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House/Yard Critters

January 31, 2008

Tom –  First, consider that we are living on a tropical island near the equator.  Matara is at the southern tip of Sri Lanka.  We are on the beach but also on the edge of the jungle.  Both temperature and humidity are very high.  For example, today we will have a high of about 34o C (93 F) and a low of 27o C (80) with humidity ranging from 80-100% – and it is winter!  Can you imagine when the SW monsoon begins in April?!

Mosquitoes: The biggest problems are in the early morning and at dusk.  Though there are some around all day.  There are no screens in the windows or eaves between the walls and roof and we keep some doors open for ventilation when we are home, so they have free access to the house.  We have an electrical mosquito zapper and a coil you can light to produce some repellent smoke, but there is really no way to eliminate them.  We are actually very lucky because we are right on the beach and usually have an on-shore breeze, which blows them inland.  As you know, we sleep under mosquito netting – though it is important you keep-out a lot more than just the mosquitoes!

Ants: Big ones, medium size one, small ones, black ones, and red ones (those suckers sting!).  We spray regularly but they just keep coming back.

Spiders:  The biggest ones (3 inches across) we have ever seen outside a zoo!  I killed two in the bedroom a couple of days ago.

Cockroaches:  You have already read about some; we see big ones and little ones and are usually able to squash them before they get away.  We have sprayed the obvious entrance areas and that has helped.

Moths and “No See Ums:”  We have your standard moths going in and out all the time as well as little no see ums.  We’ve only seen a few butterflies.

Flies:  We can’t leave anything out anywhere or they will be all over the place.

Bites/Stings: We get them everyday, especially around the lower legs and ankles (most bites could be sand flies from walking on the beach in the morning).  Cortizone-10 is our constant companion.

Lizards:  We have at least one family of small lizards that share our house.  I believe they live in the eaves or somewhere on top of the walls.  Because we regularly see little piles of dirt in 2-3 spots even though we cleaned them the day before.  We see our friends regularly scurrying on the floor, up a wall or ceiling.  There are at least two adults and a child.  Helen – we have seen some giant lizards at an outdoor restaurant, by a temple, and going across our road…I mean Big!!  About 2-3 feet long and thank goodness they are not in the house, at least so far!!

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Lightning Bugs:  They occasionally fly in and out our bedroom windows at night and really look “cool.”  They give off a bright white light unlike the yellow light we see from the ones in Ohio.

Dogs:  One walked in the front door last week, we chased it out.  We carry a stick when we walk on the beach to ward them off.  Most are small and scrawny and leave you alone but there is a pack of about five that sort of protect the one fishing boat from a small village that we have on our beach.  The alpha female will occasionally lead a side or rear assault.  We shake our stick at them and that stops them from getting too close.  Helen – they also seem to pick on the lame ones and go after them with a vengeance!!  At the hotel last night, there was a dog fight and the people there separated the dogs by hitting them with the plastic chairs!!

Bats:  We see them at dusk in our yard.  So far none has entered the house.

???:  Something that felt cold and wet jumped on my back when I was rounding our house this evening; we had walked on the beach until the sun was down.  I knocked it off with the slippers I was carrying but it was too dark to tell what it was.  I went out with a light but there was nothing there.  I am now writing this sentence two days latter and just saw a big tree frog in our pond – I bet that’s what jumped on my back in the dark!

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Birds:  Lots of them.  I’m not very good at bird identification but we have seen birds that look like egrets, kiwis, kingfishers, herons, pigeons, sparrows, black birds, sea gulls, a beautiful blue and turquoise one, etc. etc.

Fish:  We have seen gold fish, minnows and frogs in our pond.  As mentioned earlier, we have seen the fisherman catch fish at our beach but I really don’t know how to identify them.  We’ve seen lots of different fish coming off the boats in the harbors – the biggest ones so far being tuna.  After breakfast we now throw bread crusts to the fish and frog, each day they get braver.

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Snakes:  Have not seen any yet but we have found a big snake skin in our yard.

Cows:  Helen said she would write about the mother and baby cows we have in our front yard.

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Helen – LAWN MOWERS OR IS IT MOOOERS???

