In the last week my 2+ year old daughter has developed a sudden irrational terror of mosquitoes. Until now the only other thing I have discovered she is terrified of are adults dressed in mascot costumes… Anyway, it started the day when the water pressure in Juarez was so ridiculously low that it took me 20 minutes to fill the bathtub, and this included me alternating between filling two of my larger cooking pots with water in the downstairs sink and carrying them up while the tub filled itself. While finally lying in our bath at 10:30 pm at night, my daughter lets out a terrified shriek. Just jumps up and begins thrashing about the tub as if she were in a shark attack. She points to the ceiling and screams “Mosquito!” First, I am rather impressed she even knows the word “mosquito” but my proud humor soon turns to concern as the screaming does not abate. I look up and do see a mosquito flying about. I tell her it is okay. However, my calm words have no effect whatsoever and so I have to get out of the tub and chase it around and kill it.
Here in Juarez we are not actually abound with insects. I’m not saying there are no insects, of course there are, but we don’t see many in our house. I was rather surprised to learn after my arrival that this desert landscape would be of interest to mosquitoes, but it is at some times of the year, though not really right now. With a water shortage and the Rio Grande river near our house a dry, dry, desiccated bed of sand, there isn’t exactly a lot of water around to attract mosquitoes. I have found little brown scorpions in the house, which is disconcerting in and of itself, but they are small and infrequent. Sometimes a small beetle and occasionally those scary looking black flying sprickets (part cricket, part spider). However, overall, not much in the way of insects.
Sure, mosquitoes are worthy of fear. They carry some pretty bad diseases. I was once terrorized a long sleepless night in a cheap guest house on the island of Bintan in Indonesia by probably hundreds of the buzzing beasties. The next morning I left bright and early and took the first ferry back to Singapore covered in at least 80 bites. It is a wonder I did not come down with something. When I last worked in Jakarta, Indonesia, a country where they regularly fog for mosquitoes, one co-worker and another’s daughter both came down with Dengue. But this isn’t exactly what I would expect the average two year old to grasp. Not that I don’t want to proudly boast that my daughter is smart, she is, but understanding the disease carrying properties of insects might be a bit beyond her.
And still she screams. The second time she screamed I was downstairs and I heard a terrified “Mama! Mama!” followed by loud terrified bellows as she quickly came down the stairs. She told me it was a mosquito. I went up to check and found nothing. Yet, not five minutes later the same thing occurs. I go up and discover there is a fly in the house. She has said the word “fly” before, but she will not accept that this particular insect is a fly. She screams and clings to my leg yelling “mosquito!” And so I kill the fly. I try to show her that it will not hurt her now but that only results in her running to her room, standing in the corner, screwing up her face and screaming in her best horror picture impersonation.
This has happened two additional times since.
At first I was perplexed. What would cause this sudden change? Where would she get the idea that mosquitoes were something to fear? Then it dawned on me. She has a Go Diego, Go! DVD in which Diego goes to Africa to help a friend with a perplexing problem: all the elephants have disappeared. Through some kind of magic a mosquito has been transformed into a magician and she flies around taking revenge on all the animals. This magician has a particular dislike of elephants so she has turned them all into rocks. She also makes the giraffes have short necks and shrinks hippos to tiny versions of themselves. All the while flying around and cackling. Okay, it is kinda scary. However, my daughter has actually watched this particular DVD approximately one bazillion times before developing this terror of mosquitoes, so I am not sure this is really the source of the fear. But it is all I got.
But here is the thing: after Juarez and home leave and five months of training in DC my daughter and I move to Shanghai, China. To Asia. I am pretty sure there are going to be LOTS of insects in Shanghai. I know I have been terrorized by giant flying cockroaches in more than one Asian country. Want to see me get really really wigged out and reduced to a whimpering mess? Put me in a room with a giant flying cockroach. That will do it. I have also seen the largest spiders ever – as large as my head – in Asia. I have a particularly vivid memory of watching a large tan colored spider the size of a crab run across a street in Bangkok. It’s legs clicking on the pavement. I know, you are thinking to yourself, hmmmm…maybe because of the color it actually was a crab? NO! It most certainly was a spider. And I have the traumatized memory to prove it.
And so, I worry how my daughter and her new found fear of insects is going to handle this? Perhaps this fear will already have faded by then? I am hoping our housing will be so amazingly wonderful as to be almost as bug-free as here in Juarez. I am hoping the only insects we might see are in the Shanghai Natural Wild Insect Kingdom, safely behind glass.