Reporters on the job

TRAVELING ALONE: "Are you really travelling alone?" That was the question correspondent Nicole Gaouette heard most often during her trip to Saudi Arabia (this page). Women are required to travel with a male chaperone and, if they leave the country, need the permission of their male guardian, be it a father, husband, or son. Those rules are relaxed for visiting female journalists, who, like their male colleagues, are under the care of the Ministry of Information.

The second most common question was whether Saudi Arabia was what she had expected. "That was a tough one, because I wasn't at all sure what it would be like," says Nicole. She told her interlocutors, honestly but diplomatically, that whatever difficulties she had in working were more than offset by the lengths to which Saudis, who pride themselves on their hospitality, went to make her feel comfortable and to help where possible. None of them were surprised.

IT'S MORE THAN A GAME: Reporter Andrew Downie has been to his share of high-powered soccer matches, including World Cups. But "I rarely see fans as passionate as Argentina's Racing fans (page 7)," he says. Fans bring bags of shredded paper to the game and "The whole stadium is filled with little bits of paper." But the most touching display of allegiance came from an elderly Argentine who lives in Puerto Rico and had not been back to Buenos Aires in 30 years. With the team in first place, he made the pilgrimage. As the crowd sang and chanted nonstop for 90 minutes, the man "just stood there and smiled," says Andrew.

A BESTSELLER?: The first book anonymously penned by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein reportedly sold 1 million copies (page 1). How is it? "It's hard to find anyone in Iraq with a bad word about it. And it's hard to find anyone outside Iraq with a good word about it," says reporter Michael Theodoulou.

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT..

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