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Reporters on the Job

DANCING MEN IN KABUL: What do you do on Eid in Kabul, Afghanistan?

The Monitor's Scott Baldauf and his driver, Malik Jan, found themselves at loose ends yesterday. "Everything in Kabul shut down for the hajj. The streets were completely empty. As married men far from our wives and children, we decided to ease our loneliness by finding some live music. We drove around and around. The local radio said that there was a big music festival at the stadium. But there wasn't. We started asking around, and curiously enough, when we finally reached a restaurant with live music, the place was filled with men, mainly soldiers, far from their wives and children and also wanting to ease their loneliness with music (page 7).

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The owner was charging the equivalent of 50 cents a head (as much as the average Afghan lunch). The kitchen was closed, but Scott and Jan were served tea. The tables were off to one side, and the chairs were set up theater-style.

"The really good dancers - and they were all men - were treated like belly dancers; the audience threw money at them.

"I think I could have made some money that day," laughs Scott.

How would Scott impress his Afghan hosts?

"The Texas two-step would have gone over well. But I'd have to teach them a few Willie Nelson tunes first."

Maybe next Eid?

DINNER AT THE MARQUANDS: The Monitor's Robert Marquand grew up in a Florida neighborhood full of NASA engineers and where dinner-table conversations included topics such as digital telemetry and lunar orbiters. So Bob knows what kind of questions to ask about China's fledgling space program (page 7). But getting hard information from Chinese officials is the typical exercise in frustration.

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David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot