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Reporters on the Job

October 23, 2008

PRAYER WATCH: Thousands of Buddhist monks (above) gathered in Bangkok's Royal Plaza to pray for peace Wednesday.

Chaiwat Subprasom/Reuters

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A Little Levity Helps: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield was struck by how much difference an interpreter makes – and it's not just getting the words right (see story).

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"My usual interpreter was not available on that day, so I turned to a friend of his. He was an excellent interpreter and very professional. But perhaps he was too professional. My usual interpreter tends to have a joke for every occasion, and when a situation is tense, he usually breaks it with laughter," says Mark. "I can't remember a time when he approached someone on the street for an interview and was turned down. "

But as Mark tried to interview people in a west Kabul neighborhood about President Hamid Karzai's government, few wanted to talk. "This could have had something to do with the neighborhood, the decline in security since the last time I was in Afghanistan, or the subject. But on such a controversial topic, perhaps a joke or two would have broken the ice."

David Clark Scott

World editor

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