Swarmed

Hey Everyone. Sorry for the long delay in posting. So much has happened since I last managed to write anything.

The catalyst for my brief blogging retirement was two weeks without internet or electricity. About three weeks ago I set off to the Thaboni, in the south of Thyolo, to spend 3 days watching community training. I liked it so much I didn’t come back for 2 weeks. Due to poor planning, I failed to tell anyone. The place itself was great though. I’d forgotten how much I missed life in thatch, bucket showers, reading by candlelight, and struggling in Chichewa for almost every conversation.

Since that time life has been a whirlwind. I was back in Thyolo for only 3 days, during which I had to get caught up in the office, move into a new house, and host both George Roter of Engineers Without Borders and a reporter from a major Canadian newspaper. Add a breakdown on the road to Lilongwe, a case of the flu, the arrival of all the new Junior Fellowship volunteers, and picking Beth up at the airport, and things have been pretty crazy. Still though, nothing tops what happened Sunday morning.

A few hours before picking Beth up, myself and some fellow volunteers were walking from the Golden Peacock (the guesthouse where we were staying) to a nearby hostel with internet. On the way though, something happened; something you wouldn’t expect in a developed urban area of Lilongwe.

First we saw one bee. Then we saw a few more. We started mentioning the bees. For whatever reason, I was walking ahead of the group. I noticed a cell phone on the ground. I picked it up, thinking how strange it was to find an abandoned phone in Malawi. Then a bee stung my arm. I looked around – bees everywhere.

Being in the lead of the group (and the furthest into the bees), some sort of leadership inclination took over. I yelled a command, in as concise a manner as I could: “F**k, RUN!”. However, I quickly proved that good leaders are not made by virtue of position alone, by proceeding to charge headlong into the cloud of bees rather than retreating. After about five steps I looked up and could see nothing but bees. They were everywhere. The air was thick with them in all directions. Feeling the forward path was not the best, I corrected my decision and issued another panicked command: “****, run back, the other way!!!!”.  By this time I was already covered with bees, being stung mercilessly. The others, though slightly better off (to varying degrees – a couple got it as bad as me) were also suffering the same torment.

We ran as fast as we could back to the Golden Peacock. It was about 100m and bees chased us the entire way. Colleen fell and hit her head on the concrete, but in my panic I didn’t even notice. Luckily she got up and kept moving, getting back ok.

At this point I must have had hundreds of bees on me. They chased us all the way into the guesthouse, down the hall, and into the bathroom. Mike ran into the shower and turned it on – a good choice. I felt that the shower curtain didn’t offer enough protection from the swarm, so instead jumped into a stall and closed its tight-fitting door.

Inside the stall I proceeded to make my last stand. What I hadn’t realized was there was no swarm chasing me, just an amazing number of bees crawling all over my clothes and hair. I crouched in the stall, killing them as fast as my two hands would let me, but they kept stinging. Finally Mike yelled for me to get in the shower, and just in time, Lewis (a guesthouse employee) raced in with a can of insect killer and sprayed me down. After that it was into the shower, and the worst of it was over.

IMG_0856 Crime Scene Photo. Floor of the bathroom stall where I made my stand.

As soon as the bees were off of us, Mike and I ventured out of the shower to see how everyone else was doing. Luckily, it seems like I probably got it the worst (from a bee perspective, with many infinitesimally close second-place winners who might actually challenge my title) and more importantly everyone was fine, if a little shaken up.

IMG_0847Crime Scene Photo. Bathroom floor outside the showers. 

We spent the rest of the day resting, picking stingers out of each other, discussing the story over and over again. The whole situation was surreal; when Anna-Marie went back by car to get the bags we dropped, she found two abandoned cars running on the road, tonnes of bags, people running in different directions, and a poor tourist who had resorted to sticking his head in a bush.  Seems we weren’t the only ones caught off guard.

We later learned that the bees were on the prowl because a couple days ago someone burned their hive (standard practice) but failed to also poison them (supposed to be standard practice). Funnily enough, today I read in the newspaper that a swarm of bees in the same area interrupted polling in yesterday’s general election. I’m guessing it’s the same one.

Anyways, pretty crazy stuff. An interesting experience if nothing else.

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4 comments:

  1. hahahaha this was more then worth the read. and good leadership skills, running INTO the swarm of bees haha. ah bees are somewhat scary. and stingers can infect pretty bad, hopefully you got them all out!

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  2. Yikes!

    It's stories like this that prove to me that I'm a total wimp - like, I actually don't think I could deal with it!

    Glad to hear things are busy, and good. Keep taking care!

    Em

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  3. WOW. Crazy story you've got there, and I'm glad to see everyone's fine !!

    I have a question for you, how did you manage to set up categories on blogspot ? I can't seem to find the option anywhere. You can get back to me at maxfrom1987 at gmail. Thank you !

    Say Hi to the Malawi JFs for me if you get the chance !

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  4. Sherry and Mike SproulMay 24, 2009 at 12:16 PM

    Hi Owen and Beth, glad to hear your experience turned out ok. I remember when Beth was stung by hornets and that turned out ok as well. Take care hope to hear about your next adventure soon.

    Love Mom and Mike

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