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Reporters on the Job

Creative Engineering? Correspondent Simon Montlake visited the village of Indrapuri, in Aceh, Indonesia, where he reported from last year during the start of the Aceh resistance weapons surrender. "Mahfud was one of the ex-fighters I met last year, so I wanted to check on his progress to get a sense of the peace process," Simon says.

Mahfud was doing pretty well in the gravel business, as were the others Simon met. "We arrived in the village, which is across the river from the main road to East Aceh, in time for Friday midday prayers, so (Monitor photographer) Andy Nelson and I were left outside a shuttered coffee shop while everyone prayed. Then we went to meet Mahfud.

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"He is definitely in the right place. I was less convinced by his engineering skills, though. He had diverted the river using rocks and sand, exposing the riverbed to be extracted. Villagers seemed to think this was great, as the riverbanks were being eroded during the monsoon, so Mahfud has become something of a prodigal son. But by forcing the river through a narrower channel, when the waters do rise, the damage could be much greater without a drainage channel. I guess time will tell."

Red Tape: Michael Jordan learned the hazards of Romanian bureaucracy while trying in vain to get an official to comment on corruption reform before he had to leave for his flight. Then his translator got a call from the prime minister's office saying they had someone waiting in his office for Michael. So Michael had the taxi make haste through Bucharest's traffic jams toward the office – only to learn that the official was in a building across town. Sweating and dragging all his luggage, Michael barked at his translator to confirm the guy was really in his office.

"We got this call back and they said, 'Um, er, the guy is in Brussels.' I couldn't imagine how it went from 'He's there waiting for you' to 'He's in Brussels.' It was the capper of four days of difficult reporting," says Michael.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor