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Reporters on the Job

SEA OF PRIDE: On Friday, Monitor correspondent Kris Axtman went to check out a major demonstration gathering force in Caracas, Venezuela (this page). The protest turned out to be the country's second largest to date: about 1 million marchers. To get a better view, Kris positioned herself on a highway overpass where several roads come into the city.

"I have never seen that many people in my life," she says. "People were streaming in, walking on five different roads."

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What struck her was the presence of Venezuela's yellow, blue, and red flag. "Everyone was somehow covered in the flag. What many people were telling me was that before all this, they never really cared deeply about their country. They didn't think about politics and let the country run itself. They didn't know the national anthem by heart," Kris says.

That's changing. "Now, many people say they feel really proud of Venezuela. They feel really strongly about keeping democracy alive."

TINSELTOWN: This being the holiday season (page 1), Monitor correspondent Robert Marquand treated himself to a flick this past weekend. His choice: "Hero," a kung-fu epic by director Zhang Yimou, which was at a theater complex on the other side of Beijing from where Bob lives.

Bob got to see a show before he even set foot in the theater. "There must have been 20 Christmas trees around the complex, all lighted," he says. Wreaths and garlands stretched as far the eye could see, and stars and bells were out in force.

The theater echoed what he's seen all over Beijing this month. "I expect a lot of Christmas stuff in the foreigners' residential area," says Bob. "But across the city, there are robot Santas doing a little dance, trees with gifts under them, and wreaths." And don't forget the soundtrack. "I hear a lot of Christmas Muzak," he says ruefully.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

Cultural snapshot