I clutched my sarong tighter around my chest and crept up the stairs.
“Somtor? Ping-peang tom tom,” I squeaked and mimed a smashing motion with my hands.
Our host family laughed. Kim and Mam slowly stood up and followed me as I nervously backed down the stairs towards the “ban tup tek” (bathroom).
Liza pointed her flashlight through the open door, illuminating the hand-sized huntsman spider on the wall. Mam grabbed a long stick, chasing the arachnid behind the water basin. Liza, Kay and I jumped backward listening to the thwack of the wooden pole against the concrete.
“Ok, gone.” Mam announced as she exited the small washroom.
I took “gone” to mean “no longer living and able to jump on you”, so I re-gathered my shower things and gave it another go.
Putting on my headlamp I quickly de-saronged. As I reached for the water scoop my light reflected off eight, green glowing eyes.
“Nope!” I yelled, quickly wrapping myself before sprinting out the door. “Som mouy tiek?” I pleaded to Kim who was still standing near by.
He laughed and disappeared into the bathroom. Moments later he returned, his hand outstretched.
Losing all sense of self I screamed at recoiled, the other two girls following close behind. Kim had the body of the spider clutched between his fingers, eight-legs poised menacingly. He chuckled at our fear, stepping a bit closer before disposing of the beast around the side of the house.
“I’ll shower in the morning,” I mumbled and headed upstairs to put on my pajamas.
My fear of hairy, eight-legged creatures overshadowed the shame of freaking out in front of two of my trip participants.
I know, deep down, I can handle large bugs. I’ve done it before. When I lived alone I came home several times to huge spiders, jumping around yelling, “Kill it!” Only to realize I was the only one around to do said disposal.
A few days prior to leading this trip I had been watching a movie at my friend’s house. I got up to use the bathroom and was met by a very large cockroach. I danced around a bit trying to decide what to do before turning to my friend, “There is a rather intimidating cockroach in your bathroom. I was going to kill it but remembered you’re here so I don’t have to.”
I then stood on a chair and watched him chase it around the room, finally sweeping it outside.
The 21 students, 3 teachers, and 1 cameraman had arrived in Cambodia only a few days prior to our trip to the rural island of Koh P’dao and were receiving a crash course in culture shock. Hailing from a private school in the Hampton’s the community on Koh P’dao was different from anything they had experienced. No running water, no electricity, very limited English, and hardest of all – no Internet access.
Having never been to the island myself, I tried to hide my own discomfort as much as possible and was incredibly proud to watch the students grow through out the experience. At the end of their time in Cambodia (which included several days in Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, and Siem Reap) they all listed spending time with their homestay families as a highlight of the whole trip.
The morning after our spider-fest we learned two girls in another homestay house awoke to a scorpion in their bed. Liza, Kay and I considered ourselves lucky, but still checked our beds and shook out our suitcases every night.