Sunday, September 26, 2010

Smoke on the Water

After recently being hospitalized with a bout of dengue fever, I decided that it would be a good idea to spray my house for mosquitoes. After some thought, it occurred to me that spraying wouldn't do much good unless everybody in my neighborhood sprayed.

I asked the owner of my house to talk to the Pak RT (head of the neighborhood) about spraying. He deemed it not necessary despite the 3 cases of dengue that we knew about. There could be even more cases but that didn't seem to concern him.

Normally, September is the tail end of the dry season in Indonesia which means most areas are bone dry and mosquitoes are not able to breed. Thus, spraying is not usually necessary at this time of year. This year, the dry season just didn't happen. It has rained pretty much every day over the last several months. This is unprecedented and a great time to be a mosquito.

For those of you who don't know, mosquitoes breed in standing or stagnant water. Dengue fever
is passed from a certain type of mosquito that usually bites people in the morning. The normal
way to get rid of mosquitoes is to have people go around with these big chainsaw looking contraptions that spray some kind of poisonous smoke. These guys go up and down the street spraying and will even spray inside your house if you throw them a little cash.

The owner of my house graciously offered to spray my house and her own house, which is 2 doors down from me. I patiently explained to her that this wouldn't do any good since the mosquitoes that were not located in our houses wouldn't get killed and that mosquitoes can easily fly from one property to another. After a lot of explaining, she got my point (or pretended to) and decided not to spray our houses.

A week or so later, the Pak RT had a sudden change of heart (perhaps someone in HIS family got dengue fever) and decided to spray the whole neighborhood. Having been through this drill before, I prepared to leave as soon as they finished spraying inside my house. I put my motorbike outside my gate, put on my jacket, grabbed my backpack and was ready to leave the moment they had finished spraying.

Eventually, they arrived at my house and went in to spray. The smoke, when sprayed indoors, is so thick that you can't even see. As the guy was inside spraying, I was standing by my door, key in hand ready to lock the door and leave. His co-worker advised me not to go inside and to stand on the street because the smoke would make me sick. I tried explaining to him that I was going to lock the door and leave. He told me that it was not necessary and all I had to do was stand on the street.

As I looked out onto the street, most people who were home were standing on the street where they had JUST sprayed. The road was foggy, mothers were standing holding their babies with rags over their faces. I tried to convince my maid to take her young son and leave for an hour or so. She told me that it was OK as long as you stood outside.

As the guy finished spraying and I was in the process of locking my door so that I could leave, even more people became concerned for my safety and tried encouraging me to go stand in the smoky street with them. I once again explained that I was locking the door so that I could leave and that they should do the same. They looked at me like I was crazy so I gave up. My better half and I hopped on the motorbike and went to the mall for a few hours (as we had planned when we heard they were going to spray). It was painful to see so many mothers and children standing on the street choking on the poisonous fog. Sometimes you can't help people help themselves and it's hard to swallow.

Part of me wanted to slowly explain to them that bug poison is ALSO PEOPLE POISON!!! but there was no point as they wouldn't listen. People here sometimes have the attitude that since somebody here is a foreigner that they simply don't understand. They were under the impression that I didn't know what was going on.

So I did the only thing I could, drive away and leave them to choke on the smoke.

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