An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Buggin’ Out

Hitchcock would have been tickled with inspiration. Remember in the Good Book when Moses is in Egypt and he’s all: “Let my people go!” and then Pharoh’s like: “ Uhm… no” (paraphrased)? The next thing you know there are bugs everywhere. In their soup, in their water, in their hair…everywhere! Well, I have no way to prove this but I think I know where they came from: Arusha, Africa.

The day was damp. The sun had yet to be seen but you could tell by the lessoning light it had retired for the evening. Already our day had its fill of unnecessary adventure, when our plane landed at a different airport than it was scheduled to. Fortunately things were calming down. The guesthouse we checked into was run by the Catholic Church and was everything you would hope: simple and clean. The workers didn’t speak much English but enough to point the right direction for dinner.

Before I continue, you should know a couple things about Africa. First, tourists are advised never to walk around at night. Even most locals avoid it for safekeeping. Second, the power can go out at anytime. The suggested restaurant was down the street but at least had streetlights to chase the shadows, so with natural light fading we decided it was our best option.

The restaurant was nice: outside, covered, with a fine assortment of Italian and Indian food to choose from. We sat. We ordered. We waited and relaxed in the cool, humid evening air. Then the atmosphere started to change. It began with the purr of a generator, compensating for power that had apparently gone out. Then I notice a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. Bugs, and not just a few. I’m not talking about cute little moths with curly tongues and adorable antennas. No these were long flying worms.

Swarm by swarm they moved through the restaurant. It became clear these soulless larvae had been sent by devil himself the way they flew aimlessly about, repetitively trying to end their tormented lives by pounding into the light. They had wings like dragonflies, but the bodies like grubs. Oh yes, and I forgot to mention something: Mandi, the friend I was traveling with- she has bugaphobia. Not like “oh-that-beetle-is-gross” phobia. More like “that-bug-brushed-my-hand-so-I’m-gonna-pass-out-and-die” phobia. I knew we were in trouble.

I played it cool, pretending I didn’t notice there were flying worms grazing my head, probably in search of some cool cavity to raise a family in. And judging by my friend’s frozen stair and shortness of breath, any attempt at light conversation was going nowhere. So like Moses in Egypt, I knew it was time to leave. I handed Mandi my hooded jacket. “Put this on. Follow right behind me and just look down at my feet.” I said as looked across the room as the ceiling darkened and morphed like a cloud of disgustingness.

I thought if we could just get through the restaurant it would get better. We briskly moved to the sounds wings wizzing past our ears. We made across then passed by the illuminated sign where worms began to pile up like leaves under an autumn tree, squirming and stunned from flying full force into the hard sign. Fortunately, the further we got from the generated-lights of the restaurant, the fewer the bugs. Unfortunately, there was also less light.

I stood and stared into the dark desert across which rested the promise land of a clean room and bug nets. Meanwhile, my thoughts ran with the warnings of the night. Mandi behind, darkness in front, we started down the road. My pace was quick, my words few. An occasional squeal and dry heave assured me my friend was right behind. Then into the darkness my name was all but yelled. I looked back. “Derek… Derek, there’s one on you!! There’s one on your shoulder!!” “Mandi…” I said. “I’ll be ok with the bugs, I just don’t want to get jumped…” I shook my jacket, quivered my spine and continued.

We passed a couple shadowy figures until eventually we saw a light. A man sat, darkly at the entrance of our guesthouse with a lantern lit. The most beautiful sight you ever saw, especially if you were Mandi. We closed the windows, lit a lantern and once our appetites returned, finished the pizza we ordered hours before.

Everything happens for a reason right? Maybe this was to remind me to be thankful. Thankful for lighted streets. Maybe for indoor restaurants. Or maybe it was just to make me stronger. Stronger so I would be ready for something like… say getting charged by a rhino. But that’s another story…


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