Considering a Name Change– Eudora Welty, Maybe?

I recently wrote about several run-ins with local insects and how I have a rather large aversion to those multi-legged little creatures. (See “Getting Buggy with it in Chengdu.”) As the polar opposite of a bug-lover, I thought I had said my piece and was ready to move on to something more important, or at least more adventurous. Instead, it seems that I have enraged the local minuscule critter population and now I am paying the price for it.

On Saturday, I hosted a back-to-school potluck for the consulate community. (Event planning is part of my gig as CLO. My years at Marsing Middle School, planning fundraisers and organizing the annual 8th Grade Recognition Night gave me a full party-planning toolbox!) We went with a school-theme, as it is appropriate for the time of year, but really, it was just an excuse to get together, enjoy the pool, some fun music and a medley of random dishes. (Potluck in China is hard. Desserts are the go-to dish to bring, as they are easy to come up with here. I, for one, made a cobbler from Tianshui peaches and imported Bisquick. It is the main dishes that cause a problem. No one ever really knows what to bring. In the US, I feel like a casserole would be the dish of choice. I’ve been to enough church potlucks to know that some pasta cooked in cream of something soup, mixed with shredded cheese and topped with crushed potato chips goes over well, whether the event is a holiday dinner or an after-funeral meal This may be one of the only ways you could get both Santa and Death on the same Venn diagram. The only more popular side dish may have been green Jell-O topped with shredded carrots, but gelatin of any color isn’t going to last long in mid-day heat and humidity, so that wasn’t even an option to be considered.)  Even if main dishes are a bit more difficult to whip up in Chengdu, the spread was great. We had everything from fried rice to chicken and cuscus to a noodle salad. Any afternoon that consists of full bellies and a full pool should be considered a success!

But, back to the point- the bugs have a vendetta against me.

While I was enjoying the afternoon in the sun, I unknowingly became a bit of a feast myself.  (Yes, almost real sun in Chengdu! So much so that I actually came home with the slightest sunburn around the edges of my tank top. As an extremely pasty-skinned person, I merely have to think about sunshine to turn beet red, start to peel and then return to my natural ghostly state. My point is, it doesn’t take much exposure to the giant ball of fire in the sky for me to burn, so I’m not equating Chengdu on Saturday with the tropics by any means, but this is the first bit of color I’ve had since we arrived in May. I’m claiming the weekend as a sunny one.)

The potluck may have been spread on the picnic tables, but I simultaneously served as a walking buffet for the evil that is the bug-world. I didn’t notice it at the time, as I sat chatting with colleagues and enjoying a great mix of pop music from the last three decades, but on Sunday morning, I awoke rather early, scratching my legs as I moved from the world of dreams to that of real life. As I rolled out of bed and got a glimpse of my legs in the mirror, I was horrified. I had somehow contracted the plague overnight!

My legs, the right one in particular, were covered with some serious mosquito bites and welts! The flying, blood sucking inhabitants of Chengdu mean business with their bites. Each welt was swollen, bubbling up into a disgusting puff of tight-skin encircled in red.

I’ve spent the last two days trying to think of anything but scratching my legs, while I can do nothing but rake at them with my fingernails. I know I shouldn’t scratch them, as it only makes the itch worse, but the pain of running my nails up my legs creates just enough relief that I can’t stop. (It is a good thing I was such a goody-two-shoes in school, as I apparently have no self-control!)

As someone who does not normally get eaten alive my mosquitoes (this is usually Thad’s area of expertise), one or maybe two bites is the most my legs ever see at a given time. I can only assume that this abundance of welts is payback from the insects of the city for denigrating their kind in a previous blog post. It seems my buggy little friends have a good VPN and are blog-stalking me, and then taking their revenge on my hapless, normally white but currently mottled red and pink, calves.

Take head dwellers of a world measured in millimeters. Twelve or fifteen of you itty-bitty life forms may have used me as a human smorgasbord over the weekend, but know, I will stand for this no longer. If even one tiny bug shows his face (or creepy, wiggling antennae) in my office in the near future, he will become a mere grease spot on the cover of Chengdoo Magazine.

Be warned.


Be gone.


Gettin’ Buggy With It in Chengdu

Bugs. Insects. Creepy-crawlies. Six and eight-legged sources of evil. Call them what you will, but they freak me out.

My dislike of all exoskeleton bearing creatures started at a young age. I can remember going out to my dad’s woodshop and having Velcro-bugs cling to my legs with their sticky little feet if I happened to brush up against a weed. I can’t tell you how many times I sprinted through a garden patch, hoping to avoid the flying grasshoppers that I was sure were aiming for my face. And don’t even get me started on having to mow the lawn under what my family lovingly calls “the bee tree.”  (For those with an interest in actual, real-life, even semi-scientific nomenclature, I can’t help you much. I have no idea what a Velcro-bug really is, and I only know that “the bee tree” gets little yellow flower clusters that are apparently crack for bees. The tree is basically a living, whirling mass of buzzing for weeks on end each summer.)

This dislike of all things with too many legs rears its ugly, tentacle-clad head today because in the last week I’ve had two run-ins with representatives of various species.

