Reporters on the Job
• A Little Pashto: Staff writer Scott Baldauf has traveled around Afghanistan for the past four years, so he has picked up a smattering of Pashto. He also speaks Hindi and Urdu. As a result, during his five days with the 82nd Airborne, he was occasionally pressed into duty as an interpreter.
Many Afghans speak at least a little Hindi or Urdu, but in Zabul province in southern Afghanistan, most of the people only know the Afghan language of Pashto. "In one village, I was approached by a man who started saying the word "mareez, mareez" which means sickness in Farsi and Pashto (and Urdu too). With a little miming, he made it clear that his grandchild was sick with diarrhea and wanted to know if any of the soldiers had medicine," says Scott.
Another villager pointed up the hillside at another shepherd and his huge flock, and told Scott that the shepherd was "zalim," or cruel. "Again, with some creative playacting, he mimicked the other shepherd reaching out his claw-like hand and choking somebody. The soldiers with me suggested he contact his local law enforcement agency, who admittedly live far away. Later the soldiers asked me, 'when did you learn Pashto,' and I had to admit, I haven't. But I have learned that even knowing a few words can go a long way."
• Voting Blind? Reporters Jill Carroll and Dan Murphy couldn't find a single Iraqi who had read the constitution scheduled for a vote on Saturday.
Copies of the document are hard to find. One middle-aged truck driver, who told Jill that "he read the paper every day, watched the news, worked diligently to understand what was going on - and he didn't know anything about the constitution. But he said he'd vote for it, because, as a Shiite, he knew his leaders supported it, and besides, he said, 'since it was written by Iraqis, it must be good.' "
David Clark Scott