Reporters on the Job

The Family Bicycle: When it came time for correspondent Mark Rice-Oxley's family to trade in their old car, they opted for diesel. Like a growing number of British drivers (see story), the Rice-Oxleys were looking to reduce their carbon footprint and, well, save money. What's more, they often try to leave the car in the driveway on weekends. But it's an aspirational rule, says Mark, that he's afraid is sometimes broken.

And to save money – and gas – on weekdays, when getting the three kids to school, they haul them over on the bike or just hoof it. "My boys are very good at walking to school [about a mile away] and the school is excellent at motivating them with stickers for those who walk," he says.

While Mark's family is trying to do their part, "You have to be pragmatic, as well," he says. "This year we decided not to fly away for a family holiday. So, we jumped in the car." That put about 600 miles worth of carbon in the air, he admits.

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Those Afghan Jokers: It's a universal truth about Afghans, says staff writer Mark Sappenfield, that they often express the most profound cultural observances in jokes. So when Hajji Zekrullah Ahmadyar wished to convey a truth about Herat's business culture (see story), he told a well-known local joke.

There's an area near Herat called Anar Dara, or Pomegranate Valley, which is famous for good businessmen. And on the last Apollo mission to the moon, America's astronauts stumbled across an Afghan from Anar Dara. Taken aback, they sputtered, "What, what are you doing here?"

He answered with a serene smile, "I am doing the currency exchange."

– Michael B. Farrell
Middle East editor

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