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See Irene Run!

April 13, 2017

Do you remember – those of you who are old enough to do so – that truck that came through the neighborhood during the hot days of summer, spraying chemicals on the trees to kill bugs that wanted to eat them? Or mosquitos that wanted to eat you?

My mother would call us in the house, close the doors and windows and make us stay inside until the truck had passed and the noxious cloud had dissipated. But then we’d go out and walk barefoot on the sticky, coated leaves and grass, inhaling the pungent chemical smell that I can still conjure up in my nostrils if I try hard enough.

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Stock Photo – not mine.

My husband, Dan, remembers riding his bike behind the truck and playing in the mist.

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Woo Hoo! (Also a stock photo but pretty much the right era judging by car at left.)

Those days are over – or so I thought.

On one of our last days on Taboga, Dan & I had done our usual late afternoon stroll down to the pueblo for a cold beer or two and a visit with some friends at our favorite restaurant, Playa Honda.

On the way back, we stopped to talk with a neighbor who had just completed breast cancer treatment. She and her sister were on their front porch and we stood in the street, chatting, checking in on her health as best we could with our limited Spanish.

Continuing on, another neighbor  said hello and we stopped. It takes a while to get anywhere on Taboga because there are always people in the streets and they are more than ready to say hello. It’s one of the things we love about the island! People are not running, people are not in a hurry. There is plenty of time for the simple pleasures. And, it’s too hot to move quickly. For anything. Ever.

With one exception…

Glancing down the road back towards the pueblo, I noticed smoke billowing from one building. “Oh no!” I exclaimed. “It looks like a building is on fire,” I commented to the woman we were talking to.  She looked surprised but then something in her eyes sparked recognition. She spoke in rapid Spanish most of which I did not understand except for the word, “mosquitos.” The next thing we knew, the source of the “smoke” was visible and heading right for us.

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This was about where we were when we saw the truck heading straight for us!

An open-backed truck with two guys in the back, faces covered in dust masks, were spraying either side of the road with something white and toxic-looking. Dan yelled, “RUN!”

So much for not running or moving quickly.

I wanted to duck into a neighbor’s house, but Dan insisted that we could make it. I hadn’t run that fast in a long time – Birkenstocks slapping on the road – and honestly wasn’t sure we would make it. We booked it, warning neighbors we passed along the way. Turning right on our road, we were part way up the hill – almost to the gate – when the truck went past.

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Picture taken from the main road looking up our road. We were where the yellow umbrella is in this photo when the truck went by!

Fortunately, the wind was blowing the other way so we didn’t get hit. And we made it inside to shut doors and windows before the wind shifted. Closing our top floor windows, I saw a handful of women and children get sprayed along with the leaves, trees, and plantings they were standing next to as the truck made its return run.

I later learned that the spray was not DDT or a pesticide but a sticky substance that mucks up the insects’ wings and causes them to become incapacitated and die.  But I’m pretty sure we don’t want that on us. Because I doubt very much that there is anything “natural” about it.

I have been pleased to report to those who inquire that the mosquito situation in Panama is not a problem. At least not where we live. During the building of the canal, they had a huge problem with yellow fever and malaria and worked to eradicate mosquitos. Nowadays, if you have standing water on your property, you can be fined because this is where those little buggers like to breed. And they do inspect regularly. We have an “inspection completed” notice posted in our bathrooms by law. But this was the first time I had experienced this sort of thing. No warning, no signage – just here they come. Run!

We now know that they do pay attention to mosquito control on Taboga. For better or for worse, they are on top of it.

And, we learned that we can still run – fast – if we have to.

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One Comment
  1. mariah Rose permalink

    OMG…that sticky stuff does not sound good either…glad you wete able to make a run for it!

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