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Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

Before moving to India, Lauren was a regular freelance contributor to NPR for seven years, based in Madrid. During that time, she substituted for NPR bureau chiefs in Seoul, London, Istanbul, Islamabad, and Jerusalem. She also served as a guest host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

In Europe, Lauren chronicled the economic crisis in Spain & Portugal, where youth unemployment spiked above 50%. She profiled a Portuguese opera singer-turned protest leader, and a 90-year-old survivor of the Spanish Civil War, exhuming her father's remains from a 1930s-era mass grave. From Paris, Lauren reported live on NPR's Morning Edition, as French police moved in on the Charlie Hebdo terror suspects. In the fall of 2015, Lauren spent nearly two months covering the flow of migrants & refugees across Hungary & the Balkans – and profiled a Syrian rapper among them. She interviewed a Holocaust survivor who owed his life to one kind stranger, and managed to get a rare interview with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – by sticking her microphone between his bodyguards in the Hague.

Farther afield, she introduced NPR listeners to a Pakistani TV evangelist, a Palestinian surfer girl in Gaza, and K-pop performers campaigning in South Korea's presidential election.

Lauren has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.

Her international career began in the Middle East, where she was an editor on the Associated Press' Middle East regional desk in Cairo, and covered the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Syria and southern Lebanon. In 2007, she spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, an assignment for which the AP nominated her and her colleagues for a Pulitzer Prize.

On a break from journalism, Lauren drove a Land Rover across Africa for a year, from Cairo to Cape Town, sleeping in a tent on the car's roof. She once made the front page of a Pakistani newspaper, simply for being a woman commuting to work in Islamabad on a bicycle.

Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Lauren holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, rusty French and Arabic, and is now learning Hindi.

In a neighborhood of Istanbul that's plastered with Arabic signs, a Syrian refugee whips up his specialty — avocado cream smoothies — at the small, colorful cafe where he works.

Majd al-Hassan has been in Turkey for two years, but has yet to learn much Turkish. He doesn't need to. This area is filled with fellow Syrians. He's paid in cash, under the table, and has yet to really integrate into Turkish society, he acknowledges.

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At a sidewalk cafe in Istanbul, Dilek Mayaturk Yucel fiddles with her wedding ring as she reminisces about her marriage ceremony back in April.

"We were really so happy. We each read a poem we'd written by ourselves," Mayaturk Yucel recalls. "I think we spent 45 minutes together."

Then guards escorted the groom away.

The Yucels' wedding took place during visitation hours at a Turkish prison where the groom, Deniz Yucel, has been held since February.

At the Istanbul carpet shop he manages, a salesman named Abdullah flips through a stack of rugs, showing them off to a customer.

He ignores another pile of carpets rolled up in the corner. They're the Pierre Cardin brand — until recently, a coveted brand in Turkey. But they're on discount now.

"The brand is now associated with this cleric blamed for last year's failed coup," Abdullah says. "They're just carpets. Carpets aren't terrorists. Still, people are worried about guilt by association."

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In Turkey, the government's crackdown has entered another chapter - a mass trial in the capital, Ankara.

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Less than two months ago, U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was way behind in the polls when he took the stage at a music festival in Liverpool.

With his shirt untucked, Corbyn, 68, introduced the indy rock band the Libertines and delivered an impassioned defense of public funding for the arts before a crowd of some 20,000, most of them youngsters.

He urged them to demand "a government that cares about sport, culture and the arts — and gives you the space to play and rehearse your music!"

British Prime Minister Theresa May is not a touchy-feely politician. She can come across as quite formal. Critics call her a "Maybot."

Stepping off the train in Crawley, 30 miles south of London, you hear less English and more Romanian, Estonian, Portuguese and Polish.

Crawley is an affordable place to live, if less scenic than some other English towns. Other than a medieval church and old stagecoach inn, most of Crawley was built after World War II, to house people displaced by bombing in London. More recently, many immigrants have settled here and work at Gatwick Airport nearby.

Brexit has many of them worried. It's still unclear how many people from the European Union will be allowed to stay.

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Outside a London pub on a sunny afternoon, pints of beer in hand, Brittney Cornwell and Amy Hussey are gabbing about their love lives.

They're in their early 20s and work together at a bank around the corner. They say one thing seems to come up more than ever on dates these days: Brexit.

"You can't avoid it," Hussey says. "It's always a topic!"

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Tourists flood the area of Madrid's "Museum Mile" — a stretch of the huge, eight-lane Paseo del Prado thoroughfare that's home to Spain's most renowned art museums. It's smoggy and crowded with all the traffic.

At the CaixaForum, an arts foundation, people pause. It's what's on the outside of this museum, rather than what's inside, that's halted them: a giant vertical garden with more than 15,000 plants from 300 native species — begonias, yucca plants, ferns — coating an entire outer wall stretching the length of a city block.

Wild horses and cattle graze on the marshy banks of southern Spain's mighty Guadalquivir River.

From the mouth of this river, Christopher Columbus set off for the New World.

But since then, the river has gotten more salty. As fresh water is extracted for agriculture, drought — made more frequent by climate change — means less rainfall replaces it. Tides send salt water farther upriver.

Inside a cement building straddling part of the river, pumps suck 800 gallons out of the Guadalquivir per second — diverting it to irrigation canals.

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I'm sorry, this is just surreal. A Spanish judge has ordered the surrealist artist Salvador Dali's body be exhumed for DNA tests in a paternity suit. Here's Lauren Frayer from Madrid.

Jeon Chung-won tends sheep on the hilly farm where he was born in PyeongChang, a rural county a few hours' drive east of South Korea's capital Seoul.

"It's a simple, peaceful place where the mountain air hugs you," says Jeon, 32. "I really love this place."

Only a handful of domestic tourists typically come to PyeongChang, to hike green hills dotted with Buddhist temples or visit a small ski station nearby. But that is about to change.

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A forest fire has killed at least 62 people in central Portugal. It's the deadliest natural disaster there in living memory, and it is not over yet. More than 2,000 firefighters are still battling the fire. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.

Hidden in green hills east of South Korea's capital is the House of Sharing, a nursing home for elderly women.

It's a bright, spacious place. But its residents are survivors of a dark chapter of history.

"It was 1942 and I was only 15, running an errand for my parents [in our Korean hometown of Busan], when two Japanese men in uniform grabbed me by the arms and dragged me away," recalls Lee Ok-seon, now age 90. "That's how I became enslaved."

She was sent to work in a brothel in a Japanese-occupied area of northeast China.

Lim Hyuk-ju lives in a tiny apartment in a bustling student neighborhood of South Korea's capital, Seoul.

The apartment is just 30 sq. ft. — basically a walk-in closet with a toilet, shower and shared kitchen — for $400 a month.

"It's uncomfortable, because when I lay down my legs hit the back wall," explains Lim, 25.

She has to be quiet because the walls are thin. Lim's neighbors are all young people like her, studying 15 hours a day for job entrance exams.

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