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Reporters on the Job

• SPECIAL FORCES ENCOUNTER: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf, photographer Robert Harbison, and their translator were stopped by US special forces on the road into Asadabad, the capital of Kunar province (page1). At a checkpoint, US soldiers approached the car with guns aimed directly at their heads. "I tried the cheerful Texas approach," says Scott. " 'Hey guys, we're American journalists, what's the news?' The guns moved closer, and remained pointed at our heads. I realized then our baggy Afghan outfits might be working against us. They searched our car, and then told us we would have to wait until an road accident was cleared on the road ahead."

In the meantime, Scott offered to have his translator, Lutfullah Mashal, help them talk to the local Afghans. They welcomed his services. The soldiers were barking orders in English, and didn't seem to know any Pashtu. "They asked for 'AK-47s' but no local would know that term. They do recognize 'Kalashnikov.'

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"One Afghan, not realizing I was an American, came up and recited what the the US soldiers had shouted at him. 'Shut up, get out!' he parroted in near perfect English – not knowing what it meant – and then high-fived my hand with a laugh," says Scott.

• INTO THE AMAZON : Reporter Arie Farnam has an avowed weakness for remote places. So when her younger brother told her about a place he had discovered in the Amazon rain forest where indigenous people were striking a balance between their isolated traditional way of life and modern economic demands (this page), she found a cheap ticket to Ecuador.

"I flew into Quito, and took a jolting seven-hour bus ride down a dirt road into the jungle. I spent the night in a little frontier town, and took another bus even further into the mass of giant ferns and spiny trees. I got off at a village called Sin Nombre, literally "without a name" and hiked several hours through ankle-deep mud, crossing a swaying rope bridge over a raging grayish river. At last, I came out into a clearing surrounded by a few thatched bamboo huts, and that was Ila Yaku, the village my brother had told me about."

"I was instantly welcomed, and everyone called me 'the sister of Peter.' I found out that my 22-year-old brother had been 'adopted' by one of the local women, a grandmother named Carmela. Villagers described how he had followed her around and called her 'Mama Carmela.' I stayed in her house, spending a few days learning to eat the starchy cassava root and fat white grubs, and sleeping on a wooden board, listening to the incredible night sounds of the jungle."

David Clark Scott
World editor


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