I have been confronted by nature here. Gecos, rats, scorpions, lizards. I moved into the ranch about 3 days ago and share my room with a geco. I haven't named him/her yet. In fact, I rarely see the little one, which is good news because my heart races every time I see it.
Yesterday I was eating breakfast in the kitchen when I saw a mouse trying to squeeze through a slither of an opening in the back window. As if that wasn't enough, I came to the kitchen an hour later to wrap a bandaid around my finger when i saw a rat on the ground right by my foot! We usually put rat poison out, and this particular rodent had clearly consumed some which was clear by its twitching, withering, and writhing on the ground. I still let out a scream. Man, I'm a pansy. Daniella, Frank's partner, accurately pointed out that my reactions are most likely due to the fact that I haven't spent much time growing up in the bush. Right you are, Daniella. We tossed the dead rat into a compost pile, watching it take its last breath in a pile of banana peels, apple cores, and left over macaroni. How ironic that a rat who always snooped around the kitchen looking to munch on snacks took its final breath on a pile of food it was too weak to consume.
I think that the two flies I killed at breakfast were an omen for the two rodents I would soon see after.
Two days ago, I was shoveling sand into a cement mixer for the stone wall I am building with Uwe. It takes nine scoops of sand into the mixer along with two scoops of cement and two scoops of lime for the perfect mix. I jabbed the shovel into the sand pile, and just as I was lifting the heaping scoop into the air, out popped a scorpion. A scorpion! It looked exactly like what I had imagined, and had Uwe not been there, I surely would have screamed and ran back to Paris. It was about the size of two iPhones put together (Mel would claim this reference reveals how "Generation Y" I have become), and moved surprisingly slow. Uwe flipped into a bucket with his shovel and tossed off into the distance.
There are three poisonous creatures here. Scorpions (check), centipedes, snakes. Their venom is not deadly, but apparently, if they get you, it really, really hurts. Just extra motivation for me to be careful. Yesterday, I finished reading Thomas Eidson's "St. Agnes' Stand", and there was a scene where Swanson, the protagonist, hides under a horse to avoid being spotted by nearby Apaches. They move in closer, and he has to slide in under an alcove of rocks next to him. Soon, their feet are right in front of his eyes, and he is fighting to keep quiet, to silence his breath even though he has a broken arm and leg. Then, he feels something. First it's subtle, a soft stroke, a fuzz of sorts. Then another. Then another. Then five. Now it's more apparent. One of them crawls down his pants, another down his shirt. He's got five centipedes on him, and they all begin to bite him!!!! That really got me chippy and jippy for ranch life.
Being around Australians and Brits has really expanded my understanding of the possibilities of English. Dialects are really fun, especially when they come from across oceans. In America, we definitely have a fair set of dialects - the Hillbilly, Texan, New Yorker, Bostonian, Californian, Western Drawl, Baltimore Hon, etc. But hearing Aussies and Brits takes English to a new level. Some new words and phrases I've learned:
1. a bloke - just some guy (GB). ex. The bloke came to dinner with a goat handcuffed to his ankle.
2. woop woop - middle of nowhere (AUS). ex. I am in woop woop. Whoopie Goldberg is not.
3. plunker - an idiot (GB). ex. George W. Bush is a plunker.
4. Reading a book now called "Quartered Safe Out Here" which are the recollections of a British soldier who fought the Japanese in Burma in WWII. The particular English sub-dialect is Cumbrian (from Cumberland). If you think you can understand this sentence without reading the translation, then I will personally send you a scorpion in the mail :):
Cumbrian: Est seen a coody loup ower a yett?
Translation: Have you seen a donkey jump over the gate?
5. wombat - also, an idiot (GB). ex. The wombat does not realize that America is a modern day empire who teases political, economic, and military allegiance out of weaker countries by overwhelming them with debts incurred from "modernization contracts" (infrastructure, telecommunications, etc.) carried out by American engineering firms (Bechtel, Haliburton, etc....note: if you haven't, I implore you to read John Perkin's "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man" if you want to understand the underpinnings of American imperialism and the power of "corporatocracy").