Reporters on the Job

High-pitched cries: Correspondent Lucien Chauvin traveled 14,500 feet above sea level to the small town of Atecata, Peru, for his story on indigenous groups in the Andes Mountains. It was cold, and snow was just beginning to cover the barren hills. But what he remembers most were the cries of dozens of alpacas being sheared for their wool.

The people in Atecata survive on the wool taken from alpacas and their cousin, the undomesticated vicuna. Lucian was there for shearing day, and residents were bringing in their alpacas from surrounding fields. Women in multilayered skirts held down the alpacas, while men carefully trimmed away each animal's coat. Everything is done manually, because there is no electricity this far off the beaten path.

"The alpacas are not harmed in the process," explains Lucian, "but it was impossible to imagine this listening to the high-pitched squeals of animals that appear so tranquil in the fields, munching on scrub grass."

How do you really feel? You'd think that Haitian-American Ralph Vieux would find special meaning in his post with the UN police force in Haiti. But staff writer Danna Harman had a tough time getting it out of him.

"I asked every way I could think of: 'Is this in any way meaningful to you as a Haitian?' " says Danna. Mr. Vieux was slightly gruff, though, and would only give her one-word answers.

"So you could have assumed that he didn't care," she explains, "but you could tell there was something underlying all that - something beside just his duty to the American police force." Finally, she coaxed out a story about how he decided to sponsor his shoeshine boy.

The whole question of the double identities based on one's heritage is always very complicated, but even more so in a place as complicated as Haiti, notes Danna. So it's not surprising it can take some time to plumb those feelings.

Christa Case
Europe editor

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