Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cockies & mossies & snakes, oh my!

One thing I’ve noticed about Australians overall is that along with being very friendly, they are quite a helpful bunch. In fact, they may be a bit too helpful.
For those of you who don’t know my big secret … I have a teeny-tiny fear of spiders. OK, perhaps I’m understating my virtually paralysing mortal fear. Anyway, what better way to confront a fear of spiders than go to the country that has the highest number of deadly spiders in the world!?!
When I first got here I fell into the habit of casually dropping the spider topic into almost every conversation that I had. Perhaps I wanted people to allay my fears … it didn’t turn out that way. I must say that most people start out with good intentions, by saying things like “No worries” & “They’re really not that bad”. However, it more often than not devolved into me being told in great detail about what types of spiders will be waiting for me in my shoes in the morning. In fact one of my co-workers kindly placed a copy of a life-size full-colour detailed chart of the most dangerous Australian spiders on my desk. I must admit to almost running screaming from the building as I laid eyes on all the creepy creatures in their full glory taking over my workspace. Once I replaced my heart into its proper position, I actually had a look. There were 3 levels (I’m paraphrasing a bit):
1) Big nasties who are “friendly”, but I hear their bites will really hurt.
2) Poisonous, really dangerous spiders.
3) The world’s most dangerous spiders that will hunt you & your family down

I have now put this chart on our fridge at home for quick identification purposes. It still makes my pulse leap a bit when I catch a glance out of the corner of my eye! Here’s a copy if you’re interested:

Now I thought spiders would be my main concern … again I was wrong. While almost universally Australian love to talk about their spiders, they also all seem to have other favourite creepy-crawlies as well. Perhaps the most detailed accounts came from my co-worker Ben. He told me of the time he found a funnel web in his bed. (If you did take a peek at the earlier chart you will notice they are at the very top!) Apparently, he smacked it with a shovel & ended up ripping the mattress cover … ah hahaha … funny story, hahaha … um, excuse me, in your BED !!??!! I’m just going to hyperventilate over here … Nina, another co-worker saw my stricken face & scolded Ben for scaring me. She then proceeded to tell me that if I do happen to be walking in the bush I should wear a hat & the person in front should always have a stick to knock down spider webs across the path. If you do end up walking into a web, calmly ask your hiking partner to look you over for any spider passengers … OK … never hike alone, check! This sent Ben into another story about the time he walked into a web & he ended up being covered in spiders, yikes!

He also mentioned that I’ll have to watch out for snakes in my area, which is so close to the bush (forest, in Australian & northern Canadian too) that I should see quite a few. He also brought up the infestations of cockroaches & mosquitoes we will live through as soon as summer hits.

Oh, as an aside, cockies & mossies (like Aussies – they pronounce 2 S’s together as a Z) from the title of this post are referring to cockroaches & mosquitoes. Australians love nicknames. Beyond the adding a –y or – o to people’s first or last name, they nickname pretty much everything else. For example, there is a suburb called Chatswood, which they call Chatty; someone was talking about a particular journalist & called him a journo, etc. It’s kind of endearing, but sometimes hard to figure out exactly what they’re talking about.

Anyway, back to the creepy crawlies …

We actually already found out about the cockroaches. Here is a picture of one we found on our kitchen floor after coming home one evening. I put the cell phone beside it to get some scale, took the pic & then asked Brian to throw it out. Well, turns out it was just resting, or chillin’ on the hardwood, you could say. It started to wiggle as he picked it up & I made a mad dash for the other room. Brian bravely ran to the deck & flung it outside … my hero! I expect when the hot weather hits I’ll get used to them.

We were also able to add to the list after going to a soccer match with a co-worker, Andy. Upon meeting his wife, she assured us that she had lived all around Australia for more than 43 years & she had never been stung. Andy leaned over & whispered something to her. Then … “Oh, right there was that ant. Green ant bites are pretty painful." Watch for ants now, check! "Oh, & our son actually was bitten by a blue-tongue lizard the other day. That hurt quite a lot too.” Lizard avoidance, check!
See … she started out so nice & then got TOO helpful! *Sigh*

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