Nepal, Volunteering

Learning How to Remove Leaches

4 Comments 15 September 2008

Dhal Bhat Days – Vol 3



Snapshots from this day of the journey can be found here!

Photography from Nepalese Villages – click here!

Today I arrived at the village of Puma where I will be staying for 2 weeks. It’s pretty much what I thought it would be in my ‘prepare for the worst’ expectations. Yet I don’t know that one can ever be prepared to pull big leaches off their body.

Khadgo leading me to Puma

Khadgo leading me to Puma

We got up early in Besisharha And Khadgo went to inquire about taking a Jeep to the village of Puma – up in the mountains about 1 hour away by Jeep. “The road to Puma is very poor.” This is what Khadgo told me, and he’s Nepalese; when a Nepalese person says something is bad – then it is worse than bad in my mind. We wouldn’t even call it a drivable road in America. With all of the mud slides and rain from the previous day, he wasn’t sure if the Jeep could even make it through. He came back to me while I was eating breakfast and broke the news to me – the Jeeps can’t make it through, we would have to hike to Puma. This was ok with me for three reasons; I would have been terrified of being a passenger anyway as the ‘road’ was steep and narrow, I thought the exercise would be good for me as I love to trek, and I wasn’t in any hurry to arrive at the village due to all of my fears about being there anyway.

Unfortunately, if I had known this, I might have packed a little differently…like much, much lighter! I took my big pack and Khadgo took my other two packs with computer and camera and we took off. I loved the trekking. It was definitely challenging as I’ve never had to carry a pack that big while trekking before. Normally porters carry the bags, but I was my own porter today.

The home of my hosts in Puma

The home of my hosts in Puma

It took us 3 ½ hours to make it up the mountain to the Puma village. The last part of the hike we went through muddy/watery rice fields as a ‘short cut’. That is when it happened…the leaches. I of course didn’t know this until I took off my sandals after we arrived at my guest house. I had 3 big leaches and 2 small ones on my feet. I pretty much freaked out. They told me that there could be leaches here, and I’ve had them before, but they’ve been small, not like these big ones that were happily attached to me. I tried to stay calm, but I’m sure that the panic on my face was a give away that this is something that didn’t happen regularly in NYC to me. In NYC I just go for pedicures, the little pedicure ladies are the only ones that touch my feet – not leaches.

Khadgo quickly took his chewing tobacco (unused) and put it on the leaches and then he pulled them off. See, I learned something today – if you want to remove a leach, have chewing tobacco, they come off much easier and less painfully than pulling them off. Apparently salt and lemon also work. Tuck that info in your survival handbook just in case you find yourself in a similar situation. After they were pulled off blood started gushing everywhere…those little suckers work fast. Seriously, I’ve never had something bleed so much before. It’s worse than nicking yourself shaving – it’s like they drill into a vein or something! We cleaned it off with water that is undrinkable for me, and the situation was handled.

The walk to my outhouse

The house that I was staying in was big in village terms. But for those of you out there reading this, it wouldn’t be a house to you, so don’t get some vision that it has 2 bathrooms, carpeting, and a living room. Instead it is a concrete/mud structure with a porch that you sit on, an outdoor fire pit and an indoor fire pit (2 kitchens…practically a mansion) and an upstairs room where the family sleeps. It has electricity, but no plumbing. The women fetch water from the many waterfalls around the village. The ‘bathroom’ is an outhouse with a squat toilet and a bucket of water. Overall, there were no big surprises to me, until I went into the outhouse and saw the HUGE spider that is also in the outhouse. There’s nothing better than doing your business in the dark a huge spider to jump on you. Can I just give up now?

Trust me – I did consider giving up…but there was no real way to do that either…so I had to survive and go on.

My room above the buffalos

My room above the buffalos

My room is not in the main house, in fact I have a little room all to myself just off of the house; over the cow stable. Can you imagine the smell? It also has a host of spiders in it, after all, it is a barn. I’ve tried my best to make peace with all of the spiders; they have their space and I have mine. Hopefully we won’t intrude on each others space; .at least I pray that’s the case. The room isn’t too bad, you get used to the smell and honestly it’s about what I was expecting. Yet when I woke up in the middle of the night and heard the rats, I started wearing ear plugs after that.

What I wasn’t expecting is that there is no one here to speak English with at all. According to my volunteer company, there was supposed to be a man that lived in the village that is to be my ‘contact’. A person that can speak some English and looks in on me, answers questions, is my contact back to the modern world, etc. However, I got here today and we found out that his father-in-law has taken ill so he is away and no one knows when he will be back.

My Spider...I won't miss her...

My Spider...I won't miss her...

After depositing me with my ‘host family’ Khadgo had to leave me. So here I am – all alone with no way to communicate. When Khadgo left I had to fight back tears as I really felt like I was being abandoned. Sure the woman and her mother that I would be living with seemed nice for the 5 minutes I spent with them, but they didn’t speak English and I was all alone up here on the hill – 3 ½ hrs from any sort of civilization. I felt like I was about 7 years old again; completely helpless. Before he departed, Khadgo said that if there is an emergency that I can call on the family’s cell phone. I talked myself out of the tears, I had to. My image of myself was coming crashing down, and I couldn’t let it plummet any further; I couldn’t give up, that’s not who I am.

Before Khadgo left, he took me on a quick walk around the village where we went to go see the school. The school is very minimal and there are about 20 children in all. The principle at the school speaks minimal English and the other two teachers speak even less. I’m not at all clear on how the school operates and what and when they want me to teach, but that’s my cross to bear tomorrow. Today was just for learning how to remove leaches…one day at a time, one day at a time.

Your Comments

4 Comments so far

  1. sparky says:

    I remember asking you about leeches before I left for Vietnam and you said “oh, no worries, you just pull them off”. So no sympathy there. But being totally alone in a village with only sign language to communicate is definitely character building. You do feel like a little kid again. Realize though how interested everyone is in communicating with you and how sincere their intentions are. As long as you have a spider over your head and a cow in the basement, then you’re OK.

  2. Hi Sherry! I just read this post and I’m so glad I did. You see, I’m arachnophobic and when you mentioned that the ‘outhouse’ had this HUGE spider, I freaked out reading. I’ve been to similar situations but I’m sure the spiders I’ve encountered weren’t as huge as the one you mentioned. And when you said your room had a “host of spiders”, that also freaked me out. But I’m trying to learn from what you did because I know I will encounter a similar situation in the future. I’m sure it will take more than courage for me to survive (after all, it’s a phobia) but thank you for somehow showing that you can survive by just..leaving them alone. My question is, were those spiders…”deadly” or were you informed beforehand that the spiders in the area pretty much didn’t need human flesh? Apart from hating the way spiders look, I’m also scared that they might bite me and leave a part of my body paralyzed, etc. Thanks!

    • Sherry says:

      No – the spiders were not deadly – and I really did learn that they really wanted nothing to do with me. We each had our space adn that was fine. Plus – for the one in the outhouse – I gave it a name and would talk to it when I went into the outhouse. It would mainly be there at certain times of the day. It made the whole thing less intimidating by naming it and giving it a bit of a personality!

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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