Reporters on the Job

Cultural Snapshot

• UNSCHEDULED BASE TOUR: Reporter Philip Smucker went out to take a look at the US military's expanding Al-Udeid air base while in Qatar last week (page 7). But he didn't expect that it would be so easy to get a peek inside.

"We drove to the base in a rented jeep," he says. "The intention had been to ask for help at the gate, but I held up my US passport, and that was enough to get waved inside.

"We saw 12 large transport planes near a runway and a sea of brown camouflage tents set up around the base," he says. A vast, new network of bunkers is being erected in the tiny country of Qatar, which has only 120,000 citizens.

"Finally, as we completed our driving tour of the base and approached a runway, a guard stopped our car and warned us that we had illegally entered a military installation and asked us to leave." It did make Phil wonder about the quality of base security.

• RELUCTANT QUEUE JUMPER: Reporter Dan Murphy got an up-close look at how the Indonesian workers who cross the border into Malaysia are treated (page 7) when he took the ferry from Nunukan in Indonesia to Tawau, Malaysia.

When his boat arrived, four immigration officers were there to process the 150 passengers from his boat and about 300 others who had arrived earlier in the day. The cramped, fenced-in holding space at the dock was wet and strewn with litter. Everyone settled in for a long wait. Then a passing Malaysian official noticed Dan – the only white face in the crowd. "Oh you, you don't have to wait," he said, and shouted at the crowd to make way. "I had misgivings about the fairness of this, but then all of the Indonesian migrants also began to insist that I go, good-naturedly manhandling me to the front of the line. It emphasized for me the gulf between us: They can't imagine sharing even a minor hardship with a Westerner."

David Clark Scott
World editor

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