Reporters on the Job

FOLLOW THE LEADER: As the Monitor's Peter Ford walked through Uday Hussein's palace this week (page 7), he was revolted by the thought of what went on there as the dictator's son indulged his notoriously perverse fantasies.

Welcome relief came in the form of US soldiers guarding the place, who struck a more wholesome note.

Amid the marble excess and gaudy furniture, it suddenly became old home week as the men took a moment to call wives and girlfriends in Georgia, courtesy of Peter's satellite telephone.

"It was the sort of request I could not refuse," says Peter. Still, he had an eye to the potential for a phone bill that would raise editors' eyebrows. His solution: "I had to ensure that the sergeant who had first crack by virtue of his rank did not stay on too long. His men were then careful not to talk for any longer than he did."

A WEIGHTY DESIGN: Monitor correspondent Scott Baldauf traveled to Gardez, Afghanistan, about 75 miles south of Kabul, for Thursday's story on the efforts of local tribesmen to provide security in their rural area (page 7). While there, of course, he talked to a number of tribal elders - and, as it turned out, learned a bit about local fashion statements.

The first order of the day was the story. But as that thread of conversation wound down, Scott's interpreter turned to local elder Shareh Mangal to ask if he could try on the jacket (see photo) he was wearing.

The shareh, as it's known, is Mr. Mangal's trademark - even giving him his nickname. It was indeed eyecatching. "It was incredibly beaded - not exactly what you would have expected a burly man's man to be wearing," Scott says.

The atmosphere turned festive as Scott tried on the jacket and everyone started taking photos. "It was so heavy, it felt like a flak jacket. It was too short for my arms, and my Western clothes made me look even more ridiculous."

The interpreter fared better, as did the driver - who also tried it on, even though he was from a rival tribe. "At the end of the day, he and Mangal were both Pashtuns - and currently, there's no feud to ruffle feathers," says Scott.

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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