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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 11.6724, 105.425
At Wat Opot I have a room to myself now, but quickly found out that I am not alone in it. Because we live in such a warm/hot climate here in Cambodia, there are many other beings (who far outnumber us) who like to live here too. The potential conflict is that they don't respect a human's desire for doors or boundaries. When another volunteer left, I was offered her room for more privacy, so I moved in. Two frogs were the first things I saw that I thought should be moved; I really didn't want them nesting or pooping in my clothing. One was nestling on the inside of the window; the other was hiding in plain sight, right on top of the electrical outlet. I didn't even try to move him. They are well camouflaged; it was hard to see either of those frogs unless you were really looking! Melinda, the volunteer coordinator at Wat Opot and all around Girl Friday, tried to pick up the one sitting inside the window; first he peed all over, and then jumped, not outside as I had hoped, but further into the room. And this morning as I was getting dressed, I spied a frog comfortably hanging vertically on one of my shirts. These little frogs enjoy sitting inside our fans, making it important to look carefully at any fan before turning it on. Once I surprised a little one hiding between my small backpack and an extra mattress in my room. They can be anywhere! In the bathrooms are other key places to search for frogs; one little tan frog likes to hide behind the toilet paper, totally unseen until the tp is used; another sits just behind the shower head, absolutely hidden until you take the shower head down. Okay, they were here first. I don't even try to move or discourage any of them anymore. I reason that they eat mosquitos, so I made my peace with the frogs. I have just learned to always look before I touch or move anything, anywhere, a very good habit to practice in many environments, not just this one.
There are also geckos here. I happen to enjoy small geckos and lizards; I find them beautiful, funny, delightfully agile, and entertaining to watch. They run so quickly that it is a delight to guess where they will go next. I had a gecko living with me in Thailand too; it was a friendly sort, but would run under the closet when I got too close. The geckos here are slightly bigger, but just as fast. Every morning I have to sweep out their droppings from beneath the bed, but that's no trouble at all; they are really low-maintenance roommates. Geckos also eat mosquitos and bugs, so I am happy to have several geckos living with me.
Now for the spiders. I have never liked or enjoyed spiders of any size; I don't even like to look at pictures of them. The spiders here are quite large, about six or seven inches in diameter. They are truly shy, but I still do not like seeing them when I come into my room at night. The first one I saw lived in one of the bathroom sinks. This was disturbing, until I realized I could just blow at him and he would scamper away. But then I began seeing those big spiders in my room. The first one I saw was halfway up one of the walls, which I didn't like at all. Fairly close was a gecko, so I thought maybe the gecko would eat it. Neither moved while I watched, so I went to get a broom to encourage them to go up and over the wall into Melinda's room; this was my plan. When I returned with the broom, both spider and gecko were nowhere in sight. I looked everywhere, but could not find either. Had they gone into Melinda's room? I'll never know. The next night when I turned on the light in my room there was another spider, or maybe the same one, right under the foot of my bed. No, I told him; that won't do at all. So again I went to get a broom. When I returned he had run further under my bed, so I pushed the broom gently at him. I didn't want to kill him, just to get him to move further away. Again he ran up the wall towards Melinda's room. At least he was high enough not to really bother me now; I sleep under a mosquito net.
When I woke up the next morning there was the spider looking at me, right outside the mosquito net, across from my face. I stifled a scream, jumped out of bed, and this time I tried to smash him! He quickly ran away, escaping my surprised wrath. And one afternoon there was the spider who was climbing up the back of the chair in my room. This was completely unacceptable! I banged the chair on the floor, sending the poor spider racing under the bed. He was probably just trying to be friendly, but I do not want spiders climbing up behind me while I am reading or typing on the computer! The result of seeing and living with all these spiders is that I am no longer as afraid of them as I was; I still would probably have a heart attack if one ever touched me, but now I can go in my room and look to see where they are, and not ask someone else to go in and kill the poor things. You are probably familiar with the "Where's Waldo?" books; this is a real life "where's the spider?"
Other beings, not so benign, also live near us here on the edge of Wat Opot's property. There are poisonous snakes, and scorpions, and I don't know what else. The first snake I saw reminded me of the garter snakes back home in Maine, except it didn't have any stripes. It was green, maybe three feet long, and slithered right across the path we all take to get to the volunteer dorm; I was the only one who saw it, and, at that time, I did not think about its probably being poisonous. I didn't even tell anyone about seeing it. And then yesterday evening before dinner, a green snake came right up on the porch of our building, attempting to eat a gecko. I did not see this one, but Melinda did, and said the gecko ran into Wayne's room and the snake followed right in, sliding under the doorsill. Oh, this is very uncomfortable, as we all walk around here in flipflops, and I, at least, walk in the dark under only moon or starlight, plus make very dark trips in the night to the bathroom. As of last night, I now use a flashlight when it's dark, and everyone sits in the kitchen to talk instead of sitting outside on the porch. The snake has ruined our false sense of security, which is probably a very beneficial thing. It is always good to be aware when you are the minority species, and sharing living space with creatures who truly dominate the earth.
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