The first was at work on Tuesday morning. I was in my office, just doing my CLO thing (meaning answering emails from FSOs who are soon moving to Chengdu, talking about pet-shipping, schools and apartments), when I look over to see an evil, hairy little spider crawling on the wall, right next to my tea thermos. I instantly quit typing, as I don’t any movement/sound to draw his attention in my direction. After staring at him for a good minute, without moving, I decide I must end his existence. While I was staring, he was also stuck in a state of suspension, his only movement being the incessant waggling of his antennae. (Okay, I do remember enough from middle school science to know that spiders don’t have antennae, but that is what they looked like to me! To not enrage my middle school science teaching older sister, I looked up spider anatomy on Wikipedia, which tells me those creepy, wiggling appendages stuck to his head are called pedipalps. I am not sure finding this information is worth the nightmares I am sure to have after seeing so many up close and too personal pictures of arachnids. Next time, I may choose to bear the wrath of the sister instead.)

Once I broke off the staring contest, which I believe he won, but to be fair, the fact that he had numerous eyes made it a bit difficult for me to gauge when the staring contest concluded. At this point, he took off at a dead-sprint, possibly vying for a spot on the arachnid’s Olympic team. (I can only imagine their team flag would bear a bit ol’ ugly black widow in the center, with team colors being black, white and red. Creepy!)  Mr. Spider decided to use the payday calendar, the one that I have ever-so-classily taped to my wall, as a shelter while he contemplated how he could psychologically torture me for the rest of the day. (If you follow this blog with much regularity, you will see the irony in the fact that I even have a payday calendar, as I have been working for a good eight weeks and have yet to see my bank account balance rise.)

With the hairy, evil, spawn of the devil hiding behind a piece of photocopied office paper, I made a quick lunge for my keyboard, sending Thad (who works a floor below me in the consulate) an SOS instant message, asking him to come rescue me from my tormentor. The problem was, Thad’s new boss started on Monday, so it wasn’t ideal timing for him to wander away from his section on an errand of heroism. Visas need adjudicated and a new boss is patrolling the office. He was stuck and I was left to fend for myself.

I knew I needed to get some actual work done, so I figured it was time to take matters into my own hands. With a giant wad of paper towels (a bug approaching technique learned from my mother) and a canvas bag (to be used as a swatter), I rounded my desk, ready to fight.

With the first swat, I knew this little sucker had my number. I took a jab at him and he responded by jumping at me! I squawked and stumbled backwards, tripping over a chair, but gracefully remained upright. Going in for a second stab didn’t get me any closer to being the sole occupant of my office once again. Rather, he leapt at me again (I swear he was aiming for my eyes!) and then scurried into the space between my desk and the wall.

It was over. I couldn’t get to him and he knew it. So, I set aside my weapons of choice and tried to resume the task of welcoming new officers and their families to Chengdu. The only problem was, I swear I could feel that little creepster crawling up my leg all morning long. I eventually had to resort to kicking off my shoes (and putting them on the shelf behind my desk, as I didn’t dare leave them on the floor, tempting my enemy to take up a new residence) and curling my feet up under my skirt on the chair. Sitting like a school kid, hoping no one decided to drop by my office for a chat at just that moment, I resumed answering queries about the quality of Chengdu hospitals (is there a ranking below “poor?”) and the community is general (definitely an “excellent!”)

That was Tuesday. I haven’t seen my nemesis since, but I can sense he is still around. Waiting…watching…biding his time.

Now it is Saturday. I thought my bug woes were over for the week, but no such luck.

Weekend mornings are pretty calm and lazy. I am usually up early, have a bowl of coveted cereal (miniature box of Fruit Loops today), check my Facebook (cute video of my former student, Shea, at NFL training camp) and then read for a while until it is a decent time to Skype home. This morning, post cereal (which I usually eat sitting on the floor, cross-legged, in front of the coffee table so I can surf the internet), but pre-Skype, I looked down in time to witness an earwig (which must be one of the most disturbing bugs in the bug world- I don’t think even earwig moms like the sight of their earwig offspring) making his way across my living room tile, in the exact spot that my butt was occupying no less than thirty minutes before.

Well, there is no way I am going to have a repeat of the missing insect debacle. (Yes, I know, technically spiders aren’t insects! Whatever.)  But, at the same time, there is no way I am going to get near the disgusting creature and his pinchers, even with an entire roll of paper towels wadded up in my hands. So, what is one to do? I did the only thing I could do until Thad was up to rid the apartment of the creepy critter for good. I threw a Kleenex on him and then piled all four of our rubber coasters on top of him, thereby pinning him in place until the extermination crew got out of bed. (Why the Kleenex? Do you want earwig pieces parts on the coaster you set your drink on? I didn’t think so!)

I really hope my buggy week has come to an end. To be fair, both many-stemmed critters were tiny. I’ve seen much larger, more terrifying insects in our world travels, but they are usually out in nature, where they rightfully belong. These two little guys were invading *my* space, not the other way around. I fear at some point Thad will be posted in a bug-ridden country, at which point I may have to take to wearing my mosquito net as a full-time accessory. (You don’t even want to get me started on my bug stories from when I was living in the Dominican Republic!) Until then, I’m calling this week a draw:

Creepy critters: 1             Me: 1

My soon-to-be patented earwig containment unit, awaiting disposal