Sunday, November 9, 2008

The M'squitters

I finally spent an evening cleaning up my house a little bit, mostly sifting through all the weird clutter and oddball dust bunnies that have built up in my drawers over the last four months. It’s amazing how things purchased and not purchased accumulate in different corners of the house, even as I consciously avoid buying anything that won’t be consumed by the time I leave here.

Some of it is necessary. I have a pretty elaborate collection of insect repellent of all sizes and flavors. I’ve sampled a good proportion of the insect repellent available in this country. My friend Nandita recommended this roll-on stuff made in Denmark or someplace, one of those countries you’d think wouldn’t really be experts on mosquitos. It's a DEET + lemongrass formulation, two ingredients that don't work very well on me on their own, but who knows what could happen if you mix them together. I'll never know, though, because I’ve traveled all around the country in search of it and no luck.

The best that I’ve found so far is a brand called Sketolene. They have a few different formulas, but I like the all-natural one that uses lemongrass and eucalyptus. It’s nearly as effective as DEET, but is non-toxic and doesn’t leave that sticky film that DEET does.

I seem to be a special case in terms of my ability to attract mosquitos. DEET-based repellents claim to last 12 hours, but they usually only last about 3 hours on me before the skeeters come a-buzzing again. And a 28% formulation works as well as a 100% formulation. I once used a 100% DEET brand, and it was so humid that 15 minutes later I had sweated through it, and I had three new bites. I hate mosquitos.

I’ve also tried a 100% lemongrass repellent, which lasts a whole 10 minutes. For whatever reason, the eucalyptus in the Sketolene makes all the difference. It must have the same confusing effect on a mosquito’s sense of smell that the menthol in Tiger Balm has, but without the scent of a Chinese grandmother.

So, Loi Krathong begins this week. It’s an annual lantern festival that takes place during the full moon in early November. People light candles, incense, coins, flowers and other offerings on a small lotus-shaped raft made of banana leaves, make a wish, and send it all down the river. It’s also considered an act of atonement to the river goddess for polluting the river, which seems ironic when you start wondering where the rafts and all their semi-biodegradable contents all end up after everyone has their fun. But, it makes for nice pictures and I’m hoping to find a riverbank where I can set up my camera and tripod.

1 comment:

MB said...

still loving your posts though i am really missing the brain twitches in kiswahili!!!could you write a post about comparisons between attitudes in kenya and thailand? or is that too generall in a sense of "what exactly do you mean?" whatever you come up with i'd love to hear about it!