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… from the shadowlands

T

EGUCIGALPA | Her pencil tapping was ceaseless, adding pressure to a tiny room that didn’t need more stimulation. In her 30’s she was a premature overseas spinster. The tight bad perm, ramrod back, the brusque manner, clipped voice and air of determination were all hallmarks of the single female lifer. Stevedores, union officials and train clerks couldn’t see her eyes as she pleaded, grovelled and screamed. And the angry pencil tapping only sounded like a bad phone line to the harried men she called.

From her tiny office in Honduras she was desperately looking for places to off-load six huge ships on their way to Central America full of relief supplies for the victims of Hurricane Mitch. Most of the cargo was junk – used winter boots, expired food and powdery pills. But once on the ship and on the sea, it had to be unloaded or the costs were massive.

Unfortunately for the spinster, the long-suffering logistician for an international aid agency, Mitch didn’t spare the ports, cranes, train tracks or the roads. Without this infrastructure it was tempting to tell the ship crews to throw the cargo into the ocean in the hope something would wash ashore. It would certainly cost less…