Monday, September 20, 2010

Trini Tuesday-What's That on Your Shoulder?

Isaac has a class on invertebrate biology this year.  The first major assignment is to create an insect collection so Isaac has been spending a lot of time catching bugs, which is something he has enjoyed since he was a toddler.  He is in his glory when capturing bugs.  Case in point, one of my favorite pictures of his little boy hands a few years ago.
bughands
Then there is me, who was traumatized by having to do an insect collection in 7th grade.  I remember squeamishly capturing them and being horrified hearing their thoraxes crunch when I had to impale them on the pin.  I also remember begging my brother to pin a couple of especially icky specimens.  I've come a long way in my ability to handle insects.  My son is one reason.  My friend Flora in Trinidad is another.  So this week here's a very old (old enough that probably only 2 of you have ever seen it) Trini Tuesday post celebrating tropical insects from my last visit to the island back in 2002.
 
Before I went I called my dear friend who works in the entomology division of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Me: Flora, how yuh goin', gyul? I comin' to TNT fuh meh holiday and I have a favor tuh ask.

Flora: Meesh, I goin' good. You would be stayin' by us I hope? What I could do fuh yuh?

Me: Of course I would stay by all yuh. And well, meh boy does love insects. He been catchin' dem since he jus' small and I was hopin' yuh could maybe fix us up wit' some big, freakish bugs.

Flora: (delightedly) Oh gosh gyul, yuh make joke!

Me: No, Flora, I eh make joke. De boy love insects.

Flora: (with a little catch in her voice) Gyul, meh own chil'ren eh like insects. Yuh does make me real happy! I would be glad to collect some fuh all yuh.

When we lived on the island, Flora had taken us to the Ministry's "Bug Museum." The museum is a large room full of specimens of virtually every insect to be found in Trinidad and Tobago. May I just say it was a somewhat disconcerting experience. There are some seriously big ass bugs that are just insanely icky. There were beetles the size of my palm or bigger, with these terrifying looking horns coming off their heads. There were locusts bigger than my whole hand. There were arachnids of nightmarish proportions. I tried to confine myself to the order lepidoptera...(deeeep breaths, focus on the pretty butterflies....). I had not yet developed even the slightest degree of appreciation for many of the much more sanely sized insects I lived with in Pennsylvania, much less these titanic tropical beasts that looked like they could carry off small children.

I asked Flora if I could expect to find any of these creepy crawlies in my own back yard. She said yes but that since I already knew wasps and bees I really only needed to concern myself with scorpions. Nothing else I would come across in my backyard was a danger. Right, except when I am standing on a chair shrieking like a...well, like a girl...because one of those giant beetles with horns comes lunging at me. (In my own defense I hasten to add that I am the resident spider killer here at the House of Lime. Mr. Lime is the one given to standing on chairs and giving an estrogen heavy performance when spiders are in the vicinity.)

By the time I left Trinidad I was learning to be blase. Crib legs in dishes of water to keep the ants off the baby. Wash the dishes after use and before use because of the proliferation of cockroaches. Wait for ants to exit the water well in my iron before pressing clothes. Don't sit on tree stumps so scorpions don't go after you. Replace electrical switches and outlets with regularity because the ants crawl in, get zapped and the moisture in their bodies shorts it all out. React by nonchalantly asking, "Didja flick it off?" when Mr. Lime tells me he saw a 4 inch cockroach on my head when he woke up in the night. Understand that when I wake up with a swollen lip it is because a kissing bug bit me during the night. However, I still hopped around like a lunatic when a tarantula skittered towards me after falling from the ceiling and hitting Mr. Lime in the head. Mr. Lime just about had a heart attack. He climbed on a sofa after Petal's husband suggested Mr. Lime just step on the tarantula. Mind you, Mr. Lime only had on flip flops. I don't blame him for not wanting to squish that thing.

Fast forward to when we have returned to the USA. Isaac is almost 3 and now catches grasshoppers and crickets with considerable efficiency. He regularly comes into the kitchen dangling one by its back legs. I'm rather amazed that a preschooler's chubby fingers are nimble enough to catch the critters without damaging their fragile bodies. Also, I don't want to ruin his fun by screeching in horror, "Get that thing outta here!" Trinidad has helped me learn to control my responses and actually kneel down and marvel with him over whatever his latest catch is. Then I take pictures of whatever he catches. So now the routine is catch, marvel, snap a pic, release the critter, look it up in field guides to identify the species. He finds stag beetles, luna moths, walking sticks, preying mantises, newts, salamanders, frogs, snakes (the amphibians and reptiles I have enjoyed since I was a wee Lime myself).

