Reporters on the Job

The ABCs of Navigating Tehran: Getting around Iran's vast and convoluted capital is increasingly difficult for foreigners, says staff writer Scott Peterson (see story). A decade ago, the municipality erected street signs in both Farsi and English and in easy-to-read blue and white. "There was one for every alley and dead-end, no matter how insignificant," says Scott.

But when he returned this time, he found that the new signs being put up were only in Farsi. The mayor recently decreed that all new signs were to be in both languages, but for now, the Farsi signs has made navigation more difficult.

"One Iranian joked that it was a security measure, so that American soldiers would be lost when they arrived," says Scott, adding that getting around Tehran is so complicated that foreigners almost always get lost, regardless of the language used.

The solution? "This time I bought a children's Farsi book, with the most basic alphabet," says Scott. "It works perfectly."

Poverty on Paper: One of the trickiest things about writing on poverty in Africa is to transform moving encounters into stories that don't seem cliché, says correspondent Danna Harman (see story). Often, what seems so profound can sound "so hokey."

Like the story that she didn't write of returning home from the township of Alexandra. She first took a shared minivan to Sandton, Johannesburg's glitzy business center. Dropped off at a megamall, Danna was struck by the contrast between the poverty she'd just seen and the luxury of the glittering mall in front of her, only 15 minutes away. "It was astounding," she says.

Poor kids stopped hanging out at the mall – which was warm, and had Christmas events on – after owners began shooing them away, afraid they would deter tourists, she says. Such stark disparities "seem cliché but are so shocking" when you actually see it, she says.

– Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar

Staff editor

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