Thursday, March 15, 2012
The Millipede and the Flying Fox .
One night this week, as I was lying in bed I felt something wiggle underneath my shoulder and a subsequent pain that began spreading down my arm. It turned out to be a millipede. Millipedes cannot kill or paralyze anyone they bite (unless the victim has an allergic reaction), but the pain can last for twenty-fours hours or more if left untreated. I called the Peace Corps, who told me to speak to my host family. They treated me with poultice, a branch that was burned and the sap poured onto my bite. It worked beautifully, and the pain dissipated within an hour. The health team at the Peace Corps also told to treat the bite with hydrogen, peroxide, iodine, and antibiotic cream. I realized that the people here had inherited an entire knowledge of herbal medicines that had been bequeathed to them by their ancestors. However, I have also realized the dangers of some of the superstitions in my community. The same night, my host father inquired if I ate flying fox, which is a delicacy in Melanesian culture. I told him no, since I am mostly a vegetarian, aside from the occasional fish. I have also always had a fondness for bats and can't picture myself consuming one. I asked him if he ate them. He also told me no, since he believed them to be devils, and this was part of the Seventh-Day Adventist diet in the village. I had to laugh, but I could tell he was quite serious. Bats are the only indigenous mammals to Vanuatu, and play a crucial role in maintaining their ecosystems by pollinating the plant life, just as they do all over the world. In Vanuatu, people kill them with slingshots in order to consume them. But the next day, the boy in the above picture showed me that he had killed a flying fox. I asked him if he had any intention of eating it. He told me no, since he was also a Seventh-Day Adventist. I told him in the future not to kill animals he has no intention of eating. But it was the superstition that bats are devils that caused him to believe he was acting in self-defense when he killed it. Considering these creatures are endangered in many countries, I hope this is a superstition that can be dispelled.