We knew that when we came here we would be leaving the temperate (read: bitterly cold) climate of western Canada and would be arriving in a tropical (read: hot and humid) climate of Davao City. Of course, going along with the change in climate come changes in the wildlife endemic to the region. Some of that wildlife is quite fascinating. The aquatic life is like you see in diving videos and those really crazy expensive hard to maintain salt water aquariums back in Canada - bright colors, beautiful designs, huge variety. I have had the opportunity to be chased by a couple of the largest clownfish I have ever seen. They were defending their home, which they felt I was getting too close to. I have fed parrotfish right out of my hand while snorkeling. I have poked myself with a sea urchin and had starfish clinging to my hands. Pretty cool stuff. Others are a bit more mundane, but still different than I am used to. Water buffalo, stray dogs, geckos, rats.
And then there is the insect population here. For those of you who may not be aware of it, I don't like bugs all that much. Most I can put up with as long as I know that I can simply step on them. They are a nuisance, but not too bad. Some bugs though, I cannot stand. Mainly spiders. I'm not sure where my hatred of spiders came from, but I think it has something to do with watching the movie Arachnophobia when I was a kid. Since then I have hated to see a spider or to even know that spiders are around. So of course, coming here I had to come to terms with the fact that not only would there be spiders, but they would probably be a bit bigger than I was used to.
I am happy to report that up to this point I have not come across any big spiders. I have heard stories of ones that others have seen. Ones big enough to carry off a small water buffalo. Ones with legs longer than my arm span. Ones that are so quick that you hardly see them until they are close enough to leap at you and sink their big long fangs into your neck. Okay, I am going to give myself nightmares. As you can imagine, I really appreciate hearing all these stories (insert sarcasm here) and feel so much better knowing that they are harmless (Yeah, I believe that! They are just waiting for me to drift off to sleep so they can leap out and sink their big long fangs into...okay I really need to stop that).
However, there is one thing that I have noticed about the spiders here. They jump. I don't mean they hop a bit. I mean that when you try to squish them they are able to leap out of the way, preserving their sorry little spider life. It's almost like they have this ability to see the future and they already know that there is a shoe hurtling through space on a collision course with them. They then have the ability to slow down the passage of time around themselves in order to gather their strength to make a tremendous leap out of the way. And it seems that all spiders there are able to do this, whether big or small. They can all jump.
Well, in addition to the spiders there are several other types of bugs which have become an ongoing frustration to me. One of those is ants. Apparently there are 400 species of ants in the Philippines (I have no idea how they would have figured that out, or why they would bother). I think that about 398 species live in our yard, and the other two prefer to stay inside our house out of the elements. Now I don't fear ants like I fear spiders, but I still don't want them in my house. We have two main types that I am constantly battling to keep out. The first is the normal reddish type. These aren't usually a big deal. I try to be diligent to spray around the doors with bug killer to keep them from coming in. Every so often they like to show up and let me know that I have been too lax in doing that. Not a big problem though.
The other kind are the little tiny ones. These are the smallest ants I have ever seen. They are about 1/10 the size of a typical ant, and they seem to appear out of nowhere. They like to hang around the kitchen, waiting for one of us to be foolish enough to leave some food out. They aren't too particular. They appear to eat just about anything. Leave a few bread crumbs on the cutting board, ants. Leave some food on a plate from supper, ants. Forget to tightly close a container, ants. They are very frustrating, but because of their size they don't move very fast, so it is easy to clean up a whole trail of them with a paper towel.
In addition to the ants we also have another type of bug that likes to be inside our house. I don't know what they are, but they look like a really small beetle. Unfortunately it was kind of my fault that they are in the house. Let me explain. When we moved in our landlord had left a bed frame in the master bedroom. We certainly appreciated that so we didn't have to go out and buy one. Unfortunately the section on which the mattress rests is a woven material, and over the years it had stretched out a bit. Okay, a lot. So every night it would feel like we were sleeping on the side of a hill. Imagine sleeping in a hammock with your spouse. That is kind of the way it felt. It's not that I don't like to cuddle with Kerri, but I like a bit of space too. So after waking up day after day with a sore back and neck (from sleeping all night trying to roll myself uphill) I decided it was time to do something about it.
Now, back in Canada we had a great bed. It was the most comfortable, supportive, amazing bed in the history of sleep systems. We had gotten it from IKEA. It consisted of a polyurethane foam mattress and a bed base instead of a box spring. It was so amazing that had we had an IKEA here that would have been our first purchase. But alas, no IKEA. Or anything really close to it. So we got a foam mattress, which is actually pretty good. I figured that being kind of a handy guy, that I could build some kind of bed base like we had before. I figured that all I would need would be a couple of good supportive 2x4's for a frame and some thinner slats for the mattress to rest on. So I went down to the neighborhood Home Depot equivalent, a store which advertises lumber for sale. Their selection was a bit smaller than I was expecting, but I found some bundles of split bamboo that I thought would work quite nicely (and it was cheap!). So I came home with a bunch of bamboo and some 1.5" nails. I cut the bamboo with my saw (a hacksaw) and then proceeded to nail it all together. I found my tools a bit lacking compared to what I was accustomed to, but I got it done.
Fast forward a month or so. I began to notice that there was a lot of dust in our room, especially under the bed. I didn't give it too much thought at the time. It continued for a while and I thought that I should investigate. I checked under the bed and found little piles of sawdust on the bed frame. Then I noticed these tiny little brown beetle type bugs. I put two and two together and figured out what had happened. You may recall from a previous blog that we had gotten bamboo furniture for our house, which I was encouraged to douse in diesel fuel and let sit for a couple days before bringing into the house. I knew that was to prevent bugs from eating the bamboo. It never occurred to me that it might be a good idea to do the same with the bamboo I was using for the bed. Oops. So now I am fighting an ongoing battle with these dumb little beetles. I spray them with bug killer, they die, they are gone for a few days, then they come back. I think I might have to break down and take apart the bed and diesel it. The beetles need to go.
In addition to these, we also have mosquitoes. Again, these are not like Canadian mosquitoes, even Winnipeg-summertime mosquitoes. The ones here are tiny, so you don't even feel them bite you. They are hard to see and harder to kill because they are very quick. And, unlike the ones I am used to that will bite you, sit there while they drink their fill, then proceed to fly away to have babies, the ones here bite you, drink a bit, bite you again in a different spot, drink a bit more, bite you again, laugh at you for a while, then bite you again just because they can. Just today I got bitten by the same mosquito 4 times before I managed to kill it. Aargh!
Add in cockroaches (which we rarely have in our house thankfully!), wasps, flies, centipedes, and these little bug things that like to collect bits of grass which they then stick to themselves until they look like little porcupines, and you have lots of slapping, squishing and spraying going on here. The joys of the tropics!
P.S. I was going to try to get pictures of some of these bugs to post here, but would rather just squish the bugs when I see them than go search for the camera. Sorry! Maybe later...