Reporters on the Job

LOST IN TRANSLATION: If Americans find it hard to bear the tough words of the Yemen militant whom the Monitor's Scott Peterson (story, page 14) met in an Afghanistan prison, they are not alone. While conducting the interview, Scott's translator also stumbled into a culture clash - and was ordered to leave.

As a former Middle East correspondent, Scott has heard many times about the roots of hard-line ideas in Yemen and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Many of Scott's sources in the region hold similar views, even if they don't go to fight in Afghan trenches. Still, the discussion about an Islamic "imperative" to wage war against "infidels" sparked resentment in Scott's Afghan translator. The diminutive young man began arguing with the Yemen-schooled militant.

Right or not, the translator also shrugged his shoulders in a sign of disrespect. He undermined his respectability further by wearing new set of bangles - a gold-colored ring, gold watch, and necklace with gold pendant - topped with a Pepsi baseball cap.

He was summarily sent off, and a prison warden was used to translate.

STRANGE NEW CITY: Reporter Chris Johnson (story, page 7), who has lived in Shanghai for a year, says there's been an amazing transformation ahead of this weekend's APEC summit. "APEC, which is all about economic activity, has turned this bustling city into a quiet, clean, uncongested place similar to American suburbia," he says. "For example, volunteer crossing guards are making people wait to cross the street to give an appearance of order that is normally not there."

The sprucing-up changed the city's appearance in other ways. Chris recently became lost in a park he'd never seen before, its new trees still wrapped in burlap. When he emerged, Chris was less than a block from his hotel. "The site was a CD factory only a couple of months ago."

- Faye Bowers

Deputy World editor

Let us hear from you.

Mail to: One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115 via e-mail: world@csmonitor.com

Cultural snapshot

LOST IN TRANSLATION: If Americans find it hard to bear the tough words of the Yemen militant whom the Monitor's Scott Peterson (story, page 14) met in an Afghanistan prison, they are not alone. While conducting the interview, Scott's translator also stumbled into a culture clash - and was ordered to leave.

As a former Middle East correspondent, Scott has heard many times about the roots of hard-line ideas in Yemen and elsewhere in the Islamic world. Many of Scott's sources in the region hold similar views, even if they don't go to fight in Afghan trenches. Still, the discussion about an Islamic "imperative" to wage war against "infidels" sparked resentment in Scott's Afghan translator. The diminutive young man began arguing with the Yemen-schooled militant.

Right or not, the translator also shrugged his shoulders in a sign of disrespect. He undermined his respectability further by wearing new set of bangles - a gold-colored ring, gold watch, and necklace with gold pendant - topped with a Pepsi baseball cap.

He was summarily sent off, and a prison warden was used to translate.

STRANGE NEW CITY: Reporter Chris Johnson (story, page 7), who has lived in Shanghai for a year, says there's been an amazing transformation ahead of this weekend's APEC summit. "APEC, which is all about economic activity, has turned this bustling city into a quiet, clean, uncongested place similar to American suburbia," he says. "For example, volunteer crossing guards are making people wait to cross the street to give an appearance of order that is normally not there."

The sprucing-up changed the city's appearance in other ways. Chris recently became lost in a park he'd never seen before, its new trees still wrapped in burlap. When he emerged, Chris was less than a block from his hotel. "The site was a CD factory only a couple of months ago."

- Faye Bowers

Deputy World editor

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