Reporters on the Job

Pictionary instead of English: During one of his reporting forays for today's story about Christian religous freedom in Sudan (this page), staff writer Abraham McLaughlin found that his regular taxi driver - who speaks English - wasn't available. "I needed to go to the Catholic cathedral in Khartoum, so I jumped in one of the old Toyota Corolla taxis that roam the city. The driver was eager, but spoke no English," says Abe. "Despite taking Arabic classes last year, I had forgotten the word for church. I motioned and gestured. He nodded. And 15 minutes later we pulled up in front of the International Trade Center," he says.

Abe tried a different approach. "I flipped open my notebook and scratched out a picture of a church and a cardinal - complete with pointy hat. "Ahhh!" the driver enthused. Ten minutes later we were at the cathedral," he says.

When he told one of his editors in Boston about the experience, he suggested that Abe just skip Arabic classes - and take up drawing lessons. "My art apparently shows more promise," says Abe.

Going Up: Anybody could snap the bird's-eye photographs that Scott Peterson took the vast cemetery in Najaf, Iraq (page 8), but Scott doesn't expect many colleagues will follow in his steep footsteps. He climbed nearly 100 feet up a steel ladder, loosely secured to a swaying tower - topped with stadium lights - built in the 1980s for nighttime burials.

"The lights stopped working long ago, and the towers are old," Scott says. "The lowest struts on many of them have been taken away by looters, so I had to choose a tower carefully."

In rock climbing jargon, climbing without a rope is called a "free solo." And being so out there - surrounded more by air than rock, or any other support structure - is called "exposure."

"It all was rather breathtaking," says Scott, who didn't linger long. "Terra firma never felt so good."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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