Dengue and Other Tropical Diseases

Life in Panama is not without risk of some nasty tropical diseases. The easily identified, beautiful, but potentially deadly aedes aegypti mosquito lives here and can carry dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever, a disease that killed so many who came to build the canal.

Thankfully, yellow fever is no longer a problem, and I think the risk of other diseases is relatively low in this area but it is still present. As the notice below states, they have confirmed 17 cases of dengue in Chiriquí.

MINSA, the Panamanian health department, has been working hard to control mosquitoes and and educate the public. They were here last week inspecting yards for standing water, and they fined a neighbor who had water collected in their pool cover. I have a sticker on my door from past visits when they talked with me.

Yesterday, Radio Chiriquí posted this on their Facebook page:


El nivel de infestación del mosquito aedes aegypti en la provincia de Chiriquí aumentó la semana pasada a 2.4% y a 17 el número de casos confirmados de dengue, informó el Jefe Regional de Control de Vectores, Tec. Patricio Camarena.

En el Barrio Estudiante de La Concepción: nueve de cada cien viviendas inspeccionadas por el Ministerio de Salud estaban infestadas del aedes aegypti, vector transmisor de los virus del dengue, del zika, del chikungunya y de la fiebre amarilla.

En el barrio San Mateo y en la Barriada San José la infestación del aedes aegypti era de 5.4%; en Victoriano Lorenzo y Portachuelo del 4%; en Doleguita del 3%, en Pedregal del 2.8% y en Caimito de Dolega 3.8%.

El funcionario advirtió que por ser un área de tránsito nacional e internacional, la provincia de Chiriquí enfrenta la amenaza del contagio de dengue y otras enfermedades transmisibles.

Mañana (22) Control de Vectores realiza una masiva inspección y nebulización de insecticidas en el corregimiento de Las Lomas y el próximo jueves en Pedregal, informó el Tec. Camarena.

“Seguimos trabajando día y noche, con énfasis en áreas donde registran casos de dengue y altos niveles de infestación de aedes; pero la participación de la ciudadanía es vital para el control de esta amenaza”, expresó Camarena.

Cualquier objeto que retenga agua bajo sombra es un potencial criadero del aedes aegypti y estos insectos pueden volar cientos de metros, agregó el Tec. Camarena; quien advirtió que los insecticidas solo exterminan mosquitos adultos.

very roughly translated by Google,  because I don’t feel like writing it out… 😑

The level of infestation of the Aedes aegypti mosquito in the province of Chiriqui increased last week to 2.4% and to 17 the number of confirmed cases of dengue, said the Chief of Vector Control, Tec. Patricio Camarena.
In the Student District of La Concepción: nine out of every hundred homes inspected by the Ministry of Health were infested with aedes aegypti, vector transmitter of the dengue, zika, chikungunya and yellow fever viruses.
In the San Mateo neighborhood and in the San José neighborhood, the aedes aegypti infestation was 5.4%; in Victoriano Lorenzo and Portachuelo of 4%; in Doleguita of 3%, in Pedregal of 2.8% and in Caimito de Dolega 3.8%.
The official warned that because it is an area of ​​national and international transit, the province of Chiriqui faces the threat of contagion of dengue and other communicable diseases.
Tomorrow (22) Control of Vectors performs a massive inspection and nebulization of insecticides in the village of Las Lomas and next Thursday in Pedregal, Tec. Camarena reported.
“We continue working day and night, with emphasis in areas where they register cases of dengue and high levels of aedes infestation; but the participation of citizens is vital to control this threat, “said Camarena.
Any object that retains water under shade is a potential breeding ground for Aedes aegypti and these insects can fly hundreds of meters, added Tec. Camarena; who warned that insecticides only exterminate adult mosquitoes.

I really appreciate that they are working hard on mosquito control! A friend in Pedasi got Dengue and it was no fun at all. Other friends in Nicaragua and Ecuador had chikungunya and so much joint pain they couldn’t do simple things to take care of themselves, and it seems like it went on forever. Thankfully I am very aware of mosquito control from living in Florida. I carry bug repellant in my gardening bucket, and have more at my “outside office”. It would be a bummer to derail my happy life with one of these diseases.

