• Uninvited to the Movies: Staff writer Dan Murphy's story is about social and cultural loosening up in Saudi Arabia (see story). But it's not a universal change, and certainly not one that everyone wants publicized.
Dan tried to attend a screening of three short Saudi films in Riyadh. A friend, an avid movie buff, said the films would be shown at a small cultural center connected to the government, that there would be a mixed audience. and that the directors would be taking questions after. Perfect, said Dan.
But when his Saudi friend picked him up, Dan was surprised to see him dressed in an ultraconservative Saudi robe and head scarf. Normally he wore Western casual clothes. "Well, it turns out they're nervous about a foreigner showing up," he told Dan. The change in garb was to help alleviate concerns.
But his friend couldn't find the cultural center. He knew the neighborhood, but not the address. "We called, but no one seemed to be able to provide the exact address," says Dan. Then, Dan's friend got a call saying the police were outside the cultural center and had filmed "a foreigner" going into the event. "The odd thing was we hadn't even arrived. We were still driving around in circles," says Dan.
They never got the correct address. "The organizers were really worried that media exposure could lead to a government crackdown," he says. Dan and his friend ended up watching a soccer match with a group of young Saudi men.
• Pumping Wood: Staff writer Sara Miller Llana says that being in good physical condition ought to be a prerequisite of being a foreign correspondent. If hiking in the thin air of Bolivia and Peru wasn't proof enough, while working on today's story about nationalization of energy resources in Bolivia (see story) she found herself changing a tire – with a small tree trunk.
"On our way to visit the natural gas plant in Santa Cruz, we had to endure a three-hour ride through sand. At one point we heard this thud and the car just sank into the ground – the tire had come off. The driver lodged the tree trunk under the car and we helped lift."
– David Clark Scott