Reporters on the Job

Your Time is not My Time: Nothing better symbolizes the gulf between Han Chinese and local Uighur people in Xinjiang Province, says Peter Ford, than the fact that they do not even tell the time in the same way. Officially, Xinjiang is on Beijing time, but the provincial capital in fact lies 1,500 miles and two time zones west of Beijing. "When you ask a Han what the time is, he will tell you it is nine o'clock, which is the time in Beijing," Peter reports. "If you ask a Uighur standing next to him, he will tell you it is seven o'clock." Reality rules for everyone, however: shops and offices open at 10 o'clock Beijing time (which the sun tells you is actually eight o'clock). But the difference can be confusing. "Whenever I made an appointment with somebody, I always double-checked with him to clarify which time zone he thought he was in," Peter says.

A Baghdad Enclave, Little Improved: Sadr City, Baghdad's sprawling Shiite quarter, is one of the emblematic neighborhoods that American journalists have been covering since the US invasion of Iraq. Staff writer Howard LaFranchi has been going there since the fall of 2003. On a recent patrol of Sadr City with the US commander for Baghdad operations, Howard saw some of the places he'd covered stories. Out the small window of a Humvee, the quiet streets offered little in the way of positive change.

"There were a lot of blast-wall corridors that hadn't been there in previous reporting trips," Howard said. "One solid cement wall almost made me miss the neighborhood council building where I had spent many hours back in 2003 with US soldiers working hard to impart the art of local democratic governance to tribal sheikhs and new neighborhood council members. Now the building stood behind a high wall, separating it from any residents who might want to venture in to meet their representatives."

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

– Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

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