One would think that at this point in life I would have become a bit more blasé and less squeamish about creepy, crawly things. Actually, I never realized I was such a whimp until spending some time here. Having traveled throughout the south Pacific many, many times throughout the past 20+ years, I felt pretty confident about handling myself during my 27-month stay in Vanuatu. After all, how different could this island be from all the other islands that Frank and I loved so much?
First of all, I feel compelled to tell you that according to officials here, there are no poisonous spiders or snakes in Vanuatu. I have to admit that I was glad to hear that. Through my earlier travels, I had seen lots of lizards and geckos, swarms of mosquitoes and sand fleas, sharks/sharks and more sharks, and here and there a few large cockroaches and other insects or spiders. However, I was TOTALLY unprepared for the things that seem to surround…or even taunt me on a daily basis! OK, maybe taunt is a bit strong, but I gotta tell you that sometimes I feel like that is exactly what is happening, so let me explain:
Although I do not know the official name for it, I have been invaded by extremely huge brown spiders. These things have bodies about the size of a spool of thread and a leg span larger than my hand span. I am absolutely not exaggerating! I was introduced to these critters on my first night in Vanuatu when we arrived at our staging facility. I went into the showers and there was one of these things on the wall. I stifled a scream and ran out of the showers. However, there was nobody around to chase it away or kill it, and it was too high up on the wall for me to reach. So after getting my breath back, I crept back into the shower room and showered as quickly as humanly possible and ran back outside. (The spider was still on the wall where I first saw it.) Well, that was just the beginning. Within the last two weeks, these things have taken over my apartment. One evening I was sitting in a chair reading when out of the corner of my eye I spotted something large and brown racing across the floor. OMG – this was definitely the largest spider I’ve ever seen in my entire life. It was actually larger than a tarantula. I grabbed a can of bug spray and took aim with deadly force. After 3 large clouds of insecticide, it fell still. I then got close enough to drop my flip-flop on it. After a few minutes, I grabbed a Kleenex and reached down to pick it up so that I could flush it away when it suddenly flipped itself over. At this point, the screams and tears took over. I sprayed it some more and slapped my flip-flop on it even harder. This time it was actually dead. It was so large that I scraped it up with a spatula. Since that time, I’ve seen countless others – including one perched right on my pillow just as I was about to turn in for the night. I spent that night sleeping in a chair. Then yesterday evening, I reached to put my key in the lock when one of them ran across the door and doorknob. Honestly, every bit of strength left my legs and my knees began to buckle. I’m not sure what I’m going to do.
The other thing I’m dealing with are leeches – yes leeches! The only time I’ve ever seen a leech was in the movie “The African Queen”. As it turns out, there are terrestrial leeches, and they too have decided to invade my apartment. These things aren’t scary, but they are disgusting, and I flush on average 5-10 every evening.
I’ve also been battling very large red worms that move across the floor and up the walls. In addition, there are also miniscule black things that look and feel like grains of pepper that come out of nowhere and crawl down your back or down your bra. It makes for a pretty lively dance.
Add to that some other kind of flying insect that aims directly for your face or eyes. I don’t think it bites, but sometimes I kill about 50 of them in an evening.
One thing I forgot to consider about all my visits throughout the Pacific was that the resorts we stayed at regularly sprayed to control creepy crawlers. Needless to say, that is not the case here. I keep reminding myself that I’m basically living in a jungle that has been converted into a neighborhood of sorts – and that Vanuatu has no ongoing insect control anywhere in the country. Everything here is grown without pesticides or herbicides, which is a wonderful thing, but that also means that pretty much everything flying or crawling thrives and grows very big!!
In all honesty, this aspect of my stay here is one of the most challenging things for me. Which is pretty darned silly when you think of it – so that just goes to show that I really am just a whimp and I will have to get a whole lot braver and more stoic to ensure that I don’t have a breakdown caused by these spiders!!