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Reporters on the Job

What Movie Plans? The Monitor's Robert Marquand traveled to Hong Kong over the New Year's weekend with an eye to some R&R. High on his list of things to do was viewing the third installment of "The Lord of the Rings" - which, Bob notes, was not released in Beijing on Dec. 18. Bob was hoping to see it the evening after he arrived. But midafternoon, he phoned around to find out the status of the democracy protest (page 1). One reporter had said it was only a dribble past his office. Still, feeling pangs of conscience, Bob checked it out himself before heading for the theater - and was stunned to discover a huge crowd. "Many were very quiet. Some carried babies, some wore Christmas hats. And I quickly realized I wasn't going to be seeing 'Return of the King' that evening." He did manage a viewing during his stay.

Great food - and hearts: After a week in Georgia (see story), reporter Fred Weir is ready to rhapsodize - about food. "It's simple and cheap," he says, "But wow, is it tasty - and nutritious.

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Fred has had his eye on other sights and sounds as well. Even more noteworthy than the food, he says, is the spontaneous warmth and generosity of people, even toward strangers.

"Driving along a remote highway the other day, there was an old Soviet-made Volga sedan ahead of us, with about six members of one family inside. Suddenly the Volga blew a tire and went into a spin and went flying off the road, but landed right side up in the ditch. We stopped, and the Georgians in the car with me - driver Dito and translator Iya - went rushing down to the car and started pulling the people out, hugging and kissing each one with real affection and relief to see they were all OK."

Fred says there's nothing restrained about Georgians. "Iya took a boy who'd been in the back seat and folded him under her overcoat, stroking his hair, talking to him sweetly and smothering him with kisses. I was really touched."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot