Panama 2018: Chatting with Minga

I’ve been updating my apps to work with my new phone, and in the process Ana saw that I was online with WhatsApp and called me so I could talk with Minga. They know Wednesday was Halloween, and are eager for pics of Archie and Else in costume. Halloween is not celebrated in Panama, but they know generally what it is. They do celebrate All Soul’s Day, which is November 2 — coming after All Saint’s Day on November 1. In the Peace Corps days, everyone had to be inside before dark because the belief was that the souls of the dead would stalk the village and grab up any errant disrespectful men, women, or children and spirit them away. I vividly remember Minga insisting that I be inside, even though — as she told me at the time — she wasn’t sure the souls of the dead were looking for Americans.

Minga remembers the most amazing things from my Peace Corps years. She asked if I remember that I waited until dark on Halloween night, put a white sheet over my head, and emerged from my little house like a ghost, scaring her and the kids half to death. I’d bought candy for them in Panama City, and we carved a papaya –closest thing we could get to a pumpkin, and not all that close, but it was the best we could do. I do remember, vaguely.

She said her leg pain is subsiding and so she is walking more. She looks forward to my coming in mid-November, so that she can “tell me everything”. Not sure what that means. I think she wants to talk honestly about her experience of being on dialysis for just over a year. She said during the call that it’s very hard, but it’s “la voluntad de Dios“, or the will of God.

Rural Panama is still very religious, and both Gloria and Minga are deeply Catholic. But there is an age difference in how they understand their faith. For Minga, “la voluntad de Dios” is absolute and hers to accept without question. Gloria memorably said, in recent years, that she understands that her lot in life is God’s will. She just doesn’t get why God wants her family to be at the bottom of the economic ladder and least in importance every single time. As you can imagine, I had no answer.

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