If you like National Geographic like me, you’ve probably seen all kinds of bugs and critters from around the world. There’s the amazing Coconut Crab from the South Pacific … and the giant centipedes from the Dominican Republic. And who doesn’t love the prospect of driving over migrating red crabs on Christmas Island? Let’s all give one big collective shudder .. right … NOW!
|Ewww .... just ewww!|
|Gecarcoidea natalis 120 MILLION of these guys live on Christmas Island!|
My dad took SCUBA diving lessons at our house in Manila. Our house was nominated as the class location because we had a pool. On the first day of class, I overheard the instructor informing the group that there were 39 species of man-eating sharks in the entire world. And every one of those species could be found in seas around the Philippines. I seem to remember half the class getting up and leaving, but I may be mistaken.
|"Who you lookin' at?"|
At night groups of Bufo toads would congregate in our back yard. According to our gardener, these toads would emit some kind of neurotoxin when they were threatened. Letting our miniature schnauzers out at night became tricky, as they thought the toads were little doggy appetizers. The first time Sheba got hold of one, we feared for her life and waited for her to collapse into seizures. For some reason though, the toxin didn’t bother her. Then again, Sheba had a cast iron stomach and could eat broken glass and rocks without batting an eyelash. It became a daily occurrence with her, and we knew she had gotten into a tangle with one of these guys when she came inside with her beard covered in slime. (Gee I hope no one is eating breakfast right about now!)
|The dreaded and feared Filipino Giant Shower Cockroach (shown actual size!)|
The tile in my bathroom shower was speckled brown and beige. You know, that attractive 1970’s faux-marble stuff that matched perfectly with the lime-green shag carpet and the harvest gold appliances? I remember the first time I had an encounter with a creature in there. I might add at this point that I am almost legally blind, nearsighted to the point of wearing coke-bottle-bottom glasses. One time I got into the shower, not really paying attention to anything other than the task at hand, when I noticed out of the corner of my (nearly useless) eye, one of the brown speckles in the tile starting to skitter across the wall. I leaped out of the shower faster than you could say “Filipino monster-sized cockroach”.
The commode in my bathroom was strategically placed so that a person who might be using said commode could observe a small hole in the floor between the wall and the baseboard. On many occasions one could see a pair of antennae peeking out said hole, as if the owner of the antennae was casing the joint. If the antennaed creature sensed the presence of a human being, he would quickly retract his feelers. It was quite unnerving, seeing as you were somewhat trapped in this position, and unable to bolt if Mr. Cockroach decided to make a run for it.
But the “pièce de resistance” critter experience came when I enrolled in English horseback riding lessons at the stable down the street. (Never knew what a "gymkhana" was until I was forced to participate in one!) My mom kitted me out in the most fashionable jodhpurs and leather boots. The leather boots were extremely tight (as they should be) and required a pair of “boot pullers” that attached to flaps inside the boot to get them on. Once the boots were on, however, it required the help of another person to get them off. (I think you can see where this is going!)
One afternoon, I was dressing for my lesson. With great difficulty I pulled on my boots. Immediately I felt something squiggling in the foot of one boot. It took me about a nanosecond to realize what it was, and yet another nanosecond to realize that I couldn’t get this boot off by myself. I hopped screaming through the house trying to find someone to get me out of my predicament, the poor creature being crushed by my foot squiggling more and more frantically by the moment.. The more I jumped and screamed, the more he squiggled. We were both trapped by each other’s mortal fear. Me: a giant cockroach, he: a giant human foot. My mom finally appeared, thinking I was being attacked by Godzilla himself (I may as well have been!) and after several unfruitful tugs, got the boot off. The cockroach fell out of the boot and skittered away, probably to tell his gazillion relatives living in my shower about his brush with death.
|"The big foot .. it was THIS BIG! I thought I was a goner!"|
And I don’t care, Mom, that I am 500 times bigger than they are. I still hate them and will run 1000 miles out of my way to avoid them. At least the bugs in the states are not Godzilla-sized as they are in the Philippines!