Reporters on the Job

• HIDE AND SEEK: While working on Thursday's story (page 7), the Monitor's Scott Peterson found that Uzbeks have a sense of humor about even the most dire situations. Take the true story of one case told to him by an Uzbek human-rights worker who couldn't stop laughing:

The police arrived to search the house of a man arrested on suspicion of being a militant. The man's wife saw a policeman put a hand grenade onto a shelf in her kitchen. When the police turned their backs, she slipped the grenade into a pail of garbage, and emptied it on a trash heap on the street.

"The police searched everywhere, and finally asked the woman: 'Where is the grenade?' " Scott was told. The police threatened to torture her husband, until the grenade was handed back. She struck a deal: The police picked through the rubbish heap and found the grenade, as directed by the wife. The husband was released untouched.

• DRESS CODE : "I have a lot more freedom because I'm Afghan American," says Fariba Nawa, who wrote Thursday's story (page 8) on insecurity among female aid workers in Afghanistan. Although she says she feels safe, Afghans often comment on her attire. "I wear the Iranian hijab, the long coat and headscarf. People will say: 'Oh look, at her, she's showing her face. Look how liberal she is.' If I put on a burqa, I wouldn't have any issues."

• I'M NOT A SPY : Reporter Arie Farnam was told it was too dangerous with talk to farmers in Ecuador near the oil pipeline (this page), because Colombian leftist rebels were active in the area.

But then Accion Ecologico, an environmental group, told her about a Belgian guide who was taking a group of Italian environmental activists and journalists to see the pipeline and meet the farmers. "They set it up, but when I arrived with an Ecuadorean photographer, on the morning we were supposed to leave, some of the Italians became angry with us. They said that people who claimed to be American journalists had turned up before, and later turned out to be intelligence agents of some kind. They accused us of being undercover CIA agents, claiming my photographer, Filippo Burbano, was 'too white' to be a real Ecuadorean. We offered to leave if there was a problem.

The Italians eventually let them go. "But during the day, they continued to accuse us and tried to keep me from talking to sources along the road directly. By that evening we were frustrated, and when we met a group of farmers who were happy to talk to us, we split off from the group and stayed in the village alone."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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