Reporters on the Job

THICK SKINS: When the Monitor's Cameron Barr arranged to meet the family members of imprisoned Iranian dissidents, he was ready to hear tales of woe about the personal cost of reform (page 1).

But the five women he met had little to say on that subject, and instead talked at length about Iran's politics.

At the end of the interview, he told them about his preconceptions. The admission produced the first quote in the piece - "our skin is very tough" - and led to inquiries about Cameron's own family.

Cameron passed a photo of his baby daughter around, prompting one of the women to muse aloud, "I hope her father is never in prison."

WHERE'S MISS MANNERS? As a reporter covering immigration issues, Alisa Roth is used to encountering different cultural practices in her work. But she found herself at a loss about the proper etiquette when an older Afghan man she was interviewing at his home offered her a cup of tea and a huge plate of cookies (page 8).

"I didn't know if I was supposed to refuse a few times first, or if it was rude not to eat some," Alisa says.

She finally went with the local German rules and ate some of the cookies, which, she says, were delicious.

CULTURAL SNAPSHOT ..

CHINESE MUST GO HOME AGAIN: The Hong Kong government told the territory's highest court yesterday that more than 5,000 mainland Chinese must go home before seeking the right to reunite with their families in Hong Kong.

Although it was returned from Britain to China four years ago, Hong Kong maintains its own legal and economic systems, and tight border controls remain in place between Hong Kong and the mainland, thwarting the dreams of many Chinese who want to seek a better life there.

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(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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