Reporters on the Job

CAUGHT IN A FEUD: The Monitor's Scott Baldauf knows he has to report on Afghan rivalries (pages 1 and 8). But he got an unwelcome insight into Central Asian business ethics and blood feud by watching a dispute between his Pakistani driver and his translator. The translator earns slightly more money because of his language skills, and the driver was apparently jealous. He demanded a "commission" of one third of the translator's salary, or else the driver said, he would tell the translator's boss that the man's English was bad. (By Pakistani standards, the translator's English is about average.)

"When I found out about it," says Scott, "I fired the driver, in the most face-saving way possible, over a cup of tea. But just after he left our hotel room, he threw a tantrum. First, he threatened to fight the new driver, and then he turned to the translator and demanded his usual 'commission.' Apparently, the fired driver enlisted the hotel security as allies. The next morning, the guards wouldn't allow the new driver into the hotel parking lot, until I threatened to go to another hotel."

NOTHING TO PACK: In today's story about slum riots in Nairobi, Kenya (this page), the Monitor's Danna Harman notes that the residents are so poor that they use such items as flower pots or pieces of a picture frame as weapons. The next day, when she went back to talk with some people who were moving out, she was struck by how little time it took them to leave homes of years. "It takes me longer to pack for a trip, than it took for an entire family of 11 to move out. They had so few possessions. If they had a bed, and no way to transport it, they'd just cut it in pieces to carry it."

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