Itsy Bitsy Spider ………

Welllll, not quite so itsy bitsy!  Let me tell you a story of our spider encounters while attending the recent Vipassana retreat in Kirtipur.

Each night, there was a 1.5 hour discourse by SN Goenka via previously taped footage.  It seems the discourse is available in multiple languages as for our group, there was one showing in Russian, another in English and in Nepali for the largest group.  I am unsure where the 3 Russian speaking participants went, but there were 9 of us who went to one small room located in the men’s quarters for the English showing every evening.  The larger Nepali group remained in the ~90% bug-free environment of the meditation hall.

Our room was musty with very damp walls, and one of those mosquito-fighting chemical plug-in thingys that I swear are so filled with harmful chemicals, I am convinced I am growing a third ear out of the back of my head.  The challenge was – unplug the chemical weapon and suffer the mosquitoes, or leave it plugged in and use your shawl to filter the air we breathed in the room.  Our decision on what to do differed every night.

There was a tall stack of meditation cushions in one corner so we each took one the first night, respected our vow of noble silence and listened to the discourse.  Same for the second and third night.  By the fourth night, the assistant no longer sat in with us to watch the discourse so we were left to our own devices.  We quickly grabbed more meditation cushions for our backs and bums, and everyone leaned against a wall with legs outstretched, taking a well deserved break from the lotus position.  It was then he was spotted.

Surfacing from a stack of meditation cushions right next to the door (no other escape possible), the mightiest of spiders I ever did see. Body the size of a king prawn I kid you not, leg span larger than the palm of a man’s hand.  There he was, slowly inching his way along the stack while everyone jumped to their feet in a nanosecond and yelped.

Gone was our vow of noble silence – we cursed, we screamed, we clung to one another – all strictly prohibited activities under normal circumstances.  And this was no normal circumstance let me tell you!  Someone had to do something and it sure as heck wasn’t going to be me.

Spiderman steps forward (later to be known as Bartosz the Polish guy).  He grabs a plastic pint jug and a brush pan and plopped the jug over top of the giant spider, then slipped the dust pan underneath.  All hell broke loose as the transfer was so easily done, no one believed he had actually done.  I still remember the sound – Spiderman shook the plastic jug and like as if there were little pebbles in the jug, the spider tingled the side of the jug … and we were all convinced the spider was indeed captured.

One of the guys grabbed his headlamp and escorted Spiderman to the nearby fence, where the large spider was ceremoniously chucked over the fence.  Because we all know spiders respect property fences.

Afterwards we settled back into the footage and our vow of noble silence, but there was a bonding there that night without a doubt.

The fifth night comes around, everyone is anxious returning to the room.  Our vow of noble silence is compromised somewhat.  The room still stinks, we bravely lift all the cushions for fear the large spider has returned, yet we only find regular-sized bugs getting on with their lives – no problem, we leave them to it and make ourselves comfortable.

A slightly smaller but still large spider reveals itself behind the TV screen and there is more yelping.  The Mexican guy (later introduced as Felipe) grabbed a cushion cover and picked up the spider by his body (remember I said the body was the size of a king prawn).  And out he and Spiderman go, chucking the spider over the fence again.  Later we see what we believe to be the orphans of the spider family, all scurrying around looking for their parents, and we felt momentarily bad.  Only momentarily though.

The giant spiders did not return, there were no additional spider scares from night six to eleven in this room and we were relieved.  The smell got marginally better but maybe that was because we were used to it?  Who knows.

These same sized spiders were in the washrooms in the ladies quarters.  And to wash, one had to be incredibly brave, look the giant spider in the eye and agree we would each respect our sides of the cubicle for the duration of the wash.  It mostly worked.

And before anyone asks, we had also taken a vow of not killing anyone or anything, which I scoffed at initially, but soon realised how challenging a vow that was to keep … between the giant spiders, those damn mosquitoes and all the other scary, unknown bugs I encountered while there.

Jen C – you would have been very proud of me, and No, your little spider catcher thingy would have been useless.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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6 Responses to Itsy Bitsy Spider ………

  1. Tina Nielsen says:

    Why do large bugs seem so much worse when they and you are in a damp musty room? You’re becoming a very brave lass indeed (though I already thought you were).

    • Kate Coffey says:

      One’s imagination is not always a good thing, that’s what a damp & musty room plus giant spiders does for you. And Nope, I am still a scaredy cat, there are just times you have to grin & bear it! Much love to you

  2. Anne Marie says:

    Kate. I was initially very keen on the idea of 11 hours silence – no one moaning at me (kids, hubbie, clients….bliss) but after reading this post I have changed my mind ! U r braver woman than I !!! Anne Marie

    • Kate Coffey says:

      The Vipassana centre in New Zealand looks pretty nice so you could have 11 hours of meditation for 10 days without the giant spiders. And I am not brave at all, there are something you just gotta grin and bear. Hope you are settled in after the trip to Ireland. Would have loved to have joined you all at Mary’s place. Looks stunning. xo

  3. Kitty says:

    Wow Kate, you are one brave woman!!! If I was in the room I would’ve screamed and ran like a crazed lunatic, Spider-Man would have picked me up and thrown me over the fence instead of the spider!

    • Kate Coffey says:

      I am still a wuss when it comes to spiders, the lesser of two evils was staying in the room, otherwise I would have had to go right by that giant spider … and that was not happening!!

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