Saturday, August 15, 2009

You don't say!

So yeah, Tuesday was a rather scary evening! Thanks so much for all the kind comments – I am absolutely fine. That night, the doctor assured me there are no scorpions in Guatemala that can kill you (there are in Mexico - but apparently those ones aren't seen here), but, of course, it would have been good to know that before I was stung!

Later that evening it got even stranger - I could actually feel the poison spreading into the shoulder and then down into my chest and ribs. I worried about that - but it didn't affect my breathing. Also, about 4 hours after the sting my whole mouth went numb and my lips started to tingle (like pins & needles). I wondered whether my tongue would swell up and maybe that's why the Mayans (a few people) told me I should cut my tongue? But nothing else happened, just numbness. And no, I didn't cut my tongue with a machete! Although the night-watchman offered to do it for me - with a foot-long cutlass! Can you imagine!

I had a look on the internet to see if I could find out more about tongue-cutting for scorpion stings, but there is no mention of it. This morning I asked some Mayan friends here, and they tell me that cutting the tongue is very old-fashioned. No, you need to take a machete and bite the blade, three times, as hard as you can. Or, if you can catch the scorpion, you can cut the tail off (and throw that away carefully) and then take the liquid that comes out of the body and rub it onto the sting. Or, drink some hot, very strong, black coffee. I told them that I had drunk beer, they gave that some consideration and said yes, they thought beer was also good.

The next morning my arm just felt dead. Remember when you were a kid and someone (in my case, one of my dear brothers!) would give you a 'dead arm' by punching your shoulder? Well, it felt like that - stiff and weak. It eased off during the day - I think it was a full 24 hours before I was fine again.

That evening I was taking a coffee cup off the shelf and what should be behind it? Uh-oh! Another scorpion! I was glad that I didn't feel freaked out or scared – I’m already jumpy enough with the spiders. But I certainly have gained a healthy respect for the little bastards! I'm not walking around barefoot in the dark any more. And I'm being more careful about picking things up, etc. Not an experience I want to repeat.

Strangely, what really scared me at the time was that I would pass-out on the road. There are no street lights here (no real streets - my 'street' is a mud track) and it's pitch black at night. So if I’d passed out in the middle of the road, the chances of getting run over would have been very high. And that's what was really worrying me! Why I should be more scared of getting run-over than dying of scorpion poison, I don't know. Perhaps getting run over is an idea that my brain could more readily accept? Interesting.

Of course now people want to share their 'scorpion stories' with me: one poor chap got stung twice on the leg when he put his trousers on and found one inside. Another guy was walking barefoot through the grass and trod on one. A girl got stung on the hand, feeling around for the light switch in the dark... When I say I was stung whilst feeding the cats, a few people have said how awful that I was stung while doing a good deed! Aren't people funny!


Botogol said...

biting on a machete... now that would be another blog-post all on it's own..

M4GD said...

Catching up on blogs…I’m so so sorry you had to go through this. I hope you’re feeling better now. Please do not leave Guatemala just because of this incident. Odd things happen anywhere at any time. The old adage: ‘what does not kill you gets you stronger’ holds true. Follow your dream! Now you’re more immune. Any scorpion who dares to come close will know you’re a friend not a foe; -) I would not attempt to test this theory though: -)
Here are two poems for you by another favorite poet of mine Jane Hirshfield.
"The Envoy (by Jane Hirshfield Given Sugar, Given Salt 2001)
One day in that room, a small rat.
Two days later, a snake.

Who, seeing me enter,
whipped the long stripe of his
body under the bed,
then curled like a docile house-pet.

I don't know how either came or left.
Later, the flashlight found nothing.

For a year I watched
as something -- terror? happiness? grief? --
entered and then left my body.

Not knowing how it came in.
Not knowing how it went out.

It hung where words could not reach it.
It slept where light could not go.
Its scent was neither snake nor rat,
neither sensualist nor ascetic.

There are openings in our lives
of which we know nothing.

Through them
the belled herds travel at will,
long-legged and thirsty, covered with foreign dust."


More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another.
A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers, mitochondria, figs--all this resinous, unretractable earth."

PS Just wondering but you do not need to answer me. Are you a Red-head? I just read a NYTimes article that states recent research showed Red-heads feel more pain than others! I'm not a red-head and once I got stung by two bees and it was horrible so I cannot fathom the pain of a scorpion's sting! Once again, I’m really glad you’re safe.

outside-jane said...

Nope, not a red-head and leaving Guatemala had not even crossed my mind! :-)

Tish said...

Hi. I was just sent a link to your blog and I have to say this: I'm completely jealous of your entire life!!! Especially the traveling and swimming with shark!!
I also have a very cool picture somewhere of an emperor scorpion sat on my shoulder. But I've never been stung. I've been bitten by my pet snakes but that's about it!!