Now it is 2002 and I am headed to Trinidad and Flora has promised to help me find some crazy tropical insects. As soon as I arrived she presented me with a scorpion she caught in her own yard. She also found a really magnificent walking stick,some sort of burrowing cricket, some gigantic beetle, and then I found this big katydid on the beach. It was dead but in good condition. I even picked it up and carried it myself, aren't you proud of me? It was really fun to see her glee as she caught these critters and told me all about them so I could tell Isaac.


trinibug (2)


She packaged them all up in jars of formaldehyde. She got me documentation from the Ministry stating that I had permission to remove the specimens from the island in case customs gave me trouble. Isaac was completely thrilled with his insect collection . I got some bonus "Cool Mom" points and Auntie Flora got a gushing letter of thanks and a bunch of "Cool Auntie" points.

12 comments:

~Tim said...

I was going to say that I would have liked to be a fly on the wall when you took those jars through customs but, my luck... I'd probably end up IN one of the jars.

Dianne said...

O.K. so I was gonna say how cool this was, I can't stop smilin' an' I wanna read it t' mah boys ASAP.

Seriously, the accent, rhythm and inflections are inviting. I can hear you on the phone, and see myself comparing hand size with exoskeleton size.
I love your blog,
Thank you for your creative work1
Dianne

Dave said...

Like your son, I like insects too - most of them. They can be fun to study - their lives, food, the way they move, etc. I know most women don't like them, and many men. You are brave Michelle :-) - Dave

Cocotte said...

Thank you for this. I now have ONE reason that it's good to live in a cold climate.

clean and crazy said...

oh my gosh, no way am i ever going to trinidad!! i got goosebumps just thinking of the crawlies you spoke about. you brave woman you are my hero!!

haphazardlife said...

I like my bugs alive, not on the end of pins thankyouverymuch.

Craig said...

I love this post, on multiple levels. . .

Love your use of the T&T vernacular. . .

And you're such a good mom, suppressing your own squeamishness for the sake of yer boy. . .

You actually remind me here of an intensely interesting phenomenon that I saw with our first three kids. 1F, when she saw a weird bug on the sidewalk, would run away from it and cry. 2F would bend down and study it, pick it up and pet it, and generally be fascinated by it. 3M would just stomp on it. . .

And 4M tells the story from his trip to the Dominican last summer, about the time a tarantula wandered thru their worksite. All the big strong young American men scattered, leaving it to an old Dominican grandmother to grab a machete and totter over to hack the critter to bits. . .

Cricket said...

Yeah... no thanks on the big tropical bugs. Or the snakes, or the other nasties. Or the hurricanes, for that matter.

That's one good thing about living in a place with winter - keeps those bugs small, thank God.

S said...

OH man, the bug collection! I was spared from making the bug collection because I went to two high schools and they sorta got confused and I received credit for biology but never really took it...
The bug collection was a 9th grade thing, so they assumed I had done it when I changed schools in 10th grade. Thank goodness, because I would have barfed and stuff.

Flora Auntie was brilliant to get the letter for the airport as well!

Bugs, ick!

Suldog said...

I never had to do the bug collection, and good thing, too. I would have refused, being the spare-a-bug's-life kind of guy I am.

Having said that, I really enjoyed this. Auntie was amazingly good to the both of you, going way out of her way to help. God bless her. And you being able to put aside much of your own revulsion, to help, is wonderful in itself. God bless YOU!

And God blesses ME by keeping me somewhere the bugs remain bug-sized. I remember a visit to Florida and the first time I saw Palmetto Bugs. My introduction to them consisted of opening a kitchen cabinet and seeing two of them enjoying each other's company, if you get my drift. Yuck! They sort of looked at me, hissed, and went back to their fun business. Meanwhile, I near had a heart attack (and I didn't any longer want the Rice Krispies I had been after, thanks.)

Mama Zen said...

I'm going through this with my daughter. All creatures great and small around here!

Jocelyn said...

Go figure. I'm relatively okay with insects, but Paco HATES them and won't go near. The universe does laugh when it matches up mothers and children.