BAGHDAD, Iraq - Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.
But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.
And he didn't even tell his parents.
As a junior this year at a Pine Crest School, a prep academy of about 700 students in Fort Lauderdale, Hassan studied writers like John McPhee in the book "The New Journalism," an introduction to immersion journalism - a writer who lives the life of his subject in order to better understand it.
Inside the safety of Baghdad's Green Zone, an Embassy official from the Hostage Working Group talked to Hassan about how risky travel is in Iraq.
Wearing a blue long-sleeve shirt in addition to his jeans and sneakers, Hassan appeared eager and outgoing but slightly sheepish about his situation.