Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Biting insects, with photos - Thailand

Fucking insects/0
Are you obsessed with mosquitos? In this post I'll give you a reason to be glad you haven't come across something worse than that. Maybe even to start liking them a bit. You don't believe me? Hold on a second, read the rest of the post before you start making fun of me.

- Let's start with the chapter on sleep.
I'm not a very demanding person when it comes to looking for a room to spend a night at. At least when I am on a pleasure trip, especially if I am touring a developing country. I think it doesn't make much sense expecting rich-country standards in a place that is not actually rich.
The only phobia, nightmare, paranoia that makes me clench my teeth and shut my eyes tight for a few minutes after lying down has a slightly funny name: bedbugs! In the west we have nearly got rid of them when we used to lightheartedly spray the content of an entire can of DDT to kill a fly. After this extremely toxic product was banned, so that we didn't get rid of a few million human beings along with the parasites, in some areas the problem has started to emerge again.
Bedbugs then.
They are really similar to the green bugs I used to torture when I was a child, the ones that have their revenge for being squashed by emitting a very unpleasant smell (we complain for a little stench but we should keep in mind that the poor ones have to die in order to ooze the stinking fluid). The specimens I'm talking about are much smaller though, just a few millimeters long, of a color that ranges from brick-red to brown, depending on how much blood they have inside. Someone else's blood, I mean. As a matter of fact these tiny bastards are parasites and in order to leisurely feast on your red blood cells they inject a dose of anesthetic that, on the most sensitive subjects (raising my hand here), will cause some swollen spots, red and very itchy. Unlike mosquito bites the effect of these ones can last up to a week or longer, with an intensity that can subside for a little while, making you think it's finally over, to increase again provoking violent fits of hysteria, along with blasphemous outburst rather bold and creative. 
These tiny pieces of shit adopt extremely elaborate and effective guerrilla tactics. They hide among mattresses springs and cracks in the furniture. They can survive for months without feeding and they don't leave their hiding places before the victim is asleep (probably guided by the sequence of his movements). Then then bravest and hungriest one comes out of her lair, walks on the beddings and your skin looking for the most favorable area and, when she's satisfied, she stings you in various points, on a fairly straight line, sucking till she's full, and finally gets back to her safe place. You feel it, of course, but you are still half asleep, so you scratch your skin, thinking it's only a mosquito and go back to sleep, but in the meanwhile another one has come out of their trench. If the infestation is very serious this parade can go on for hours. Well, if you understand what that is really about it's better for you to give up the idea of sleeping on that bed, get up, put your bags in a safer place and start going thoroughly through them. Because that's exactly the way they spread: jumping from a bed to a backpack and then to another bed. Therefore, unless you want to take them with you forever, you need to hunt them under the folded edges of your bag, on the zips, under the seams of your cloths. A nightmare. A sleepless night guaranteed.

- The beach chapter.
You are sprawled on the beach, the sea is almost flat, the swish of the surf tickling the shore-line is a perfect lullaby for your siesta, everything is perfect. Almost everything. Ouch! Damn painful! And then there is the itch, the red spot swelling and going down for a week, pretty much the same sequence followed by bedbug bites.
It's those damned sandflies. Unlike their mattress abiding cousin these ones will only bite you once, before taking off, satiated, towards the leaves of a palm tree, unless they get squashed on the ankles of their enraged victims. 

- Last but not least, the seawater chapter.
Phayam island, Andaman Sea. Beaten by the heat you stand up and slowly make your way to the sea. You enter the water with your feet, it's just a little cool, the perfect temperature to take a swim. You keep going and when the water level reaches your knees someone pinches your calf: who was it? There is no one here. Maybe it was just a tangled hair, your skin reacting to the temperature change, or you just imagined it all…who knows. When you're in waist deep you feel another pinch on your thigh, then it's your groin turn: this is a thin-skin area, extremely sensitive. Damn it, how painful! You look carefully at the water, but you can't see anything moving down there. You ask your friend whether he's experiencing the same problem, just to make sure you haven't gone insane. You don't even need to wait for his answer: you can read the effects of the torture he's suffering right on his face. Alright, at least you haven't gone nuts, but there is not too much time to rejoice about that. One more second and the water-ghost reaches for your balls with two fingers and pulls. What the fuck, that's it! Let's get out of here. You turn around and make for the shore-line with a goose-step. When you feel another bite you start rushing like a triple jump champion. You reach the shore with a dive in reverse, from water to land that is. Safe and sound, thank god. Never again in there: the brownish and smelly shower-water of the fetid bungalow is much better to freshen up.
Later on I overhear a French guy talking about the same thing with two German tourists. When the couple leaves I approach him and ask him what that is all about. 
"At first someone told me that there are some micro jellyfish in this bay…"
"Micro jellyfish???"
"Right, I also thought that was bullshit, so I asked someone else."
"And???"
"Plankton, of a particular species. It will attack you because your body is warmer than the water."

It's an evocative image. I start daydreaming and see myself back at the shore, while I put a hand in the water and then pull it out to touch my balls. It would be a twice-useless operation though: as a talismanic gesture (strange as it may seem, we do that in Italy, but I doubt that the plankton would give a damn about our propitiatory rituals) as well as a scientific experiment. I don't need such a test to understand why they pinched my scrotum. 

The Frenchman keeps talking, a natural born comedian: assisted by the accent that strokes his English. 
"Well, sandflies, bedbugs, even the torturing-plankton…a journey to Asia can help you to appreciate our good old mosquitos, once you're back to Europe."
I told you I would do that…actually I let the Frenchman do it.

More pictures below:
Fucking insects/1
Fucking insects/2
Fucking insects/3 (and I'm not talking about the fly here...)
Fucking insect/4
Fucking insects/5

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