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Reporters on the Job

Lost in Translation : Staff writer Ben Arnoldy says that during his reporting in Afghanistan, he noticed that at some point or another most Afghans will start to say, "We have a proverb...."

Ben says that whenever he hear this phrase, he smiles and prepares to spend a few moments lost in translation.

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"I was sipping green tea with the former dean of the faculty of journalism at Kabul University, discussing whether one of the more risqué Afghan television stations had broken too many cultural taboos (page 1). 'There is a saying that whatever you throw down a salt mine, it will become salt,' he told me. As I mulled over whether salt was metaphorically good or bad, I heard him drop the phrases 'class society,' 'Marx,' and 'minerals," says Ben. "At that point, I knew I was doomed." After the interview, Ben's interpreter suggested that the proverb meant: "The only thing you'll ever get out of a salt mine is salt."

"I blinked a couple times back at him. 'So whatever you have in your mind, it will come out,' he explained. Hmmm. Sort of how the Ninth Commandment can lead to the Sixth, I guess," says Ben.

Worth the Risk? To report today's story about a Colombian town trying to clear land mines from around it, reporter Rachel Van Dongen ventured down one of the roads often mined by leftist rebels (this page). "The Colombian Army clears the road, but everyone in the area says that rebels resew the mines as fast as the Army destroys them," she says. Local knowledge can help, so she hired the mayor's driver. "It was pouring rain, the radio was blaring, he was driving fast in order to get us back to Medellín by dark. Between rain, reckless driving, land mines, and rebel and Army roadblocks - we breathed a sigh of relief once we left Aquitania and hit the main road to Medellín," says Rachel.

David Clark Scott
World editor


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