If you want to learn more, I’m sure google will turn up lots of info. And, don’t think this is an issue only in the tropics! These mosquitoes and the potential for their diseases can be found in the southern US also, and they seem to be adapting to colder climates so they can continue their progression north. Be vigilant about eliminating standing water and protecting yourself. The consequences can be more than an itchy bite.

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Define Freedom

I had an interesting conversation with a Panamanian friend. Her son and other family members are visiting his wife’s brother and family in Colorado. He said it’s beautiful there, so clean and orderly. The yards all look nice, and there are no dogs in the streets. I explained to my friend that if you don’t keep your yard cleaned up, you may hear from the neighborhood association. If your dog is running in the street, it will be taken to the dog place where you have to pay to get it back. If the dog is barking you may get a visit from the police. She was amazed. How could this be??

We are from the USA, Land of the Free, and Home of the Brave, so says our national anthem. But, what do we mean by freedom? How free are we really in the US? Even the little things, like your homeowners association telling you what you can and can’t do on your own property, and yes your dog can be sent to the pound of it’s running loose. We seem to be very concerned about bothering and being bothered by the neighbors and we have all sorts of rules and expectations.

Panama is quite different. Our neighbors had an outdoor party with music that went on until 4AM. The other neighbors just went to sleep. We play rock music all the time here and the neighbors insist that they like it. Working in front of your home is very common – turning logs into lumber, making furniture, repairing and painting cars, making concrete sinks, bathing the kids, cooking food over a wood fire, welding gates, and repairing small engines to name just a few things I saw recently. Yards are maintained, sort of, but no one complains until grass is so high you can’t see cars coming around the corner. Yard trash is routinely dumped in the nearest vacant lot or unoccupied bit of land. I’ve had to learn how to manage aggressive dogs in the streets who don’t like bikes.

Everything is a trade off. Do you want things to look a certain way, or do you feel better when you are free to let things go if you wish? I am a foreigner here so I cannot get involved in politics and I don’t know enough to speak intelligently on the subject, but it seems the people have at least as much freedom to express themselves and make their voices heard, and everyone votes.

There is freedom from being ruined by lack of health care, or health care costs. This is huge for me as one of the uninsured for most of my life. You don’t worry about being shot, or assaulted. Yes there is crime, usually theft and crimes of opportunity but we worry about it much less here. We worry about pretty much nothing, and it’s a great feeling. I never knew I suffered from lack of freedom until I came here and experienced something so different. And, most important you are free to be yourself, even if you are quite different in many ways. Nobody cares and they accept you as you are.

You are not free from rain and humidity though! Sunday night in Boquete was warmer but very muggy and damp. Yesterday and today in David have been very pleasant but the rains came at sundown last night and poured like crazy for a while, and then rained steadily into the night.

I’m happy to report that my eye problem that I blogged about in my last post is better. It’s not totally normal but there is definite improvement since Friday. yay!

Life in Panama. For us, it’s a very good life.

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The Misbehaving Eye

At first it just seemed like it was harder to read. Pharmacy magnifying glasses have worked very well but all of a sudden they didn’t. My left eye seemed cloudy and no amount of rubbing and cleaning glasses made a difference. Were the grout lines in the tiles curving? Nah, couldn’t be. On a closer look they were fine.

Yesterday was worse. I covered my right eye and entered a fun house. Things were blurry and every straight line had bumps and curves. This is definitely not right! I spoke with my son in law (he works in an ophthalmology office) and he confirmed what I knew. It’s time to see a doctor ASAP.

Thankfully this is not a problem here. I went to Chiriquí hospital. The first ophthalmologist wasn’t in and I was sent to another. He wasn’t in either but could  see me if I came back in the afternoon.

I think he had me figured out as soon as I told him my symptoms, and he confirmed it on exam. My macula is inflamed and swollen. Who knows why it happened, and only in one eye (thankfully!). I was given eye drops for inflammation, pills to decrease swelling, and a referral to a retinal specialist from Panama City who will be here in a couple weeks.

A bit of eyeball info… the retina is like a sheet of tissue that covers the back of the inside of the eye, and it detects light and sends what it finds to the brain. The macula is a special area in the retina that is responsible for the sharp vision in the center of your field of vision while the rest of the retina handles your peripheral vision. Peripheral vision isn’t sharp and clear for anyone. It’s mainly to alert you to something going on so you can direct your central vision towards it. If your central vision, your macula, isn’t functioning right your vision is seriously affected.

In a perfect world, you see this grid clearly with straight lines.

In my world it’s sort of like this, but the lines are curvy through most of the box and they are speckled gray and black, not solid. I can see with my left eye well enough to navigate in my daily life but I wouldn’t want to drive, and I can read if the text it nice and big but regular size, even with glasses is almost impossible. Yeah, messed up!

I am very optimistic that my eye will get straightened out. The plan now is to see how it responds to the medication, and then see the retinal specialist who will make further decisions as necessary. My son in law was consulted and agrees the exam and treatment were appropriate, and said they see this in their office fairly often too.

You just never know what tomorrow will bring! I am SO SO thankful to be here. I saw a doctor within hours of asking and he took very good care of me, but since he’s an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, a specialist, he’s more expensive – $60. The medications cost about $30. Keep in mind this is private care, not the much cheaper social security system which is also available.

I am also SO thankful to my teacher Yaira and everyone else who has spoken Spanish with me and helped me learn. This doctor spoke very little English. Many doctors were trained in the US and speak English well, but not all so you might bring a translator if you don’t know.

This sure makes me think of all the people with macular degeneration, a condition that sometimes can be slowed down with treatment, but can’t be cured. I have one very good eye, and another that I think will be good again soon. I’m very fortunate.


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Bug of the Day

Rainy season has returned, which always seems to bring various bugs. June bugs and beetles from tiny to huge have been around for a while. Sometimes there are little flying insects. Sometimes there are big ones with wings that don’t seem to fly. The strangest ones are the brown flying bugs that seem to shed their wings. The next morning you’ll find only wings everywhere.

If you hate bugs you might find it challenging to live here, but it’s extremely rare that I’m driven inside by bugs who won’t leave my light and screen alone, or that I’ve been bitten or stung by anything. If you find bugs interesting though, you’ll have a great time here.

While I’m here, I have a few other odds and ends to share.

We grew a pineapple! Our veggie guy sold a pineapple to my neighbor, twisted the top off and planted it outside our fence where it finally made a fruit. It smells heavenly!

Home grown pineapple

Do you think Joel needs to get back on his bike? We have been busy with the band, sleeping too late, and I’m sure we could come up with more excuses. We rode today though and it felt good to be out. I also spent some time working in the yard which I need to make more time for. Now that the rain is back everything is growing again.

A happy weed

I tried gardening yesterday too, but it lasted about 3 minutes before it started raining. Apparently this guy was hiding out under the trash can I use for gardening.

That was a scorpion before Joel whacked it with a broom.

Last but definitely not least, I was running around with my neighbor one day. It is common to throw yard trash in the nearest vacant lot, so we were exploring the yard trash and came home with some plants. A kind reader identified this one as a vanilla orchid. It’s been climbing up the guanábana tree for quite a while, maybe 3-4 years. I was eating breakfast this morning and happened to glance over and saw this! A flower! I’m not going to hold my breath that it will make a vanilla bean, but you never know. Whatever it does, I’m happy to see the flower.

The vanilla orchid flower!

Life in Panama. Mi vida difícil 😁

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Figuring out the Airlines

Good luck with that. Ha!

I am going back to the US to visit family and help with the expected new granddaughter. Copa’s direct flight from Panama City to San Francisco used to be crazy expensive, but now it’s about the same price as the other decently prices flights, and it cuts out all that layover time.

Copa and United are partners. I have miles with United, so I start investigating the website to see if I could use these miles on my Copa flight.

on the Copa website
PTY to SFO Flight CM0208, departs 6/18 9:28 AM, arrive 3:05 PM, $337.46
SFO to PTY, flight CM0209, departs 7/23 8:50 PM arrives 6:o7 AM, $341.05
Total $678.51

on the United website
9:28 AM to 3:05PM, nonstop, operated by Copa Airlines, etc. Same dates, same times, same flights operated by Copa Air, $2,383. huh??!

But, if I use my miles… (still on the United website)
Mon, Jun 18, 2018 PTY – SFO 9:28 am – 3:05 pm
Mon, Jul 23, 2018 SFO – PTY 8:50 pm – 6:07 am
80,000 miles + $76.71

Cool beans! I see a link about transferring miles. Joel is planning to visit family later this summer and this would really help him out. I investigate further and learn it would be $1200 to transfer 80,000 miles to him.

