Sunday, June 27, 2010

feifei in the tropics

fei fei is back to his happy self, now that we've been in taiwan 2 and half weeks. but in the heat it takes a lot of baths and a lot of naps to keep him happy. one of the pictures is with wild flowers in utah. there are 3 of him eating -- the food he wants (our food) vs. the food he doesn't want (apple sauce and bananas). and then the one big people's food he likes so far: carrot baby food. we can't figure it out.
we have this bad habit of going out to visit dozens of relatives, or them coming to our place, right about when little t is reaching his limit and needs a nap. so every poke to the tummy, every smile and look into his eyes, is likely to be met with an irritable squeal or an outright burst of tears. ugh. i don't like it. luckily there have been a couple of cool or coolish days, including my b-day, yesterday. the highlight i think was taking toby to the beach. yeah, he was amazed and a little afraid i think. i let the waves lap at his feet. i'm pretty sure i could have kept him there an hour. he's a baby with a big spirit: look at his eyes so big, devouring every new person or place! (and being devoured) i added in a pic of him in his first tent in west virginia, the first night of the trip.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

biting gnats

i drove out, with sara, her mom, and toby, to sara's maternal grandparents' house to give her gramma a ride to the doctor's. i got out when her grampa invited me in for a quick drink of xiancao, a cooling herbal drink. sara told me to open the windows and turn off the air. i went in the farm house's dim kitchen. suddenly her grampa was warning me about mosquitoes, since i had shorts on. no, i said, they're fine. but sara's mom was simultaneously bending down and pointing out little black specks on my legs. it's nothing, i said, probably just something left from walking in the rain. grampa was smearing a strong-smelling goop on my legs. i realized the little specks were indeed sucking my blood!

and when i got back to the car, they were already filling the interior. unlike the black mosquitos here, which are preternaturally cautious, as if sensing your hands waiting to slap and deliberately going back out of range for a little while, these little gnats just fasten immediately to bare skin and begin sucking.

the whole way back home we were killing them against the windows. i recalled a public tv show from 2008 discussing the effects of climate change on taiwan. the one i remember was this: with rising temperatures, mosquitoes and other biting insects once confined to the southern end of the island will spread throughout the island.

'i don't know what they are,' sara's mom said, 'they were never here before.' she grew up in that house! which means she is an authority on what bugs were or were not there before. has climate change pushed a species further north, into her father's house? suddenly, this mellow household with its green hills and fields and gardens turns in my mind from a refuge to a danger. i don't want to bring toby there. how awful for these two old people, around them 24 hours!

and then i think: i hope they don't spread to yuanli! i already have curtailed sitting outside the front door of my parents in law's house because of the mosquitoes. these biting gnats make them look like a piece of cake. all screening would suddenly be obsolete.

those gnats, which i kept smashing against the windshield, leaving little bloody smears, made me think of the biblical plagues brought against the pharaoh of egypt.