A Crazy Thing Happened Next to the Maquiladoras

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
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Trip End ??? ??, 2007


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Flag of Honduras  ,
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

I've been wanting to share a story about a very odd thing that happened to me on my way home from school, early last week.  It has nothing to do with my students, just my own experience:
 
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.  Just as soon as I had swatted at these intruders I realized that they were not alone, and there were many bees.  I began to swat at them even harder.  I looked up, over my shoulder to the left, and saw something I'd only seen in movies.  There was a swarm of bees, all coming toward me.  I don't know how many bees there actually were; twenty, thirty, fifty?  I have no idea.  But they formed a cloud that enveloped my entire upper body in a very short second or two.
 
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 hurried toward the house, continuing to swat, and bat, screaming, "What should I do?," in English.  As I neared the house I realized they were all backing away from me.  I decided that I should not get any closer to them.
 
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.
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