|Nanglat: Stupid, Evil, Bitey Plant
Vanuatu has almost no plants or animals that are harmful to humans. There is exactly one sea snake with toxin strong enough to do serious damage and it can’t get its mouth open far enough to bite things bigger than your ear lobe. There is a shellfish that if you step on just right could do some serious damage, but they are uncommon and you really have to step on them. I can’t imagine being chased by a shellfish is a terribly frightening prospect. To add to this list, there is a single kind of plant that causes a rash and itching, like poison ivy. We pretty much don’t have any of these things on Pentecost.
While I was at the leadership camp, I decided to take the lead in something. Our toilet situation was less than stellar. The toilets themselves were the usual bush toilets, however the path to get to them resembled the contents of the toilet. Seriously, we had to walk about ten feet through ankle deep mud that smelled like rot. So, I decided to do something about it. I borrowed a bush knife and went to cut a bridge. By bridge, of course, I mean a couple of ankle-thick branches to put across the muddy part and use as a balancing beam.
I got the first one without trouble. I started walking back and spied a perfectly good sapling by the road. I set down the first sapling and started hacking away. Five minutes later, the sapling fell over into the bush. Not to be deterred, I went tromping into the bush after it.
I got about one whole step off the path before things started going wrong. Something itched on my leg. I kicked my leg around a bit to chase whatever bug it was off it and reached down to grab my hard-earned log. My hand closed on the log and the biting started on my arm. I pulled the log out. I was not going to be beaten by some pesky insect.
I stepped back onto the path and the burning started. I looked down, expecting to see black ants. They are annoying and painful but go away pretty quickly. Instead, I see nothing. Just my leg. Muttering curses, I picked up the logs and start walking back. The prickly itching feeling went from a mild annoyance to painful in about thirty seconds. I ran, dragging the blasted logs and a bush knife behind me.
I got to the poo-swamp and ran through it, leaving the logs behind. I got to the shower and started scrubbing. Like all poisons plants, the sap is the toxin and I wanted it off my skin. The girls found me there, dancing around in the shower swearing at myself for being an idiot, holding a bar of soap and a bush knife. They finished putting together the bridge.
I was leading three sessions that morning. I took a full dose of Benadryl and talked a little slower than I might normally do. I didn’t fall asleep in any session, nor did start drooling on my papers. I think I did surprisingly well given how much antihistamines knock me on my bum.
I’ve never had poison ivy. I’ve heard it is an acquired allergic reaction. I imagine this itched like that, except add in a burning feeling on contact. Even putting the sheet over my leg at night made it hurt. The next evening, it was mostly fine. The lingering effects of sensitivity to cold and water lasted another four days.