Reporters on the Job

• SEGREGATED SACRED SITES: Reporter Shawn Donnan took several days arranging to accompany the anthropologists and Aborigines going to inspect the location for a railway fence (page 7) in central Australia. Shawn would ride with four Aboriginal men and a male anthropologist working for the railway line. A female anthropologist would ride with the women in a separate vehicle. "They tell the anthropologist where the sacred sites are and why. But they are reticent to share details of their sacred songs with outsiders, and some songs are gender specific, and can't be shared even with Aborigines of the opposite sex," he says.

But Shawn's plans ran head on into other cultural complexities. As the Aboriginal elder climbed aboard the truck, he asked what day it was. "Friday."

The elder jumped out to get his social security check. The other Aboriginal men went to retrieve him, saying that the elder was heading for the nearest pub. But they failed to persuade him to return. And now they refused to go on the trip. "The elder had seniority. Without him, their protocol wouldn't allow them to point out the sacred sites."

Shawn tagged along behind the women. When they stopped, he'd jump out and ask them questions. "It was far from ideal, but it was the only way to salvage the story."

• COVERT LUNCH: For today's story about how terrorists and politicians in India move money without detection (page 1), the Monitor's Scott Baldauf met O.P. Sharma, a former police investigator. "We met for lunch at his favorite bar in Delhi," says Scott. "It was dark, and made even darker by the frequent power outages. At one point, an old man shuffled slowly past. He glanced at me and turned white. Mr. Sharma laughed and explained: 'He's a retired cop. He was supposed to watch for your arrival and warn me. ' "

David Clark Scott
World editor

Cultural snapshot
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