“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Went on a hash run this past weekend (Hash House Harriers for the uninitiated--drinkers with a running problem, runners with a drinking problem). I have been meaning to do this for a while, but just don't seem to get there! Kathy inspired me, but what a bad day to pick! It was clearish downtown, but by the time we got to the site (40mins drive outside--one reason why the hash is unpredictable, and so I don't go!) it was absolutely pouring with rain. Now, I go with the group that walks the hash. It's normally a charming stroll through the countryside, seeing some of Myanmar, and enjoying the "fresh" air (when it isn't downtown), but this time, we clutched our umbrellas desperately, shivering in the slightly cold rain.

Off we marched through the puddles and slippery mud. I was just getting to enjoy it (even catching the hand of an adorable child down one narrow path) when shreiks erupted not only from the child whose hand I'd been holding, but every other child under the age of 10, and many adults too. Everyone was madly batting at their ankles (still holding the umbrellas), and I stopped to look for what I had feared: leeches.

I'd never seen a leech before this day, having only heard stories of others' peril. Most are large, but these ones were smaller than the average garden worm, about an inch long. I had five or six around my sock line, and I swatted them away frantically, craning my neck and back every which way to look for more. The children's shreiks and cries continued, especially from the younger ones who were sobbing into their parents shoulders with their now bare legs tucked as high as possible underneath them.

We all walked a bit further to get clear of the grass. Apparently the leeches only come out (fall off?) when it rains, and if it had been dry, we would have seen nothing but green flakes from the same grass. We all did another search, up our shirts, down our pants as far as we could reach. I found a horrid one sucking contentedly on my knee that just wouldn't come off! I pulled at him, shuddering in disgust, swiped at him as I had the others, picked at him, etc, etc, but he would not budge. I became agitated, although normally I'm not squeamish when it comes to bugs, but simply the unknown was enough to unnerve me. Finally someone calmer pulled him off, but I now have a 5mm red mark on my knee.

Because I found him, and he'd crawled up my pant leg, I now batted and swiped at every stray brush on my legs. I rolled up my pants as far as they could go, and tried to forget about it (but honestly, does one ever in such situations?). We trudged on, and mostly forgot about it. That's it really... rather anticlimatic! The hash heads thought we'd gotten lost.

The correct cure, in such situations, is to put salt on the wriggler so he fizzles up (enormously satisfying, I'm sure!), but of course, we had none--you can count me weird, but I shall carry some from now on in a little pocket stash (and probably get pulled up for drugs somewhere). The macho men suggested the cigarette remedy, but since I've heard that makes the damn things regurgitate their sucked blood back into you, I'd rather not!

However, I will impound a story of an unfortunate co-worker, who in Putao (northern Myanmar) last year met with many leeches (some scratched and got awful scars), and one managed to crawl high into a guy's pants. The have some kind of anasthetic so you don't feel them there, and they suck away happily until they get so full they fall off! So this one sucked all the blood from his butt cheeks, and fell into his undies. He sat down later and SQUISH, had a nice red mark of the messy blood all over his trousers. He was proud of his first menstruation, and it was a good joke.

Needless to say, last night when I dreamed of leeches, I did not sleep peacefully, although that one had morphed into something huge and terrifying, something like a foot long that slithered across the floor, though of course, because its me and my dreams are weird, it was randomly mixed in with the rest of my life so I slept on.


Rama said...

I can't help but be reminded of that scene in "Stand By Me" when Will Wheaton finds one attached to his little boy parts. River Phoenix shaking his head sympathetically...

Natalya said...

That's me, living a movie :) though must say that's worse, not that I wasn't worrying that it could happen!