This whole airline stuff drives me nuts. There are people who are constantly traveling for their work. I would not be a good candidate for a job like that.

Thank goodness I have a great travel agent.–travel-agency-listing-1737.aspx   She gets me the retired people discount on any airline flying in and out of Panama, answers emails quickly, does everything on line and make it super easy. ~~shout out and big thank you to Andrea~~

I’ve asked her to go ahead and book tickets with Copa. I’ll use my miles on the next trip and give Joel the money I save.

And, just to add to the joy of my day, a lady on Facebook who appears to live in Boquete has been sending me messages…  Have you heard about the program made by the Government And Health & Human Service for helping old,young,Disable,Widow and Poor Workers?

It’s an Empowerment Program to help the people,it was Supported By The United States Of America Government and Department of Health & Human Service,i got $200,000 from them did you got yours from them,The UPS men delivered the money to my door step. I saw your name on the list with the shipping company agent ,so I thought I would see if you have gotten it. 

Yeah right. If there was such a thing, we could get a lot of homeless people off the street. Another detail, UPS men? here? in Boquete? I told her if the real Ruby wants to say hi at a gig I’ll talk but this fake one, who is conveniently out of town at the moment, she can take a hike.

Enough nonsense for today. Music time. We are working on a beautiful new song! Joel sings it so well he gives me chills.

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Panamanian Citrus

I was surprised to find a lot of citrus in this tropical country, but it seems to thrive here. Of course I was familiar with citrus from living in Florida, but it was the usual oranges, grapefruits, and some lemons and limes. Here though, there are a lot more varieties. There are juice oranges, more green and yellow than pretty orange but very good. There are “mandarinas”, fairly large and deep green, with sweet delicious orange flesh. There are grapefruits, maybe not as pretty as we are used to but really tasty.

Then there are limones (lemons), an amazing variety of limones. There are huge lemons, called “Noriegas” because of their (edible) bumpy skin. There are little key limes. There are yellow lemons that aren’t sour. There are the smallish limones with beige patches on the green skin, and very juicy and yummy orange flesh. There are others without patches and slightly lighter flesh. It seems like I’m always running across a new kind of lemon. They all have specific names but I haven’t gotten past “limón” for everything.

In our yard alone we have oranges, mandarinas, limón, and something that is fruiting for the first time after almost being killed by leaf cutter ants. The Noriega lemon I grew from seed is thriving but not fruiting yet. Right now though, the limón is flowering and it smells so sweet! It’s on the back side of the house but when the breeze blows it brings the fragrance through the yard. It still has fruit too, which I had better pick and juice to make way for the new crop.

So, this is what I am doing, sitting on the terrace enjoying the smell of limón blossoms and somewhat cooler air. I don’t know what is going on with the weather lately. I went out on my bike Tuesday afternoon and it looked like summer, clear sky, pretty clouds against the setting sun, and a headwind coming back.

Yesterday was too hot even for me. It was sunny, windy, and so hot our little AC was no match for it. My neighbor said the old people are saying summer is coming back and the old people know a lot, so it could be. Nooooo! It’s supposed to be raining, and cooler! Today was better, still hot but with cloud cover so not as bad. At least we have water 24/7, and it’s not snowing, or any number of other things I would dislike a lot more, and I can spend the hot part of the afternoon playing bass in front of a fan. Tomorrow evening we play outdoors in Boquete, which can remind me of why we live in rhis warm place 😁

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Why I Left the US

Joel alerted me to this really interesting and well written article by a woman who has lived outside the USA for 20 years.

She talks about a much better work – life balance, lack of fears of gun violence, availability of health care, education, affordable child care, retirement pension, and a government that cares for its citizens (she lived in the Caribbean and is now in southern France)

I have come to share many of the same feelings since living here in Panama. We were all taught that the US is the best country in the world (which implies that others aren’t as good). I now believe others are only different,  and maybe better in many respects. This expat experience has been eye opening and life changing for me in a good way for many reasons I have written about in the past. I hope that back in the US there will be strong efforts to reverse the divisiveness, intolerance, violence, and lack of basic needs like housing, health care, decent jobs, and quality education for too many people.


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What’s Going on?

