Reporters on the Job

STORY TELLER: As Ilene Prusher was taking notes for today's story (this page), some of the people waiting in line clearly thought she was some kind of arbiter in the dispute over the forfeited food cards, and thought she could help them.

Women in burqas began to surround her, tugging at her sleeves to the point where she couldn't write. "They asked me to help them, and I felt really sad, because there wasn't much I could do for them," Ilene says. "I find in situations like this that people don't always recognize the difference between a journalist and an aid worker. It's tough, because the most you can do is listen to their story, and tell it. But sadly, this country is only 32 percent literate. A lot of people can't understand that the concept of reporting their plight, at least in a way, helps them."

LEAF(let) PEEPING: Scott Baldauf and a group of reporters returned to their Jalalabad hotel recently to find a group of men waiting for them. "They said US cluster bombs had been dropped on their neighborhood," Scott says. So he and his colleagues jumped into two taxis and followed the men back to view the evidence.

They found part of a green, fiberglass, missile-shaped container stamped with: "bomb, leaflet." Apparently, a US fighter jet had been dropping anti-Taliban leaflets on the neighborhood. But the entire container broke off the plane and fell into one man's yard. And in other yards, they found a fallen high-tech camera and computer equipment scattered around. A few leaflets even made it to the neighborhood, where people speak the Pashto language. The only problem was, the leaflets were printed in Persian.

"Everyone was clearly relieved, including the reporters," says Scott. "But it showed how much people were aware of the danger of bombs, and suspicious - reasonably so - of anything that fell out of the sky."

ROOKIES: Lucian Kim, in reporting today's story on one of Afghanistan's national pastimes (page 9) says he thought it was good to see that American soldiers based in Mazar-e Sharif were picking up on local customs.

Some tried to participate in the recent buzkashi matches Lucian watched. "And it goes both ways," Lucian says. "Before Christmas dinner at the temporary US base here, American soldiers played a game of football. A couple of Afghan guards put on a good face and attempted to play along."

Lucian says that it was clear that they were just as bewildered by the rules and rituals of football as Lucian was by buzkashi.

- Faye Bowers

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