Mosquitoes: Literally the Worst

In the past year or so, I have been in a figurative battle against the inappropriate use of the word “literally”. I’m fine with figurative language, but there’s something horribly ironic when the only time people use the word “literally” is to describe a figurative situation. So know that I am not mincing words when I say mosquitoes are literally my least-favorite part of living in Kenya so far.

Qualifier: because I live at a reasonably high elevation (6200) feet, the mosquitoes where I live are not malarial (I guess malaria can’t be transmitted in thinner air, or mosquitoes with malaria can’t live this high. I don’t honestly know so I’m just gonna chalk this one up to science, or something), so I shouldn’t really be complaining. However, that being said, almost without exception, if I wake up and haven’t put bugspray on, I will be absolutely covered in bites. If I’m in the house, mosquitoes will come after me. This barrage of mosquito bites even led me to Google the type of people mosquitoes bite. I discovered that mosquitoes are more likely to bite people with Type O blood, people who have a high body temperature when they sleep, and people who are pregnant. In my case, 2 out of 3 are true, though I’m not going to say which.

However, one benefit is that I have become a master mosquito killer. I have learned a few important lessons:

1. Be the aggressor—there are times when I’ve seen a mosquito across the room, and I’m say, cooking or reading, so I’ll let it be. Big mistake. Passivity is punished in the game of mosquitoes. They might get you later. Your best bet—stop what you’re doing, and hunt them down.

2. Have both hands free—this may sound obvious, but too many times I’ve been reading, and lunged at a mosquito with one hand. It’s possible to kill mosquitoes this way, but not effective. Better to put your book down, and commit to the kill.

3. The slouch-then-pounce—until recently, I’ve been unable to master mosquitoes when they buzz in my ear. My first reaction is to turn around quickly, which tends to startle the mosquito (maybe I’m giving them too much credit, but inserting the phrase “startle”) and they fly away quickly. I’ve learned instead that since they are right in your ear, your best chance is to slouch down slowly in your chair/on your bed, until the mosquito is directly above you. Then, a quick clap over your head will do the trick. I’m especially proud of this one.

So for all of my friends in the States, or in other mosquito-free zones: when you go to bed tonight, be thankful for the luxury of your sleeping arrangement. And to all my fellow Princeton in Africa fellows, and other people battling with mosquitoes on a nightly basis: know that you’re not in this alone.

Happy Friday everyone! I’ll be back with a more serious, heartfelt post on Monday.

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12 Responses to Mosquitoes: Literally the Worst

  1. Tony says:

    I had a similar existential confrontation with those suckers in Haiti. By the time I left I looked like I had small pox on both my arms from all the bites. You need 100% deet spray. 100% and no less. Don’t be like me and think “Hey I mean, 100% seems like a lot of chemical to rub all over my body..I’ll just do like 70% or something…” No, 100%.

  2. Ed says:

    In the game of mosquitoes, you win or you die.

  3. Not Jake Schindler says:

    You’ve read this right? http://www.slate.com/articles/life/the_good_word/2005/11/the_word_we_love_to_hate.single.html

    p.s. I feel your pain, having just spent a week in a cabin in Northern Northern Minnesota.

  4. Dee Dee says:

    Yea…when I was in Tanzania I had the same problem. It was awful, I swelled and scarred and the locals asked if I was diseased. BUT, I found that after a month of living in Dar, mosquitoes stopped biting me as much. Of course I still got bit, but not as often and I stopped swelling. Maybe it’ll be the same for you?

  5. Sonja de Ruiter says:

    hahaha nice story, like your blog ! Hope you are having fun overthere 🙂

  6. ktoobusy says:

    I love this article! I want to use “Mosquitos: Literally the Worst” to teach my tenth grade students the art of humor. I hope to have a class full of humorists when I am done. Your article will be among the writings of Thurber, Twain, Vonnegut, Bauer, and others. Thanks so much. We would love to hear from you.

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