Reporters on the Job

TREATED WITH RESPECT: The Monitor's Danna Harman met a few Iraq women outside the packed soccer stadium in Basra, Iraq. But once inside Saturday, she the didn't see any other women in the cheering throng that greeted the returning Ayatollah Mohammad Bakr al-Hakim, head of Iraq's largest Shiite opposition group (page 1). Only with the help of her driver, and members of Mr. Hakim's party, she was able to cover his speech.

"My driver loaned me his mother's black abaya, a head-to-toe covering that was about 10 sizes too big. Then, the imam's followers formed a ring around me so that no man could touch me. 'Journalist, journalist, American,' they sang out, as they escorted me to the podium. They couldn't have been nicer."

FRESH CHICKEN IN BAGHDAD: When Peter Ford asked his driver to find him a couple of chickens for a small dinner party he was planning Sunday, he specified fresh, not frozen, given the unreliability of electricity in Baghdad and the danger of eating re-frozen frozen goods. Asked whether he wanted them in pieces or whole, he said whole, since a Baghdad butcher had done unspeakable things to a leg of lamb Peter bought the other day.

An hour later, as Peter wrote today's story (page 1) about conditions in the city, his driver arrived, bearing two whole, fresh chickens, as ordered. Except that they were feathered, alive, and squawking.

The only way whole fresh chickens are sold in Baghdad, it turns out, is with their hearts still beating. Fortunately, Adnan, the driver, offered to take them away and butcher them before Peter had time to give the birds names.

"As I write this," reports Peter, "the chickens are in the pot, being transformed into poulet basquais. Having a kitchenettte in my hotel room allows me to cook, and cooking makes me feel grounded and at home wherever I am."

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot

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