Reporters on the Job

DIGITIZED: When he crossed the overland border from Iraq to Iran, the Monitor's Scott Peterson (page 7) received a taste of the state of US-Iran relations. No one could remember the last time any foreign journalist had crossed the official border - much less an American. So Scott checked with officials in Tehran, who alerted the border guards and police.

But after a five-hour delay, Scott was turned away because, the guards said, his Iran visa was issued in Moscow, not Baghdad. Officials in Tehran worked overtime to sort things out, and the next day Scott returned to find that the issue had been the lack of a fingerprint kit - which had to be brought from 120 miles away.

Americans are often fingerprinted upon arriving in Iran in a tit-for-tat humiliation, since US Customs requires this of Iranians entering the US. "They were very civilized, and said 'Excuse me, Mister,' with every finger," Scott says. They took six complete sets, but the 1 1/2-day delay may prove a worthwhile investment: "Now that I know the border guards on both sides very well, it will probably be a waltz next time."

MUTTONY ON THE BOUNTY: At the start of his recent press trip to western China (page 7), the Monitor's Bob Marquand reached eagerly for the tasty mutton kebabs heaped before him and other journalists. But his enthusiasm waned after days of all-you-can-eat mutton. "Turns out, I found my limit," he says. The women, Bob comments, were quicker to come to this point. "At the start, the mutton eaters broke down along gender lines. By the end of the trip, we were all turning vegetarian - everyone went first for whatever was green on the table."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

Cultural snapshot

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