Reporters on the Job

CODE WORDS: Every place has its codes and euphemisms. In Macedonia, people generally use the words "war" or "conflict" if they are trying to be inflammatory.

Reporter Arie Farnam was turned on to today's story (this page) by another code. Skopje is an extraordinarily multiethnic city, but in the past few weeks, people have become increasingly interested in what "side" others stand on.

"It used to be that when I got into a taxi, the driver would ask, 'So, where are you from?' to make conversation." But during her last few trips, the question changed, she says. "Again and again, I was accosted by the odd question, 'What is your nationality? Christian or Muslim?'

"At first I thought I must be misunderstanding the word 'nationality,' and the drivers were indeed asking after my religion," she says. "But after consulting with local friends, I realized this is yet another code, a way of asking 'What side are you on?' Religion is the key factor because it betrays nationality in the Balkans." Many taxi drivers told her that customers often decide whether or not to ride with them based on how the drivers answer the same question.

SPOTTING LEOPARDS: Monitor staff writer Danna Harman says that when she went on her first few safaris in Kenya, she was awed by the way the bus drivers seemed to know just where to find a pair of mating lions, or a giraffe drinking out of a pond. "After a while, there is something a little bit odd about it," says the now-seasoned veteran, who went on a safari for today's story (page 7). "All the bus drivers talk over walkie talkies, and they have these little codes that passengers can't understand." The codes mean things like "sleeping lion by lake," or "giraffes at 12 o'clock," which make it look like drivers are expertly stumbling upon wildlife.

-David Clark Scott

World Editor

Cultural snapshot...

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