Not much, or a lot depending on how you look at things. I’ve been back from the US for about two weeks, so the first week I needed a bit of time to recover from traveling and to reacquaint myself with the my bass guitar before the weekend gig. Our drummer had a sore shoulder and there wasn’t a lot of time so we didn’t practice though.

Then, last week we had Friday and Saturday booked, and then got a last minute call for Thursday! All three were different venues, different audiences, and different song lists so it was interesting and a lot of fun. One of the highlights was Lee, a great sax player and singer who sat in with us for a couple songs both Thursday and Friday. By Saturday night we were all tired though.

Finally this week we have practice scheduled for tomorrow (Friday) since we only have a gig on Sunday. It will be good to tighten up a few things we need to review, and get started on a bunch of new songs we have been working on individually.

So, this is retirement? All you do is play music? Umm..  well, pretty much 😁 I’m definitely not bored in retirement! I’ve been on the bike a little, not as much as I should. Our main exercise last week was loading equipment in and out of venues. I’ve been puttering in the yard a little, visiting the neighbors, and working on the computer. I’ve been doing the publicity for the band which now involves twitter, instagram, a mailing list, as well as Facebook and I’ve been trying to make some more attractive flyers.

The weather has been a bit unusual. Dry season is supposed to arrive in mid December but it rained through January. Then rainy season came a bit early, closer to the beginning of April, but as soon as it came it seemed to leave again and we were back to hot, windy, dry, sunny weather. The last few days the clouds have come back and today we had a big downpour, the I can’t hear you from the other side of the room kind of downpour (we have tin roofs here). Now it’s raining lightly and everything is dripping wet. I know, not everyone’s ideal weather but I can enjoy it from the terrace. The birds are singing everywhere so maybe they are happy too, and when the breeze blows by it brings the sweet fragrance of our flowering limón tree.

Speaking of birds, my Seattle daughter had a crazy experience. She and my little granddaughter were eating breakfast just inside the sliding glass doors to the terrace when they heard a thud outside. A dead pigeon had fallen on the deck just outside, followed by a full size bald eagle who swooped down to retrieve it! Those birds are huge, and it about scared the wits out of my granddaughter.

I know I always sound busy, but I think I’m finally starting to relax a bit, finally, after 5 1/2 years. At first we were settling in. Joel’s mother was here for the first 6 months. After she went back to the US we did more exploring of Panama and a bit of other traveling. We hosted cyclists, and I did some bike trips myself which involved quite a bit of training to get in something like decent shape. Since the grandkids have come I’ve been going back to see family more often. Then, there was the intense process of learning to play bass in a short time. But now, nothing seems a urgent. I have even discovered the pleasures of laying around in bed in the morning! Of course part of that is the late nights with the band, but part is also if I don’t feel like getting up I don’t have to. It’s a luxury I’ve never allowed myself before.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t kept up well with the blog, other correspondence, and other things I usually do – too much laying around in bed. ☺ But, I hear that is allowed at this stage of life. I am so grateful to be here!!  If I was in the US I’d still be working to survive, and no laying around allowed.

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Poison Dart Frog

I was having breakfast on the terrace and something small and blue caught my eye as it hopped across the cement.

I’ve seen these little frogs in the past, but not very often. It is said there are also red ones in the area but I haven’t seen any of them. Sorry for the less than wonderful photo but the frog was not interested in being visible and I was lucky to get this one.

There are many kinds of poison dart frogs in the world and only a few are dangerous. I wouldn’t put this one in my mouth, but it is said that it could be handled without a problem (not that I touch anything I see!). These frogs are also valued as pets. They get their toxins from the toxic insects they eat, so if you give them non toxic food they become perfectly safe to handle.

An aside…. my friend Jim in Florida was excited about these frogs and we had some interesting conversations about keeping them as pets. He was one big computer project away from early retirement, and then he was going to sail his sailboat to Panama and live his dream. He was found dead of a heart attack before he finished that last project. Live your dreams NOW whenever possible! You just never know. I will always think of him when I see a poison dart frog.

Here is a much better picture of the beautiful little frog that I found on

It’s always interesting living here in the tropics. Most of the wildlife has become more familiar so I’m not always chasing things with my camera like I used to, but it’s still fascinating. There’s an incredible variety of insects and critters, and so many birds. I wake up every morning to birds singing everywhere, and others often sing for us at night.

