Monday, 20 December 2010

Poya Day, Lunch and Mosquitoes

Today, Monday 20th December 2010, is a Poya Day - a Full Moon day. You wouldn't know it - last night was very grey and overcast so there was no moon to be seen, but I'll take their word for it. It means today's a holiday for many workers, Buddhist or otherwise. The supermarket might be open but precious little else.

In practical terms, getting lunch will be tricky because all the little food places in town will be closed. I hesitate to call them caf├ęs or restaurants because they're not that up-market. In fact you wouldn't want to be seen dead in most of them if they were in the West. I'd like to say that appearances are deceptive; that the hygiene standards are way better than they look, but, if I said that, I'd be lying.  I've been lucky: even in these tired, dingy and somewhat dirty places, and with water from the taps and out of hand-washed (no detergent) glasses, I've managed to survive without any stomach problems. So far. Touch wood. So perhaps the standards really are better than they appear or I have a particularly good constitution. Either way, today I'll get my 'rice packet' from the only place serving them - a place that I only ever go into at a pinch because it's more scruffy, dingy and dirty-looking than the usual places, and is unquestionably populated by more than its fair share of flies. Nice, it is not!

Talking of flies: mosquitoes. Damned mosquitoes!  The ones here are different from the ones in India - they are smaller and faster and almost impossible to see and swat. I wonder if the business of being smaller is an evolutionary thing - it's more breezy here by the coast so if you're small and fast perhaps you can avoid being blown off your prey... Doesn't quite explain the monster cockroaches that are around, but anyway... The mosquitoes are a bit slower when blood-satiated so they're easier to whack, but of course, by then, they are my-blood-satiated so it's a bit late to teach them a lesson. In my room I keep a can of Mortein 'Mosquito and Fly Killer' at my side, and keep the fly-screen doors shut. I suspect that the house-keeper (who cleans my room and makes my bed once a week. What luxury!) keeps the doors open while she's in here and then blasts the place with my can of spray - it's always noticeably emptier after room-cleaning days. Not that it makes any difference to the mosquitoes. They're immune to this stuff unless you actually drown them in it.

I've used those electric plug-in devices which, like the spray, permeate the air with chemicals, but all they do is give me a headache and do nothing to the flies.  Then there are the smouldering coil things which probably also contain nasty carcinogens. They certainly stink the place out for days on end - the smoke is enough to dissuade me from staying in the room, let alone the flies.

When I was little there used to be those rolls of fly-paper which you could get and dangle from a nail or light fitting. They were covered in sticky goo so were not too nice when wrapped around your head, as inevitably happened to children, and particularly unpleasant when fly-coated. But that's the point - they were fly coated! Somehow flies were drawn to them, got stuck, and died a miserable, lingering death. Perfect!  Trouble is, no one here's heard of them so that's a non-starter.


What I've found does work is Citronella Oil. You dab it onto exposed skin and the smell keeps the mosquitoes away. It's quite strong stuff and so some people mix it with olive oil to thin it a little. I don't do that because I'm too lazy to track down a suitable container. I use it neat, and, fortunately, it doesn't seem to have damaged my skin that I notice. You need to reapply it every few hours which is a bit of a nuisance, but it's cheap and doesn't smell too bad.  Spray or lotion with 'Deet' in it is the other thing that works, but I haven't found that in the local shops, and the stuff in the UK is quite expensive and short-lasting.

I could have a net above my bed but I haven't done that. And anyway, if I'm in the room writing this blog, reading or surfing the Internet, I don't want to do it under a breeze-sapping net.  The mosquitoes around here are not the malaria-bearing ones. They're probably the dengue-fever-bearing ones but I'm hoping that's not quite as bad. Do I take any prophylactic medicines? Nope - being here for such a long time, I wouldn't want to fill my body with such chemical nasties. I'll be doing quite enough of that when I eat my mouth-numbingly-spicy rice 'n' curry this lunchtime!

R-i-g-h-t! Time for a shower, shave, and then breakfast...



Later: Maybe you'll be pleased to hear that I decided to go further afield for lunch and managed to get a 'lunch packet' made in front of my eyes and in fairly wholesome conditions :)

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