• Liquid Hospitality: If you're going to be a reporter in Iraq, you'd better like sweet, hot tea. Or learn to like it. Staff writer Howard LaFranchi says that in any Iraqi office, business, or home it is customary for the hosts to offer something to drink – and it is also not just customary but pretty much obligatory to accept what's offered. Just saying "no" either sends a signal of disapproval or is just plain rude.
Over the five-hour period Howard spent at the Kirkuk Provincial Government building reporting today's story (see story), he took inventory of all he was offered, and drank: five sweet teas, one sweet orange drink, one small Pepsi, one sweet carbonated water akin to 7-Up, and several glasses of water – sometimes accompanying the other beverages.
"In one office I ended up with an array of drinks before me: a tea, the Pepsi, and a half-liter bottle of water," he says. "I decided it wasn't necessary to finish off the whole bottle of water, I knew at that point that I still had three offices to visit."
• Iraqi Humor: When staff writer Dan Murphy was sitting in the stands, watching Iraq play Iran on the soccer field (see story), he started up a conversation with Hamid Shukri. Dr. Shukri was from the neighborhood in Baghdad where Dan often went to buy baklava. "The shop's called Khasaki, and they make the best baklava I've had anywhere in the world," he raves.
In fact, it was the first place Dan took his editor during a visit in 2003. The sign outside the shop has a picture of a fat boy, who today is one of the large adult family members who run the establishment.
Dan mentioned to his new Iraqi friend that the shop had been bombed twice in the past year – but no one had been killed. Shukri knew the shop well, and turned to Dan with a smile and said, "What? The terrorists don't like fat people?"
– David Clark Scott