AMERICA IN AFRICA: The Monitor's Danna Harman says that the American roots of Liberians (page 7) are evident in everyday conversation. "The not-always-appropriate black American slang particularly amused me. Almost everyone I met in Monrovia, the capital, greeted me with 'Hey brother' or 'Wassup girlfriend?' I even got a 'Catch you later, alligator.' This is how everyone spoke, and I mean everyone. Local NGO people. Government officials. Beggars on the street. The Liberian guard at the US Embassy who took my passport said 'Hey, babe.'
"All the other African countries I have been to are influenced by European French, British, Portuguese, or German culture. I have never come across such an American streak in a society. Every minister I visited had photos of his kids in the US skiing, riding on boats, at college, in the US Navy. You name it."
SNEAKING OUT IN PYONGYANG: When British reporter Jonathan Watts visited Pyongyang, North Korea (page 7), he'd heard stories from other journalists about how closely they were watched by the government security people. "We'd been told by our North Korean guide/minder that a casino in the basement of a nearby hotel wasn't off-limits but cost $160 per person just to get in. We decided it would be great sport to sneak out of our hotel one night, and see for ourselves. In fact, it was free to get in. We didn't actually stay long. We were the only Western foreigners in the casino, as far as we could tell.
"We nervously returned to the hotel, and were met by our guides. We expected to be reprimanded. 'Did you have a nice time?' they asked. Throughout the trip, our North Korean hosts seemed a lot more relaxed about what we saw than I had expected," says Jon.
David Clark Scott