Project Sekong 2014: It may be the dry season but the bugs are eating us alive! Especially on sites that will become fishponds.

January 25, 2014

We've cleared many parcels for future fishponds. The sites with the most promise are low-lying, damp, even boggy. Unfortunately they are also buggy! This deminer was badly bitten yesterday and will suffer the results for days and days.

In my opinion Moses fiddled around too long experimenting with calamities that might impose an attitude adjustment on a hard-hearted Pharaoh: water to blood, boils, locusts, fleas, frogs, firestorms and more—concluding with (IMHO) the unnecessary deaths of many firstborn children. Too bad that Moses didn’t think to inflict Laotian mites upon the Egyptians right from the get-go. If he had, the Israelites would have been booked free passage on Red Sea boats and been spared a long hike over damp ground.

For the record: I’m just reporting on Laotian dirt mites, not looking for any sympathy for myself. Until this morning I’d have complained about the little buggers and…yes…if offered, I’d have lapped up a little sympathy.

Then, I caught sight of Mai, one of our deminers, slathering his mite-bitten legs with a Chinese salve. Yesterday, he searched for ordnance on a damp, low-lying, bug infested parcel that a farmer plans to flood and turn into a fishpond. Today Mai’s a mess and I pity how he must feel. From the knees down he’s speckled with red welts, that I know itch and burn—every blotch indicating another spot where mites have burrowed in and claimed squatter’s rights. Unless that Chinese salve is a miracle cure, tomorrow his legs will look even worse because I know he can’t help but dig at the sores.

Last year my friend Yai felt tortured by bites, to the point that he became convinced that his entire kit: his clothes, his bedding, his tent, was crawling with invisible insects. It was an irrational conclusion but such was his desperation. He actually abandoned his tent and began sleeping out of doors under the cover of a mosquito net. He bought long, ladies’ stockings to wear during the day and scrubbed his blankets and entire wardrobe in the river hopping for a clean, fresh start. Yai kept asking, in a tone suggesting both horror and admiration: “How do the Taliang people live with these tiny devils?”

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