Reporters on the Job
• Try the Termites: While working on Wednesday's story about the 10th anniversary of genocide in Rwanda (page 1), correspondent Mary Wiltenburg felt more like an entomologist than a journalist. Her afternoons have been punctuated by bursts of monsoon rains, followed by the emergence of tens of thousands of bugs. On Monday, there was a plague of giant flying termites - albeit a short-lived one. "The wings of these 1-1/2 inch-long critters are too big. The termites flap around for about an hour, then die. But while I was trying to work in my hotel room, they came in under the doors and through the ventilation holes in the wall of the room," says Mary. One of the features of the older hotels in Kigali are 2-inch wide holes in mosaic patterns along the top of the outer wall.
"My bed was sprinkled with a dozen or so termites which had eviscerated themselves there," she says. One of the hotel employees told Mary later that Rwandans consider the big bugs a culinary delicacy. But they haven't shown up on any menu that she's seen, yet.
• Encounter with a Sadr Thug: Staff writer Dan Murphy got a small dose of what Iraqi security forces are up against with the Mahdi army, Moqtada al-Sadr's militia. During his visit to the Baghdad neighborhood of Khadimiya Wednesday, the main street - leading to a major Shiite shrine and a nearby mosque controlled by Mr. Sadr - was closed. Dan and Haider, his interpreter got out of the car to walk. After talking to a few passersby whose opinions of Sadr ranged from mild discomfort to outright disgust (page 1), they drew near to the mosque. A 17-year old with a 2-foot long dagger in his hand rushed at Dan and planted a firm hand to his chest. "You're coming with me now to the Sadr office," he told Dan.
"Nobody likes to be ordered around," says Dan, so he refused. But the young man was adamant. A small crowd of older men, not with the Mahdi, gathered around and urged the young man to be reasonable. "They explained that I was a journalist and meant no harm," says Dan. But the young man began to scream anti-American abuse and the older men worked out a compromise that allowed Dan and Haider to depart. "Look, leaving now is a lot better than having your head separated from your body,'' one of the onlookers said to Haider.
"You don't get the sense that Iraqis like Sadr's militia. But they're the local toughs and are running the show in neighborhoods - at least for now,'' says Dan.
David Clark Scott