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Reporters on the Job

FEAST AND FAMINE: When Monitor correspondent Danna Harman traveled to Ethiopia this week to cover a growing famine there, she found herself struggling with guilt. "You go somewhere, and you see people my age - in their thirties - with yellow hair from malnutrition and bony faces. You talk to them. And then you go home or to your hotel, or shack or sleeping bag - but, inevitably, you eat."

Staying at the fancy Addis Sheraton - where she was attending a development conference - sharpened her distress. "The place is enormous and filled with food everywhere you look: cream cakes in the piano bar, barbecue dinners by the poolside. Gilded showers spurt water at you from all angles, and there is a fountain show outside, where the fountains throw tons of water in the air to the sounds of classical music every night. All this in a country where villagers use the last of their energies to try and dig a pond which will allow them to walk two, instead of seven, miles to collect drinking water."

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As soon as the conference ended, Danna moved to a modest hotel.

SHAKEN BUT ALERT : At first, when an earthquake struck Mexico Tuesday night, Monitor contributor Gretchen Peters thought it was the wind. "My street didn't get it very hard - the lamps just swayed."

Even so, her reactions, like those of her neighbors in Mexico City, were quick. "It was amazing how everyone poured into the streets. They rushed out and refused to go back inside - and it's January."

Even when the danger of aftershocks was likely over, many people remained outside, Gretchen says. "In 1985, they had one of the largest aftershocks, 7.9, ever recorded in the world, and that's what did more of the damage then. In my neighborhood, a lot of people finally went in by midnight. But at the city's historic center, where there are old buildings, people stayed out all night."

Amelia Newcomb
Deputy World editor

Cultural snapshot