Green/rainy season has returned to Panama so hopefully it’s easier for everything that lives outside. It’s cooler and much more pleasant for us too.

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California Wildfires Recovery

There have been many disasters in the US and world wide, but the fires in Northern California concerned me especially since they destroyed so much of Santa Rosa where my daughter lives. She evacuated with her family in the middle of the night when they saw the nearby hills on fire. Dozens of people she knows personally lost their homes and everything they own, and a number of people lost their lives in the fires.

Photo taken by my daughter as they left their neighborhood in the early hours of Monday morning

We went to a NPR live broadcast about the recovery six months after that fateful night.

Something dramatic happens overnight and it’s in the news for days, but it soon fades behind the next stories and we forget that it takes months and years to recover from what happened so quickly.

The broadcast had four people on stage the first hour, all people who had lost their homes. One lived in a more rural area north of Santa Rosa, another in a more affluent area near Fountaingrove with his family including an autistic son, another was renting in Coffee Park with his family, an area of mostly working families that was almost completely destroyed, and the forth was a teenager who was living in a FEMA trailer with her family.

In the second hour they had officials, the mayor, the county supervisor, a woman from an organization helping with rebuilding efforts, and a man from an organization helping undocumented people survive and recover. They talked about where they were in the recovery process, their goals, and their challenges. Throughout the broadcast people could ask questions by email, phone, and in person if they were in the audience.

There was a housing shortage in Santa Rosa before the fires and housing was very expensive. Many working people like teachers and nurses workers couldn’t afford to live there. Now, after the fires destroyed 5000+ homes, of course it’s much worse. Rent for a 1000 sq ft home is $3000+ and there is very little available to buy. A house in my daughter’s block is advertised for $2800/mo which she thought was crazy expensive until she heard people at the broadcast. No wonder there has been a steady stream of people coming to see the house. There are laws limiting how much rent can be raised but they don’t apply to a property being rented for the first time, unfortunately.

The other main challenge people talked about was working with insurance. One said it’s almost a full time job, and one of the most painful things was submitting an itemized list of everything lost. Imagine if you had to list everything in your home – your table, your chairs, the sofa you chose as a family, the chinaware from grandma, your son’s favorite teddy bear, whatever your family has collected through  the years. They said it brings the pain and trauma right back front and center all over again.

And, for additional pain, many people discovered they were under insured. What exactly is “replacement cost”? Is it the cost of buying a new similar item, or what your 8 year old item is worth today? Will your insurance cover the significant cost of clearing the lot before you can even begin rebuilding? Then of course, there is a shortage of manpower and materials which drives prices up. The area needed to significantly increase the amount of housing available even before the fires, and now the need is hugely increased and it’s going to take years to build everything needed.

As for the rebuilding process today, the burned lots have been cleared. Even that was a huge job because there were toxic substances in the debris. Very few sites show the beginnings of rebuilding. My daughter said about 90 permits for building have been issued, and about 90 more have been submitted for approval. That’s not many compared to the thousands of homes burned. Many lots are also for sale by people who don’t intend to rebuild, but at this point it’s hard to know what’s a fair price for a lot. Is it high because of the housing shortage, or low because many lots are available? It will take time for it all to settle.

There are still many burned trees and plants. People waited to see if things would recover, and now that they can see what is actually dead they are starting to clear trees and plants. The wine industry is huge in the area and many vineyards burned. Some are regrowing and some are not. Then there is the marijuana industry. There aren’t many legal and permitted operations now because they are still so new in the process, and none of them burned but others who aren’t permitted did burn, and still others suffered enough smoke damage to make their crops worthless.

The ramifications of a night of fire are huge! Some houses in Fountaingrove survived but the water supply is contaminated with benzene and the whole water system needs to be replaced.

Who knows what other problems will surface as the rebuilding process moves forward. There are a lot of people working hard for the many people who need to rebuild their lives, but it’s going to be long and complicated. Looking at how difficult this is, how must it be for people in poor countries who don’t have the resources and manpower to help them?

I think this is the last of my posting about the US. I’m happy to be back in Panama where life seems so simple. Will it rain? It’s hot. It rained today so it’s pleasantly cool. What ate the flowers on the hibiscus? The dogs are barking. These are our daily problems. Mi vida difícil (palm to forehead) has become the neighborhood humor, but also reminds me to give thanks every day for our good fortune.

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