, because the terrain is so difficult to navigate. All three have initiatives to provide shelter for survivors. Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Kashmir, has become one of the major hubs for relief, so we decide that place will be our home for the next five days.

The refugee-camp site seems to go on forever, as though you're looking at one of those refracting mirror images that gives you an artificial sense of eternity. The military precision of the tent-after-tent setup, the clean lines, the carbon-copy angles — it's disorienting. Different neighborhoods (!) within the camp are hailed by colored flags that whip in the winter wind, helping the nearly 200 non-governmental organizations/professional charities that are operating in Pakistan mark their turf. Each tent announces where it's from: Turkish Red Crescent, U.N. High Commission on Refugees, USAID, the Saudi royal family, etc. The only thing that breaks up the monotony is the occasional shipping container that several destitute families now claim as their home. It's like a mini version of SimCity, where the very basics of what it takes to keep humans alive are out in the open. Clean water and latrines: check. Medical services: check. Shelter: check. Food: check. Anything else: barely there.

We meet a skinny 15-year-old in Matrix-y sunglasses named Raja who, along with his pubescent refugee posse, offers to show us around their " 'hood." Raja's crib, the tent where he and the other eight members of his family live, smells heady and overwhelming inside: sweat, dirt, baby's urine. As we walk back to our car, I mutter about how awful it is. Umer, our translator, smiles and looks at the mountains that cradle Islamabad. He has been to Kashmir and back a handful of times. "Buddy," he says, "just wait until tomorrow. You haven't seen anything yet."

Photo: MTV News

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