Reporters on the Job

PROBLEM-SOLVING: On the road from Baghdad to Mosul (page 1), where she reported on a US office for public complaints, the Monitor's Danna Harman found herself with a personal window on Iraq's culture of dependency: Her driver and translator were fighting and wanted her to mediate. "They are trained not to deal with problems much on their own," Danna says. "They'd come to me with long explanations about what the other was doing wrong. They even wanted me to tell them what to do when a lever on the air conditioning broke."

Things went from bad to worse as they headed north. "They couldn't tolerate each other. Finally, the driver wouldn't let the translator be in the car. So the translator stomped off and had to take a taxi back to Baghdad, several hours south."

Perhaps as a result of the tense travel, Danna found the atmosphere at the complaint office more congenial. "People really love to be heard here. They're used to complaining, but not to being heard."

CHANGING TIMES: Philip Smucker, who works out of Cairo, Egypt, returned to Morocco this week for the first time in 22 years. "Last time, I had my hair down my back and a big gold earring," says Phil, who backpacked across the country. "But I was adventurous and had great fun."

This time was different. "Morocco appears on the surface to be a quaint former French colony, but that is probably because I'm middle-aged and boring," says Phil. Still, walking the broad French thoroughfares and eating at cafes, he found it hard to imagine that Osama bin Laden's network may be at work in the poorest neighborhoods. But, he notes, "This is a country where there's always been bubbling tension between the Islamists and the secular-minded folks. French fashion spars with full cover for women."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot
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