Monday, March 26, 2012

Dont Look Too Closely or The Story of the Horse Spider

It all started calmly enough. I was sitting on my bed, messing around on my computer. I was enjoying the guilt-free lazy day created by the rain. Normally during the summer, we get plenty of these days where everything grinds to a halt due to rain. But thanks to the drought, this was only the second one I had had in months. It officially fall, so I doesn’t really count as a lazy summer day anyway.
So, as I said, I was messing around on facebook, reading news articles on various websites, and trying to find PCVs in Peru who I could visit on my planed vacation in July/ August. Out of the corner of my eye, about three feet away, I see something crawl out from underneath my rompero (dresser). I assume, of course, that it is one of the frog/toads that have been infesting my house by scores for the past few months, or at worst it might be a mouse (although it was moving far too slowly).
Oh how wrong I was.
All of that flashed through my mind as a turned my head slightly to the left to see what it was. It was NOT at frog, toad, or mouse. It was, in fact, a TARANTULA. A very large, very hairy, tarantula.
I am not afraid of much, however spiders (and snakes and loud peals of thunder) terrify me in a profound way. I screamed (loudly) several times, and as soon as I unfroze myself I ran next door. I shakily clapped my hands (clapping hands outside a house is equivalent to ringing a door bell), and when my neighbors immerged I stammered “hay un ñandu kavaju en me dormitorio!” Which translates in jopara (Spanish Guarani mix) to “there is a horse spider [tarantula] in my bedroom!” I was literarily shaking, and clutching my sweatshirt up by my neck with both hands.
“Did you kill it?” my neighbor, Heronimo, asked. I shake my head.
“Do you want me to kill it?” I nod my head. His señora laughs as he grabs his machete and we head back to my house.
I give him a flashlight, mumble something along the lines of “abajo de el rombero” (beneath the dresser), and point a trembling hand in that direction. Heronimo, peers underneath the dresser, and suggests we move my suitcase and banjo case, which are wedged between the rompero and the wall.
I say “Oima, pero, no puedo ayudarte. Tengo demasiado miedo” (Okay, but I can’t help you. I am too afraid.) . And its true I can’t make myself go near that corner of the room, and its not a very big room to begin with. Hernonimo moves the items and placed them on my bed.
I, not wanting to be touch the floor incase it runs out from beneath my belongings, crouch on a chair by the other corner. This perch allows me to see, what he is doing, but stay relatively safe (or so I convince myself).
“Ah, there’s the horse spider” he says in Guarani, and delicately chops the thing partly in half. Heronimo picks it up with the tip of the machete, and takes it outside. I remain quaking on my ridiculous chair perch, as he fills in the hole it probably entered through with brick, and puts my belongings back in the corner.
He grins and says “they can’t kill you, but they are dangerous.” I am so grateful, that my thank you don’t seem like enough. I don’t have much food in the house (I’m planning doing a shopping in town tomorrow assuming it doesn’t rain), so look around and finally give him a bug repellent incense spiral that his señora likes to use sometimes. I’m sure they think I am crazy, but I am just so appreciative that that thing is gone. I ask Heronimo if he things there are more tarantulas in my house. His eyes dart underneath my bed, and he says “ikatu” (there might be, maybe), and he heads back to his house.
I think the last time I was this scared was when I got stuck at the top of a double Farris wheel (picture an “8” going around in circles), by myself. I was probably 12 years old. I’m not nearly as frightened of spiders as I was when I first arrived in Paraguay. I am able to kill most of them with out to much fuss using a shoe. But ñandu kavaju, are just a different class of terrifying.
In many ways, I feel like I am fairly tough by both American and Paraguayan standards. I am not afraid to travel in foreign countries or to cities by myself. I have no problem living by myself, and I’m not afraid of the dark (two very common earnest questions from my community). I can smash or sweep out (almost) all manner of bugs, and will pick up and toss into the yard frog/toads without even thinking about it (many Paraguayans seem to fear, or be discussed by, frog/toads). I am not afraid to swim and no longer have a fear of heights. I can kill and prepare a chicken. I’ll eat anything once, and don’t have a problem dealing with blood, vomit or other bodily fluids. Roaches and bats hardly make an impression on me at all.
In other words, I am normally not a cowardly person. But dang if that “horse spider” didn’t humble me. Its been two hours and my heart has finally stopped racing and the adrenaline has left me. I feel the blood running back to my extremities. I’m still a little twitchy. My eyes are darting to any shadow that seems to move, and I definitely gave a little yelp when my dog sneezed, and another one when a frog/toad jumped into the room.
I’m trying not to think about the fact that they can climb (a fact I hadn’t thought about until a friend, trying to sympathize, mentioned she had found one on her pillow, a few months ago). I’m trying not to think about the fact that if I need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, I’m going to have to cross the path where the “horse spider” crawled. In fact I cant physically put more than a yard and a half between me and the rompero from whence it came.
Sorry there is no photo with this post. It would have been bleary anyway.


  1. sorry, i know this isn't funny (and it was probably quite traumatic), but i can't help but chuckle. love this. only in PY.

  2. Oh dont worry, once I stopped shaking I started cracking up.
    I found another one in the drawer of my rompero last week. I reached in to pull out a fresh pair of knickers and *boom* there it was! INCHS FROM MY HAND.