Reporters on the job

DUELING CHARACTERS: During his reporting in the Philippines (this page), Dan Murphy stopped at an Internet cafe in Mindanao to pick up his e-mail messages. The place was packed with teenagers, mostly boys, playing a networked shoot 'em-up video game. Players could choose to be a terrorist or a US Marine character. "The kid next to me chose the marine, but his online name was 'Qaddafi,' " says Dan.

That duality is mirrored throughout Southeast Asia, he says. "Conceptually, it's cool to be against US policies, but practically speaking, they love the West," says Dan. "People in Thailand buy Osama T-shirts but wear Levis jeans. Two days ago, I was interviewing Iraqi and Afghan refugees. They were all upset about US policy in Afghanistan. But when I asked them where they wanted to go, every one said, 'Australia, the US, Europe, or Canada.' When I asked if they wanted to go to a Muslim nation, they said, 'No way.' "

COMBINING LIFE's PASSIONS: A few weeks ago, the Monitor's Scott Peterson was trying to decide what to pack for his trip to Afghanistan. He had to pack light, so he was momentarily torn between running shoes and climbing boots. He chose the boots and hasn't been disappointed.

Scott often works out on a stone face that is one of the walls of the house where he's staying in northern Afghanistan.

Yesterday, he brought his boots along on the drive up to the Salang Pass (page 1), at 11,000 feet above sea level, it's billed as the highest mountain tunnel in the world.

The pass - a strategic supply route between Kabul and Mazar-e Sharif - is now blocked. But the terrain around the tunnel is covered with some "immaculate granite," enthuses Scott.

"Of course, I resisted the temptation and only put on my boots after I'd finished my interviews," he adds.

- David Clark Scott

World editor

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