Reporters on the Job

High Seas Reporting: Correspondent Katharine Houreld says it wasn't easy to make her way out to the area, off the coast of Sierra Leone, where pirate trawlers fish. Perhaps because of that, two Chinese fishermen, stuck on a boat whose engines had died, were caught off guard when she showed up with her translator. "Those guys were really surprised to see us," she says. "We were quite welcome, though, because we brought food and drink."

Katharine says that the two men seemed more lonely than anything else. "Their rooms were really stark – they didn't have sheets or mattresses. The only things they really had were battered pictures of their families. In fact, we connected over talk of that. You may not know much about being a Chinese fisherman off the African coast, but everyone can understand missing family."

Perhaps the greatest challenge Katharine faced in reporting, however, was finding a Mandarin speaker in Freetown. "I was able to locate this guy who had studied in China for years. He is Sierra Leonean, and his ability to speak Mandarin floored the fishermen," she says.

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Katharine says that in some ways, he is the real hero of her story. "He is a government officer who left a good job in Beijing to come back to help rebuild his country, even though members of his extended family had suffered in the war."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy world editor

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