29 September 2011

Interesting wildlife...if you are squeamish, don't look at this post!

Today's post is about scorpions.  Yep.  Scorpions.  Who knew?  They live up and down the coast in Croatia and I'm told they are the variety that can sting, but don't kill.  Apparently their sting is as bad as a nasty bee sting (unless you are allergic).  They are pretty small in the Istrian peninsula where I had the encounter with the fellow in the picture above.  This one was about 5cm (2 inches) long and is one of the bigger ones you'll see around these parts.  Most of the other ones I've seen are usually 1-2cm long, and for some reason they tend to be in dark, damp places like the shower door, or the shower floor. 

You might think that your first reaction to seeing your first scorpion is to scream or maybe pass out.  That's what I thought too.  But weirdly, the first time I saw one I was dumbstruck, frozen, paralyzed, and it took about 3 minutes to recover enough to point in the direction where the scorpion had been (I'm guessing he took off so fast because he could sense my impending nervous breakdown).  Then in a tiny whisper I said to my husband:  I think I just saw a scorpion.  Then I sat down.  I think what may have happened is that my brain has never seen one of these things up close and personal, and thus it took my brain a couple hundred seconds to scan through my memory banks to first figure out what it is (not a spider, not a centipede, etc), then my brain had to figure out the correct response (run, scream, cry, employ flame thrower, etc). 

The second time I encountered a scorpion, it didn't take a millisecond for me to react.  Strange thing about scorpions:  they are BOLD.  They don't scurry away like spiders.  Nope.  They sort of sit there looking at you as if to say:  yeah, you caught me red-handed, now what are you gonna do about it, eh baby?  Then they will click their claws a few times and stare you down.  Like the one I found in the shower today.  He was a tiny little fellow near the drain, so I sprayed him with the shower head expecting him to run away or at least get washed down the drain.  That did not happen.  He slowly walked away from the water, then shook himself off, clicked his claws a few times (I think to dry them off and make sure they still worked) and then he sat there looking at me, and I'm sure he was thinking (in a John Wayne voice no less):  you shouldn't have done that little lady.

Um, I'm not proud of what happened next, but it was me or him, and well, let's just say that a wooden clog took care of the situation.  You may think the wooden clog was excessive force, but the other thing I learned about scorpions is that they have a rather hard shell.  If you hit them with a fly swatter or a slipper they will simply laugh maniacally at you.  The only thing that works is something really hard that can crush the shell.  And (here's the squeamish part) it will make an awful CRUNCH sound.

Scorpions like to hide out in warm and dark places like:  the cuffs on your jeans hanging over the chair at night, the socks you left on the floor and thought that maybe you'd wear one more day, curtains, shoes, slippers...I'll stop now.  Before doing anything at all now when I'm in Istria or anywhere along the coast, I shake things out before using them.  And I say a little tiny prayer.

Now, if you thought scorpions were bad, wait until I tell you about the Buick-sized grasshoppers that are so big people hire them out to help move appliances.  I made that last part up.  But they are big.  I'm getting up the nerve to take a picture of one...but my screaming shakes the camera and the pictures end up looking like those smudgy Loch Ness Monster pictures...which I can only imagine were taken while a)  screaming, and b) running away.

But all that is for some time in the future.  Right now, there's espresso to be made and enjoyed.  And hazelnuts to be shelled.

Ah, complete bliss, except for the scorpion part.

01 September 2011

Dust in the wind

Okay, I'm noticing a weird thing about dust in Zagreb.  It is somehow everywhere.  No matter how much I dust the furniture in our place, I will turn around and just 2 hours later there is a thin layer of dust.  And if I wait just 2 or 3 days, it turns into a thick layer of dust.  Where does it all come from?

I thought it was just my own little problem, but when I mentioned it a few people here, they also told me about their losing battle with dust.  Some people swear that the dust starts to build just an hour after they finish dusting.  And I believe them. 

I'm starting to suspect the pollen.  Zagreb is well known for its high pollen count.  Some days you can walk down the street and see a thin layer of pollen coating the parked cars.  And you can hear people sneezing and snuffling as the pollen works its way into everyone's eyes, noses, and lungs.  And I'm guessing it is working its way through all my open windows, through my sheer curtains, and proceeding directly to pretty much every surface in our place.

I'd write more, but I've got dusting to do.....and do, and do, and do  ;-)