Sunday, May 22, 2016

Bugged by the Past....

I am so excited about my upcoming trip to the Mayan archaeological sites of Belize that I'm telling everyone.  Seriously.  Everyone.

The correlations I have forced between what is going on in the real world and my self-absorbed focus on my upcoming trip have been embarrassing.  The woman on line in front of me at the supermarket: "I see you're digging in your purse for change.  That reminds me, I'm going on an archaeological dig soon."  My dental hygienist:  "Y'know, the way you're gently picking at the plaque on my teeth reminds me of the delicate process of uncovering archaeological artifacts, and I just happen to be going on a dig soon..."

This is big for me.  I have dreamed of doing field work for decades, even before Indiana Jones romanticized a process that often includes dirty, back-breaking work in all kinds of climate conditions and, in tropical environments such as Belize, the possibility of venomous snakes, flies that leave their eggs to hatch in your arm, and tarantulas.

Bugs of all kinds are one of the "occupational hazards" of working in Belize.  Cockroaches that fly and are the size of (I'm quoting a friend's description here) "small bats".  Mosquitoes and bed bugs and ticks.  Oh my!

Then there is the deadly bite of the chinch bug.  Yes, Indy never mentioned these little guys.  Chinch bug is the local name for an insect called triatominae.  An online search for information through the World Health Organization informs me that they are called "kissing bugs" because they like to crawl on a sleeping person's mouth.  Awful as the idea of a bug crawling on your mouth during the night may be, the idea of this same bug POOPING near your mouth when it bites you (which is what the chinch bug does) is worse.  Okay, sorry, not done yet.  When you instinctively rub the bite, you can rub the feces INTO the bite, your mouth, eyes, nose, or a skin break.  Still not grossed out?  Okay.  How about if that feces contains parasites that can live in your body undetected for up to twenty years? Parasites that can KILL YOU?

Oh goody.  Always wanted to be on television.  Just didn't think it would be an episode of "Monsters Inside Me".

Indiana Jones never mentioned this.
But even though the image of archaeologists as romantic adventurers has proliferated popular culture, I've always known what I'd really be up against.

And I always wanted to go anyway.

Having seen sites like La Venta, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, Palenque, Tikal, Teotihuacan, Altun Ha, Lamanai, and more, I am itching more than ever to be one of those people who uncovers and documents these amazing sites.

Uxmal, Mexico, 2007
Do bugs bug me?  To some extent, of course. And so they should as some are known disease vectors, venomous, and so on.  But facing new, foreign critters does not deter me, much as the idea of roaches with wings makes the flying monkeys of Oz seem like cute pets to me.

When I travel I'm not looking for a "just like home but no dishes" experience. I try to embrace the local way of life, the bad with the good. I realize that I am mainly an observer but I try to to learn about local food, religion, recreation, and so on.  Archaeology is a way to travel to the PAST to find out these very things.  I view participation in uncovering that past as a privilege, an honor.  It's also very exciting.  A treasure hunt? Yes, sometimes.  But if the treasure is knowledge and history, then  always.

I'll bring a lot of bug spray.

1 comment:

Kari Rub said...

"Indiana Jones never mentioned this" HAHA! :-)