• See you in Saudi: On her first day in Saudi Arabia, Washington-based staff writer Faye Bowers was invited to an afternoon picnic, sponsored by one of the Saudi princes.
She donned the black abaya (floor-length robe) and taha (head scarf), and drove about 25 miles north of Riyadh - through desert terrain that greatly resembles that of Arizona. She arrived at the traditional Bedouin tent where the picnic was served.
"There were a few camels - and yes, I had a ride - and several men, most of whom were dressed in the traditional white robes and red-and-white checkered kaffiyehs (head scarves). But I noticed a couple of men standing in a corner dressed in jeans. I walked closer and discovered it was two Americans I speak with regularly from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
"Then yesterday, again covered in black and walking through the lobby of my hotel here, I heard, 'Are you Faye?' 'Yes,' I replied, to another indistinguishable woman covered in black. It was a freelance reporter I'd worked with when I was an editor in Boston, but had never met."
• Pictionary in Afghanistan: The Monitor's Ann Scott Tyson, a former China correspondent fluent in Chinese, now wishes she had studied a little Dari. On the way to find an Afghan National Army camp outside Kabul for Wednesday's story (this page), her driver, who spoke no English, got lost. Ann was frantically drawing sketches in her notebook of Afghan men bearing guns - not exactly a pinpoint description in a country where AK-47s are ubiquitous - when she spotted the camp's telltale tanks. Afghan guards barred her at the gate, uninformed of her arrival by the US military. Fortunately, some German officers arrived and intervened. Ann explained that the visit was pre-arranged, but one German officer replied: "Lady, this is Afghanistan."
• Random fire? One of the Iraqis interviewed by Nicholas Blanford in Wednesday's story (page 11) said that the firing by US troops began after someone shot a few rounds into the air. The Iraqi said that it is something that happens all the time. "When we were interviewing residents of Samarra we could hear random bursts of automatic weapons fire. It was impossible to tell why they were shooting or what they might have been shooting at. But the two Apache helicopter gunships that circled slowly and almost continuously over the town might have proved too tempting a target for some of the local hotheads," says Nick.
David Clark Scott