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.