Reporters on the Job

An Unconvincing Outdoorsman: Beijing Bureau chief Peter Ford says his first real foray into the deep Chinese countryside to report today's story on one woman's environmental efforts (page 1) took him back to his young reporting days, when he spent a lot of his time writing about rural development in Latin America, and loving it.

"It's not that I am especially fond of odoriferous squat privies behind the pigsty," Peter says, "but I can handle them, and I don't mind brushing my teeth over the gutter in the courtyard with the chickens either."

But the other, younger, Chinese members of the group he was within the village of Shitou insisted he have a room to himself while they all shared, and when he emerged the next morning he was greeted by solicitous looks.

"I was made to feel like a grandpa being a good sport," Peter complains. "I had thought I was 30 again."

Unimpressed in Europe: While Apple's iPhone has wowed many in America with its touch-screen technology, high design, and access to the Internet, many in Europe appear to be considerably underwhelmed.

"Here, people are used to their [cellphones being connected to the Internet] ... the bar is set much higher," says correspondent Mariah Blake, who is following the legal obstacles that Apple is facing as it releases the iPhone to European markets .

Mariah says that many Europeans already have "sleek, multifunctional" mobile phones that utilize 3G technology, which allows for fast Internet downloading and video access. So, unlike in America, "the iPhones are not that cutting edge."

As for Mariah, her mobile phone is anything but cutting edge. It doesn't even have a camera, she says. And she isn't planning to upgrade anytime soon. "I'm a late adopter," she says.

– Michael B. Farrell

Middle East editor

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