• Green Zone Spanish: If you want to get into the highly fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where the US Embassy and Iraqi leaders have offices, it helps if you speak Spanish.
Staff writer Howard LaFranchi found that the private security contractors at the pedestrian entrance to the zone are mostly from Latin American countries. During a recent visit, he was asked why he had a yellow badge along with his normal Green Zone press badge. He answered in Spanish: "It's my State Department press credential."
"The guard's eyes widened, and he smiled. 'Ah Departamento de Estado! Muy bien!' And with that I was directed to the VIP line and that expedited my entrance," says Howard.
• Kabul Is Not Baghdad: When reporter Gordon Lubold landed in Kabul, Afghanistan, to report on the preparedness of Afghan forces, he expected it to be as bad as Baghdad. The security situation is still tenuous, and the trip from the airport to the Monitor's bureau can be dangerous.
Gordon arranged to be met at the airport by a local translator and driver. "The knowledge of a local can keep you safe when you don't know exactly where you're going," says Gordon, who has been to Afghanistan three other times but hasn't spent much time in Kabul.
But as Gordon stood outside the airport terminal looking for his Afghan escort, "feeling a bit exposed and looking very Western, I started to wonder if I shouldn't be where I was," he says.
Ultimately the fixer found him, and Gordon soon realized that Kabul was far different than Baghdad. "Despite the pollution and an occasional suicide bombing, I find Kabul to be a beautiful and fascinating place."
– David Clark Scott