A Crazy Thing Happened Next to the Maquiladoras
Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
18Trip End ??? ??, 2007
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With my pack loaded down with school books, papers, and lesson plans, strapped in place across my back, I had cut through the Zalia's property, down a slowly winding dirt road, past chicken breeding tents and the pineapple juice factory in town. I closed the gate behind me and made a left onto the asphalt road that runs west out of town. I had not walked far at all, just past the cigar factory on my right, and had begun a slow and short descent to the polluted and dirty creek at the bottom of the hill.
There was some buzzing close to me, and I very quickly became aware of two or three bees circling my head
You need to know, at this point, that growing up I was allergic to bees. I had visited the hospital several times previously to ward off any ill effects. I was rather proud of the time I had been "wounded" on the battlefield at Gettysburg during a family vacation.
This, however, was in no way amusing. I was already swatting, batting, and hitting myself in the chest, arms, and face to chase off, kill, or get rid of my attackers in any way possible. I ran over to the ditch, thinking I should get down low, and they would leave me?!? I'm not sure where that thinking came from, and quickly realized it was of no value.
As I climbed back out of the ditch, covered with bees, stings, and I'm sure already sweating more than I had since November, some people across the street in a house along the hill were yelling at me in Spanish
I don't think I could possibly explain all that went through my brain at this time. I do remember thinking, "people have died from massive bee stings, right?," and "that is exactly what is happening to me right now. Could I die, right here on the street to the maquiladoras?" That may sound melodramatic, but at that time I felt this incredible sense of hopelessness. I had no idea what to do or how I was going to stop this assault.
I think that for having no other hope, I simply started to run, still batting, smashing, and swearing the whole time. They followed and continue to sting me. I felt several of them, in what felt like a small cluster, dive into my hair, as though they were actually grabbing hold of my scalp. I slapped them against my own skin as hard as I could, and swung at others. I ran faster, wondering if they would follow me until I gave up.
As I neared the creek, I thought about submersing myself, but knew the creek was very shallow at the time, due to a lack of rain. I had this image of myself half-submersed in dirty polluted water; cups, beer cans, and plastic bottles and bags all around me. I dismissed this thought and kept running.
After running a little further I was aware that I was losing the bees, which were not keeping up with me. Slowing down a bit, a man walking toward me, near the creek, was mumbling, "African, African!" No sooner had I slowed enough to listen to this man than the bees were back on me, and just as intent on stinging me as before. I looked at the man and said, "I don't know what to do." He yelled, "Corre, corre, y no para!" (Run, run, and don't stop!) I took off, again, now on a level section, over the creek, and began running up the hill into town. I'm not sure how far I had run when I realized there were no bees. I was exhausted, but ran a little further. When I did stop running I kept walking fast, and didn't look back.
I found at least twelve bees stings on my arms, face, and neck. I also scraped (as I'd learned to do in boy scouts) numerous stingers off my body, as I found them in a variety of places all over my body, partially inserted in my skin. When I finally got back to the volunteer house, an hour later, I broke down and cried. I had not been so afraid of something in a long time. We found more stingers, dead bees, and even a couple sets of bee's legs here and there that I must have knocked off as I smashed them in desperation.
Happily, I've had no short term problems with the attack, just a little swelling and redness. One of the stings was right on the outside corner of my left eye. It immediately swelled, and I thought it might even swell shut that night. It did not get worse, although ten days later I still have a black eye. The locals all ask me if I got the "ojo morado" (purple eye) from a fight, and motion as though they're hitting me. I tell them, no, but I think they prefer the fight story over the real story.