Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Utterly repulsive

There's a newish blogger operating out of Kenya, the reluctant memsahib, who, in this post, reminds me of one of the reasons why, when I went back to Africa in 2003, I went as an expatriate rather than as a hairy student teacher.
Mango flies lay their eggs on laundry on the washing line. They are canny and know that during the hot, dry weather their larvae, which needs moisture to survive, would curl up and die. So they wait until the rains when the laundry – bearing mango fly nursery – gets taken inside still damp. They are especially canny because, in order for their species to survive, they have identified those houses where a) there is no drier and b) housekeeping a bit slack so ironing not up to much (ironing, you understand, would have same effect on baby mango flies that tumble drier would: i.e.desiccate them so that they curl up and die). Donning clothes that came off the line damp, didn’t see inside of a tumble drier and had only cursory brush with lukewarm iron (power being what it is – or more correctly, what it isn’t) means exposing yourself to mango fly infestation. Resident larvae, delighted to meet warmth of human skin, leap off bra, pants, inside of jeans and burrow delightedly into your flesh. You don’t notice at first. Not until the mango fly has begun to grow which makes your skin itch and swell in an angry lump which eventually develops a head. For a while you kid yourself that you’ve got a boil – the result of the stresses of living in Africa.

But one morning in the bath you have a stab at squeezing the head and to your horror a little white maggot slithers out and wriggles its way across the tiles to begin its own hatchery on your washing line.
When I was teaching in Zimbabwe, the mission school I was at had uncertain running water and only occasional electricity, making washing one's clothes largely a matter of timing, and ironing them afterwards very hit and miss. However, once I had my first fly-bite (luckily enough in my left arm) I was incredibly careful about the ironing. Especially given that I hadn't been ironing my boxer shorts at all. Makes me quite faint to think about.
Anyway, there is in fact an easier, less clinical way of extracting the fly larvae from out of the boil. It's not for the squeamish, but it is quick and effective. What you do is you take a coke bottle (empty) and hold it over the boil. Light a match, throw it into the bottle and then clamp the end of the bottle firmly over the boil, so that the flesh of your arm (say) seals the open end. As the match burns inside the bottle it will burn out the oxygen, forming a partial vacuum inside the bottle. With a thoroughly revolting noise 9and a sensation that is making me squirm at the keyboard in remembering it) the larvae will be sucked out of the boil, and into the coke bottle, together with the usual ick.
You're left with a mark on the affected part of the body that looks like you've been given a love bite by Janet Street Porter, a coke bottle full of ick and a deep and abiding resolution always to iron your shirts off the line, and to iron your boxers twice - because there are parts of you that you really don't want to stick a coke bottle to. Happy days...

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