Reporters on the Job
• A Dutch Lunch: Nicholas Blanford left Baghdad at 5:30 a.m. to do the reporting for Friday's story about how the Dutch troops operate in the southern Iraqi town of Samawa (this page). "I missed breakfast so, by lunchtime I was starving. I interviewed the Dutch battalion commander at his headquarters in the desert a few miles outside town. Before we started, he said we would get some lunch. Having eaten with troops from different countries many times in the past, I was expecting a full, cooked lunch," says Nick, who's British.
But he discovered that there are cultural differences over meal definitions. "I was a little disappointed to discover that lunch for the Dutch was a small mug of soup and some sliced bread with chocolate sprinkles on top," says Nick.
The soldiers seemed happy with the food, and a Dutch diplomat working with the battalion, who has spent eight years away from the Netherlands, told Nick that he was delighted to be eating chocolate sprinkle sandwiches again. It said it made him feel that he was back home. "I had to wait till the evening before I could get something decent to eat," says Nick.
• Nothing too Steep: Over many years of reporting - and rock climbing - staff writer Scott Peterson has developed a network of climbing buddies in Iran. Two days after arriving for his current assignment (page 1), he hiked 3,000 feet up into the mountains above Tehran. The treacherous icy trails, slipped along by young couples in tennis shoes and grandparents alike, were a world away from the crowded capital. "The highlight was found off-trail," Scott says. "We cranked up several technical sections of ice-covered rock - including a 100-foot near-vertical wall."
During the week, Scott squeezed in some training between interviews. His Iranian climbing buddies took him to an indoor rock-climbing wall - in the same downtown sports center that US Special Forces had once planned to use for a daring rescue attempt of 59 US hostages held after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The plan was to fit an American C-130 cargo aircraft with rockets, land in the playing field at the sports center near the US Embassy, and blast off with the hostages. The plan was never implemented.
"These guys are strong climbers," Scott says of the Iranian sportsmen. "They hammered me the first couple days, with very gymnastic moves. But I bounced back at another sports center, when my endurance did the trick with much higher rock walls."
David Clark Scott