Copyright ©2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Journalists are supposed to make certain they don't interfere with the news they cover. But sometimes, no matter what you do, your mere presence brings everything to a halt. NPR's Larry Abramson has this look inside his reporter's notebook.

LARRY ABRAMSON: At schools in foreign countries, it's hard to stay in the background. Kids are trained to applaud when visitors arrive.

(Soundbite of applause)

ABRAMSON: That's what happened when I visited this school in Vito, Peru, with my producer Marisa Penalosa. Eventually, the kids got back to work. We watched the class, recorded lots of sound, and prepared to leave as quietly as possible. Fate had other plans. We begged our driver, please, wait right there on the safe side of the muddy drainage ditch. But in an effort to please his clients, he decided to turn the car around and got hopelessly stuck in the mud.

(Soundbite of car engine revving)

ABRAMSON: His drive wheels whizzed like a salad spinner. We pushed. We pulled. Everyone had a different theory on how to unstick us - forward, backwards, use logs. One teacher said, well, the last time this happened, local men had to carry the car out. Not too encouraging.

In the meantime, the school kids gathered to watch. This was easily the most interesting part of their school day. When a local administrator decided we needed more weight in the back of the cab, the kids all piled in the back. The kindergarten teacher, a voluble woman in a pink apron, tried to shoo the kids to safety.

(Soundbite of car engine revving)

Unidentified Kindergarten Teacher: (Spanish Spoken)

ABRAMSON: She seemed to find the whole situation hilarious.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Unidentified Kindergarten Teacher: (Spanish Spoken)

ABRAMSON: At some point, Marisa and I kind of gave up. We sat on the grass with the kids and nibbled snacks. But that administrator and the other men from the school, they rolled up their sleeves and took on the problem as a real guy's hobby. They built a little wooden platform with some spare wood. Then the administrator took the wheel, and in a display of bravado, or unfamiliarity with a clutch, he revved the engine furiously.

(Soundbite of car engine revving)

ABRAMSON: Suddenly, the Toyota bounced out of the ditch. We piled in the car and went to our next appointment. But by then, nearly every kid in the school was outside waving goodbye. School was out.

(Soundbite of car doors slamming shut)

ABRAMSON: In just a few hours, we had brought learning to a complete standstill. As we drove on to our next school visit, we wondered, maybe some of the problems with education in the developing world should be laid at the feet of visiting journalists. Larry Abramson, NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.