this calls for a cookie

Written: 7/13/13 Kampong Thom, Cambodia

This was Alicia’s resigned declaration last night after the ordeal was over, “this calls for a cookie.” The thing I’d been waiting for, dreading, finally happened last night. My personal hell.

We found a massive spider.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the spider was about 5 inches in diameter, strong legs splayed casually across our kitchen ceiling. It’s body was camouflage colored, but don’t mistake me….this was no daddy longlegs type creature with a puny little body and misleadingly long, spindly legs. This thing was a beast. Substantial and terrifying. A couple of us were minding our own business in the living room, blissfully unaware of the monster sharing our space until we heard a slight commotion from the kitchen. Marrisa emerged claiming that “you really don’t want to know.” Well, no phrase has ever been invented that better piques curiosity. We all crowded by the kitchen door and, like you see in movies, comically peered around the door frame together. We inched further and further around the door until the terror came into sight. We all leapt back with varying decibels of shock and digust. Everyone’s reaction was pretty consistent – dancing around, flapping hands, shuttering, and squealing. Everyone except me, that is. I proceeded to burst into tears. I’m really not kidding. I didn’t just tear up or retreat to a distant corner to hide. I cried. Full-on, tears rolling down my face, cried. For some reason, spiders have always kind of had that effect on me, and since I’ve never seen one that big, my reaction has never been that strong. I simply can’t describe the feeling that came over me when I saw it. It wasn’t strictly fear. Distress is probably more accurate. Whatever it was, I was a mess and could no more participate in it’s dispatch than I could climb a palm tree to the moon. The other four girls were commendably brave. Their efforts culminated in Alicia climbing on top of the refrigerator to deliver the fatal blow to the creature with the underside of one of our cooking pots (the squelching/crunching noise was horrifying). His remains were then unceremoniously tossed off our porch and the mess was forgotten. Kind of.

This whole ordeal is what lead Alicia to sigh, laugh, and hand me a Vietnamese vanilla and strawberry cookie, slightly resembling an oreo. The end of the spider did indeed call for a cookie. My heart was still pounding, and though Alicia was generous to offer me another cookie, then another and another, I was still pretty upset. My thoughts ran the gamut from “what the hell am I doing here” to “I can probably still catch a bus back to Siem Reap at this time of night” to “I’m curling up in the fetal position over here and never moving again…you guys carry on.” I was tired. It had been a long, hot day that, with humidity, had been about 105 degrees out. I was at the end of my rope. I tossed and turned for a long time last night, desperately trying to find a position that would allow me to fall into a sweaty sleep.

As usual, the morning brought a cooler, calmer, significantly more positive me. We went on a day trip today to an incredible temple complex about an hour away by tuktuk whose name I will not disgrace by attempting to spell. If you’re ever in Kampong Thom and looking for it, let me know. Our two partner contacts, Signon and Yunthy, went with us along with Signon’s wife, 2 year old son, and 5 year old nephew. Cuter children cannot be found. Despite the continued crushing heat (it hasn’t rained in a few days), we had a fantastic time. The temples are incredible, we ate one of our favorite meals so far afterward, and the tuktuk ride there and back was both breathtaking and eyeopening. It made me reflect on everything that’s changed since we got here. It’s been only three days, but it has felt more like three months to me. Yunthy, Signon, and everyone at COWS are opening up to us. We are falling into a healthy and comfortable rhythm at home. I’m starting to appreciate the beautiful, instead of just the startling, things about Kampong Thom. We’re making friends, getting our bearings around the city, and honing our survivalist sense of humor. Theresa even stopped the tuktuk today for an emergency potty break at the edge of a field. The sleepy-eyed water buffalo nearby didn’t seem to mind, and we all laughed. We took a long walk with Signon and Yunthy after work last night to the outskirts of Kampong Thom and through some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. Last but certainly not least, I got to sit and catch up with In Sophat, our GlobeMed chapter’s first partner contact who no longer works at COWS but whom I’ve missed and hoped to see again.

Though I still don’t feel completely over the traumatizing spider encounter, I feel that, all in all, the scales tip overwhelmingly positive. I’m growing and learning, and I feel more content here and in my own skin with every day that passes. I’m happy – purely, deeply happy – that I’m here and have taken this leap.

That, I think, calls for a cookie, too. A celebratory cookie this time.

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