Reporters on the Job

Joe Tan/Reuters
Golden Sleep? Chinese policemen rest at a Guanghzhou railway station as the Golden Week or New Year’s holiday comes to an end. Millions of Chinese traveled back to work Tuesday.

Language of Respect: Staff writer Mark Sappenfield conducted his interviews with rising young politicians from famous Pakistani families in English. But occasionally he'd drop in a smattering of Urdu. "How are you? Is it OK to sit here?"

"It always brings a big smile," says Mark. "It's unexpected from a Westerner. And as with everything in Muslim countries I've visited, showing respect for heritage or culture immediately brings respect tenfold."

Mark says it helps that Urdu is a very formal language. "You speak regally, as if you're addressing a king or prince."

He takes Urdu lessons in New Delhi from a man who was born in Pakistan. "My teacher is an institution among journalists and diplomats. He knew Sir Edmund Hillary when he was New Zealand's ambassador to India. "

Sheikh Ali's Sayings: Correspondent Sam Dagher interviewed Sunni Sheikh Ali al-Hatem for a story about political tensions in Iraq. The sheikh, says Sam, does not hide the fact he's a high school dropout in a country where officials have been known to buy or fabricate university degrees. "He's proud of his street smarts which in a way endear him to average Iraqis who appreciate a straight-shooting and tough-talking public figure," says Sam.

He also has a penchant for colorful comments.

On the overabundance of Sunni sheikhs joining US-funded Sahwa (Awakening) movement, he says: "The population of sheikhs has overtaken that of flies."

On what he and his two brothers do for a living: 'What do you think? Sheikhs are supposed to sit back and let others work for them. We just eat and sleep."

On the tough character of his Anbari kinsmen: "A fellow chieftain visiting from southern Iraq asked my grandfather why our tribesmen were not kissing my grandfather's hand as they do in the south. He replied: 'You are a ram ruling over sheep while I am a ram trying to rule other rams.'

David Clark Scott

World editor

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