• Ramadan Soaps : To find a Palestinian family watching the popular TV soap opera, staff writer Ilene Prusher turned to her Arabic interpreter. She steered Ilene to a poor family in a Palestinian refugee camp in Bethlehem. "Many people have cable, which gives them a broad selection of Egyptian and Syrian soaps during the month of Ramadan. But this family only received local stations," she says.
The popularity is partly due to familiarity. "Until now, Palestinians watching an Egyptian soap opera would be like an American watching a British show. You'd understand it but it wasn't about your culture," Ilene says.
And the show is entertaining. About two-thirds of the way through the episode that Ilene watched with the family, a news ticker crawled across the bottom of the screen announcing Israeli shelling in Gaza. Ilene expected the family to be distracted by the news and stop to discuss it. "They just kept watching the soap. That indicates to me how much people want to get their minds off the political situation," she says.
• Donkeys and Cheese: When staff writer Sara Miller Llana showed up at the Cofradia Ranch to report on the imported American donkey, her timing was propitious.
"The ranch was hosting the mayors-elect and other representatives to talk about how to make local agricultural producers more competitive. I showed up in the middle of the tour and felt like part of the exhibition; everyone was wondering why their meeting warranted coverage from the foreign media," she says.
Sara also dug the meal prepared for the visiting dignitaries. "There's nothing I enjoy more than cheese parties and barbecues, and I got both in an authentic Mexican setting. There were about 20 types of locally made cheeses. Then, we were served roast lamb from the farm."
David Clark Scott