This morning we woke, not to the rooster as is the case most mornings; but instead, to mooing.  When we opened the deck door there were two cows (a mother and calf) tied to two of the palm trees “mooing” our lawn.  As I mentioned before, they were in the yard next door (the smaller of the two rentals); I guess our lawn needed a trim so they moved them either last night or early this morning…that little one has a short lead and is always tying herself up around something.  I think that she is my new pet!!

Yesterday after Tom finished teaching and I working on the diary, we rushed downtown to a sport store recommended by the PE staff.  It was located at the bus station on the second floor where half the shops were vacant.  The Sport Zone was a really small store, maybe 10’x8’.  They had a few swim caps, a couple of goggles, some balls, a few pairs of pants and shirts (we needed pants for teaching and there was not one in Tom’s size or the material he wanted, not to mention no woman’s clothing).  The men here are much smaller in frame structure and this is a problem for Tom.  I bought a swim cap because you have to wear one if you go into a pool.  We went to three other sport stores and still nothing for Tom but I found two pairs of Columbia 70-30% poly-cotton material ¾ length pants to wear in my walking class.  I had priced a similar pair (Columbia) in Dayton last year for $38 and now I paid $6, so I bought two pairs.

We went to ARPICO (a store similar to Kmart on a much, much, much, smaller scale) and bought a chef’s knife (not to worry about me slicing another thumb because it isn’t that sharp) for $2, a 9×13 pan (I think I am going to try to make brownies!!) for $7 (that was expensive), some much needed hangers, sponges (you wouldn’t believe the cheap quality of sponges, lucky if they last two days!) and  a comb and towel for the gym.  It was getting dark now and that makes us nervous because there aren’t street lights so driving is even more hazardous if that is possible.  We still had to go to Food City so I could cook something for dinner.  Stocked up on some vegetables, some chicken thighs, and as we were leaving, Tom noticed Kraft Mac & Cheese…it is awful stuff and I never make it at home but we needed something quick so bought it.  Tom was a happy camper with a not-spicy, slide down your throat food.  I also breaded and fried zucchini slices and made a salad.  After the dishes were done and the kitchen cleaned I was ready for bed before 9pm, Tom worked on lesson plans while I went to bed.  No matter how many times you swim throughout the day, or how many showers you take, you still need a cool shower before going to bed just to get the sweat off.  Then you get inside the net and under the fan and it makes you feel like you have air conditioning!!

 Today is going to be my first teaching day and I have spent the last couple of nights preparing handouts and lecture notes for the Fitness Walking Class, Tom will be on his second lecture for the instructors and his first for the weight training for students.  I don’t know if Tom mentioned the weight room but it doesn’t have any aerobic equipment, just a few strength machines and some free weights.  It makes our fitness center look fabulous!!   He asked each student to bring his own towel to wipe down the equipment and to use as a neck pad for the weights.  He had about 25 students attend; some even participated in street clothes and no shoes.  He made a general announcement about proper attire.

My class was held in the gymnasium for the first day; 17 students attended though several walked in between 15-30 minutes late.  All girls for my class including the physics professor, Kanthi, Vinni, the only full time PE woman staff person who was a national speed walking and 400m champion in her youth (now 49) and Gnana an assistant PE instructor, office administrator, and tea maker (51).  That made me the “over the hill grandmother” who out walked them all on the timed mile that day.  The outside of the gym floor measures 16.5 laps for a mile or 1625m.  I knew counting would be a problem so I gave them 16 tiny beans which they dropped into a dish at the end of each lap and then continued the final ½ lap to the finish.  There is always one in every crowd and she dropped her beans!!  The students will get a certificate of attendance if they make 80 % of the classes.  I guess that this is important for them but we don’t understand why.

Got home about 6:15 and went for a swim because both of our classes were god-awful hot.  We don’t usually go swimming at this time and it was lovely with the setting sun and being the only ones on the beach (which is often the case anyway).  Cooked chicken thighs (again!!) but this time had sautéed onions and potatoes with rosemary and the usual salad.  Dessert today was a treat, two Fig Newtons each!

I forgot to mention that this morning a man and his young daughter came to our driveway arch to pick the yellow flowers and the orange cluster flowers.  They take these as offerings to the Buddha at the temple.  I have seen them before and said hi but this morning I gave the little girl a couple of starburst candies…of course I had one myself!!

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