August 31 Update on Minga

Minga did have a third dialysis treatment, after it was a possibility that she might not need it. That extends the time that she will be in the hospital, which is fine by me. I think that more time to regain strength and have her dialysis done in sterile conditions is all to the good. I still haven’t talked with her by phone; Lily’s work schedule doesn’t seem to coincide well with the three hour time difference and my obligations here. When she’s able to visit the hospital, I’m often with Archie and unable to take the call. Or, she goes early, before work, when I’m not up yet.

Panama is entering the really serious months of rainy season, which are September, October, and November — with October the heaviest in terms of amount and number of days with rain. I have no idea how the dense, humid, stagnant air affects keeping a sterile environment in Minga’s home. On the one hand, the dust is less. There is no dust — only thick, sticky mud that everyone tracks in and out. But people with colds and viruses are inside more, too. There are a lot more insects, including the mosquitos that spread dengue and chikungunya, both viral illnesses. And there’s a lot more mold. During the Peace Corps we arrived in-country in October, and I made the mistake of bringing a pair of leather loafers. Overnight, they sprouted green fuzz just like a Chia pet. I’ll never forget the sight.

Things begin to dry out in December, and by January when I go, the weather is sunny, hot, and very pleasant — although the dust kicks up exponentially. Maintaining a person with fragile health without air conditioning in a tropical climate is not an easy thing, whether the season is wet or dry.

I thought you might enjoy a picture of Minga’s earlier life, during the late 1960’s. Washing was a daily event, because no one had more than one change of clothes. She had to lug all the dirty clothes — for 7 people — to the river, which was hard work. The kids came along and played in the shallow stream. But it was social too, often with several women arriving at the same time. They set up shop near each other so they could chat.

Lugging the heavy, wet clothes back home was even harder. She did this seven days a week, first thing in the morning. In rainy season, when wet clothes had to be hung inside, they never really dried.

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