Reporters on the Job

TALL, DARK - AND AMERICAN: Ilene Prusher says she's had to get used to doing lots of things differently in Afghanistan - like not having working phones or electricity. But, regarding reporting, she says people often fib a bit about their ages and ethnic identities. "Mostly it's because they don't want to appear to be on anyone's side," Ilene says.

But something funny happened during reporting today's story (page 1). One of the older men she accompanied on a return to the village kept asking Ilene, through her translator, if she were an Afghan. Ilene continued to say, no, she wasn't. "But every few minutes, he'd ask again," Ilene says. Finally, at the end of the day, after spending more than eight hours together, he asked the interpreter one more time, this time adding, "It's OK if she left to get an education. She doesn't have to hide that. Many Afghan women left, but we're happy to have them come back."

LAST RESORTS: The Monitor's Cameron Barr hates to admit it, but bad news has been good to him. He lived in Tokyo during the East Asian economic crisis, which made overpriced resorts in Asia suddenly affordable to even an ink-stained wretch. Because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Afghanistan, tourism in the Middle East is a non-starter. "So this month," Cameron says, "it's off to Egypt - for a much-needed vacation - to brighten the day of desperate hotel owners, who will be happy to offer deep discounts."

Editor's note: Cameron may find himself talking shop anyway; two other Monitor correspondents are vacationing in the same hot spot.

Faye Bowers

Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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