Reporters on the job

Dicey Pickings: While looking for a vantage point to view the clashes between Lebanese forces and militants inside a tightly cordoned Palestinian refugee camp (see story), correspondent Nicholas Blanford and his colleagues were summoned by a local farmer who was keen to show them a good overlook. The only catch: they must walk across an open field despite the snipers firing in their direction.

The journalists in flak jackets and helmets warily made their way across the man's field. "The farmer kept pointing to these bright-red tomatoes, and was putting freshly picked cucumbers into our pockets," says Nick. "It was rather bizarre. He was very proud of his farm, and rightly so. But it wasn't the best moment to be leading people around his farm."

Silent Treatment: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield has found that consumerism in India is a paradox (see story). "Store managers told me that shoppers want to stretch for the best items they can afford, for prestige as much as for equality. But the idea of talking to an unfamiliar journalist about one's aspirations remains deeply uncomfortable. Just last month, the prime minister said that the increasingly 'vulgar' display of wealth in India, 'insults the poverty of the less privileged.' In this atmosphere, I could find no one who would talk to me about their aspirational buying habits, despite the help of a manager at a Mercedes dealership, calls to colleagues, and visits to three malls and six electronics stores. In the end, the people in my story are my housekeeper and my real-estate agent – the only people I found who knew they could trust me."

Sure, I'll Swim: Peter Ford spent part of his weekend at a small hotel 50 miles northwest of Beijing, in a secluded valley that sheltered a stream. The hotel owner had dammed the stream to create a small body of water in which he swore on his mother's honor that guests could safely swim, despite the reputation of bodies of water in China (see story). Sweaty after a run one evening, Peter took him at his word (having jogged upstream a bit just to check for pesticides factories, hog farms, etc.), to no ill effect. He also bought pots of honey from a roadside apiarist, which some people would say was rash because of possible DDT use. "But either you live in China or you don't," says Peter. "I am not foolhardy, but you cannot shelter yourself from every possible risk when you live in a place like this."

– Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

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