Reporters on the Job

• Goats and Trumpets in Jo'burg: The cultural and economic gap between staff writer Abe McLaughlin's world and that of the attempted murderer he interviewed for today's story was quickly apparent. "The day I met Jacob Mayema was the final day of a 10-day mourning period for his mother, who died recently. He was late because his family had just slaughtered a goat, which is part of the mourning ritual."

One of Jacob's main pursuits since getting out of prison is his band, the Alexandra Brass Band (page 1). He has dozens of friends who want to join the eight-member group, but there aren't enough instruments. Just one trumpet, he says, costs about $425. When he spotted my camera, he whistled - and asked how much it cost. I told him about $600. He said, 'I could get a trumpet for that - and then some!'

"When the interview was over, the sun was mostly down," says Abe. "As I was getting in the car, Jacob and his brother were talking to each other in their Xhosa language. I didn't understand everything, but I did get that they were discussing whether it was safe for me - the white guy - to drive through the area alone at dusk. Partly to protect me - and partly to get a ride in my shiny rented VW again - Jacob jumped in and escorted me back to the bridge. He was grinning and flashing peace signs to everyone he saw in his eastern Johannesburg neighborhood."

• No Coffee Today: Out of politeness, reporter Nick Blanford normally accepts the customary offer of coffee when he does interviews in southern Lebanon. But during Ramadan, he declines. "They still offer, but I don't partake of coffee, tea, or food when I'm with them out of respect for their fasting," he says.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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