Reporters on the Job

PEACE FEST IN PESHAWAR: For Phil Smucker, yesterday's tribal meeting in Peshawar was a curious window on a culturally diverse nation. "It became clear, early on," Phil says, "that the Taliban's strict version of what their country should be is not representative of its past - and maybe not its future, either."

There were aging poets, young singers, and respected elders - a veritable patchwork of Afghanistan's tribal society. Colorfully clad young women who sang for peace and freedom proudly displayed their shining faces - something women inside the impoverished country don't dream of doing. Poets, looking a little like Afghan versions of American hippies, raged and railed against the tyranny of the Taliban. (page 7).

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTERS: To get to Brunette Downs, Shawn Donnan drove six hours from Mt. Isa across huge tracts of seemingly nothing. "Although the Barkly Tablelands is renowned for its cattle stations, we saw almost none," Shawn says. "We saw kangaroos, an emu or two, and dozens of eagles. No cows, despite warning signs to watch out for cattle because of the unfenced highways." (page 7).

But the funniest part of the absence of cattle, he says, was when he hit the Brunette Downs boundary line. "All I saw was lots of knee-high, tinder-dry grass all the way to the horizon," Shawn says. "It's a stunning sight, but it's a little unsettling when you're at the end of a long drive in search of cattle."

He mentioned to rancher Cameron Rasheed that he was perplexed by not seeing any cattle. Rasheed just smiled, and took Shawn on a two-hour tour over the dusty dirt tracks that criss-cross the station. All of a sudden, they came to one of the station's water bores, and there were cattle everywhere.

Shawn says the lesson for him here is that he keeps learning, over and over again, what a big place Australia is.

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT

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