Thursday, September 03, 2020

dust gets in my eyes

This morning I thought I had awakened in Turkmenistan.

As you know, isolationist Turkmenistan is one of the last countries to claim it is coronavirus-free. A claim it shares with North Korea. But the country has suddenly adopted a number of social-distancing precautions, including what one one news agency described as "mandatory mask-wearing -- to protect against dust, rather than germs."

Whenever this area of Mexico suffers from floods, a natural cycle sets in. After the water recedes, mud needs to be shoveled from houses and into the streets. Some of the mud is collected and dumped elsewhere. But a large portion of it dries where it is piled. And when it dries, it is easily sent into the air by traffic.

That cycle has now entered the dust phase. When I drove to Melaque this morning for breakfast, the visibility on the main highway through town was noticeably diminished. I doubt the cloud that covered the Israelites in their Exodus from Egypt was less dense.

The concern about the dust is not that it will permeate almost every surface in town. After all, we live in an agricultural community where dust is simply one of the facts of life we contend with daily.

But this dust is a bit different. The mud that invaded houses and streets was also mixed with sewage that burbled into the street. In past floods, the contents of the dust has caused many people to become infected with what is not-so-pleasantly called "the Melaque Crud." Hacking coughs combined with fever and diarrhea -- suspicious symptoms in this coronavirus era.

Mask-wearing here has been a hit-or-miss affair before the flood. Mainly miss. But, on my drive, I noticed a large portion of mask-wearers, especially, those on motorcycles. Like Turkmen, they appear to be seeking protection from dust, rather from germs.

But any excuse to wear a mask is good.

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