Reporters on the Job

IN-YOUR-FACE ELECTIONS: Monitor staffer Nicole Gaouette got a taste of the high-volume passions surrounding the Israeli elections (this page). She was speaking to backers of the Meretz party, a small left-wing party which advocates that people, not land, should be the core of political policy. "As we stood there, the activists called to a passerby, offering a pamphlet," Nicole says. "Are you crazy?" the man roared. Tall and heavyset, he charged up to the booth and began rapping on their sign. "This should say, 'We love Arafat!'" he yelled. "You are traitors to Israel!" He stormed off. "It happens all the time," shrugged the three teen activists, and called out to the next passerby.

WAITING FOR A VISA: How does a correspondent spend time in Jordan waiting for a visa for Iraq? If you're Scott Peterson you drive to Wadi Rum, to climb some of the world's finest sandstone rocks.

But a day trip with a longtime climbing partner turned into what climbers dub "an epic." In this case, 21 hours of scaling a 1,000-foot near-vertical rock called "Pillar of Wisdom." The guidebook suggested 3.5 hours up, 2.5 hours down. The pair were on the rock by 7 a.m., but the going was far more difficult than advertised.

"The final section required a bold traverse pushing around a blind corner - you are surrounded by nothing but air," Scott says. As the sun set, hand and foot holds disappeared. A night on the rock - without food or warm clothes - was a bad option, so they pushed on finally reaching the summit. As darkness set in, the pair started their descent, but quickly lost the route again and again. Fingers bloody, they repelled repeatedly down the rope in the dark, tried to sleep - shivering - for 45 minutes and finally bottomed out at 4:30 am, exhausted. "Terra firma never felt so good," Scott says.

We just hope he gets his Iraq visa soon.

- David Clark Scott

Cultural snapshot

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