Archive for ‘Gross Stuff’

March 26, 2013

Bugs Bug Me

by Tabitha Kidwell

“I’d really like to know more about all the bugs living in Tabitha’s house.”

Said no one ever.

So if you aren’t into bugs and other gross stuff, you can watch this cute cat video instead.

Still here? Okay… so I totally thought I was winning the war against the vermin in my house, until I got back from Singapore last Sunday night, and as soon as I walked in, I had to immediately take off both shoes so I could kill two cockroaches who had made them selves at home in my absence. Then this guy was hanging out in my bedroom:


Luckily I’ve seen this one before, and when I googled “Gross black bug java pincers stinger” last year I found out it’s called a “false scorpion” or a “vinegaroon” – the first, because it is totally harmless despite that stinger; the second, because it smells like you’re dying easter eggs when you smash it.

Since then, my usual one cockroach per day fatality has been up to two. And the ants are getting a little out of hand. I leave an empty sugary tea cup out for 5 minutes and it’s like Golden Corral. And look what they did to one of the cockroaches I killed:


Lastly, this huge spider spun a giant web in my front yard:

Not the best shot, sorry

Not the best shot, sorry

I thought she was totally beautiful, but anything that brightly colored has to be poisonous, right? I was leaving her there as a kind of experiment, until I realize how bad it would be if she wasn’t there one day and I didn’t know where she had gone – or if she laid eggs! So she had to die:


So the war continues, but I really only need to hold them off for 3 more months… I think I can make it. Then they can regain sovereignty.

February 1, 2013

Ode to Durian

by Tabitha Kidwell

Durian fruit is one of the most intriguing things I have come across during my stay in Indonesia. It is incredibly divisive – people either love it or hate it. It is often banned in hotels and on public transportation. Apparently it can’t be harvested, so you just have to wait for it to fall. I’ve heard stories of people being killed when the very fruit they were waiting to enjoy fell right on their heads. There are also stories of men running through the forest after hearing the distinctive clunk of a Durian hitting the ground, only to turn and run the other way upon finding a tiger already eating it. Because of all these perils, Durian is very expensive, but it is worth the cost to the many Indonesian durian fanatics. Indeed, Javanese people describe Durian as the “fruit of the Gods.”

Foreigners are more likely to compare it to stinky feet. It is incredibly hard to describe to someone who hasn’t actually tried it. Here is an example of my conversation with Erica, my visitor from America: Is it like melon? No. Is it like fish? Yes. Is it like cheese? Maybe a little. Is it like garlic? Yes. Is it like tomatoes? No. Is it like ice cream? Yes. Is it like bananas? Maybe a little bit. Is it like plain yogurt? No. So what is it actually like?

Well, it starts as a green spiny fruit the size and weight of a watermelon. Duri actually means thorn in Indonesian, and the spikes are surprisingly pointy. You chop it open and find three small sections each made up of two or three seeds surrounded by creamy white flesh. There is surprisingly little meat in the giant, heavy fruit, but what is there is unlike anything else in the world – sweet and pungent, creamy and rich.



I first tried Durian during training in Bandung last year. While I didn’t think it was horrible, I definitely didn’t like it. At the height of Durian season, I would get to the grocery store and turn right around because of the stench coming from the produce section. But somewhere around the six-month mark here, I inexplicably started to crave it. Something about it’s sharp taste and intense smell appeals to me in the same way as Roquefort cheese, black coffee, lemon juice, and liquorice.

Javanese durian season started a couple of weeks ago, so I was excited to get back home, if only for a few days in the middle of Erica and my travels around Bali and Java. Almost as soon as we showed up at my house, a man rode by on his motorbike with a basket full of durian! I called him over, picked the smallest one, and cracked it open.



Erica was almost immediately put off by the smell, but she was a good sport and gave it a try. Here’s what she thought:


I think it may have been the only food in Indonesia she actually didn’t like. Yet. Like so many aspects of like here in Indonesia, durian takes time to grow on you, but then you love it… and you know that when you leave, you won’t ever have quite that experience ever again.

December 13, 2012

The chop

by Tabitha Kidwell

Careful readers will remember item #67 on my uberlist back in January: Chop off hair! I wanted to wait until the triathlon was over, and since the world was supposed to end anyways, I decided 12-12-12 was the day!

This is the 4th time in my life I’ve done the grow-your-hair-really-long-and-chop-it-all-off thing. The first time was during my senior year of high school, when I my friend Brad cut it off onstage during our drama club’s skit night (in a skit totally plagiarized from Camp Akita). Brad and I played an unhappily married couple coming to see a wacky therapist, played by my friend Laura. Laura hypnotized us, then got a phone call. “Her water broke?” she said to the phone. Brad poured water over my head. “Cut it out!” said Laura, oblivious. Brad hacked off my braid and totally freaked out the audience. The second time was my senior year of college, when I returned to sorority recruitment after winter break sporting the “reverse mullet” popularized by Kate Gosselin from Jon & Kate Plus 8 – long in the front, short and spiky in the back. Half of my sorority sisters (the ones who also had that haircut) thought I looked great, the other half stood in the back during recruitment and wished they had been cool enough to be in another sorority. The third time was after the Peace Corps, when my hair was so damaged and disgusting from being dyed blonde in Africa that I had to just start anew.

So this has been a long time coming – I haven’t had more than a trim since 2007. I was so ready – I came home after class, put my hair in 5 little ponytails (as instructed on and cut them off myself:


I felt like that would be easier than explaining what I wanted in Indonesian. I may have been a little over-generous with my hair donation, though – I cut it to about the length I thought I wanted my hair to be, unaware that the stylist would then cut like 2 more inches off. Oops. I guess it will grow. I went into the stylist looking like this:

I actually like this blunt-cut style (though it was super raggedy in the back) - maybe I'll try this in a few months when it grows more.

I actually like this blunt-cut style (though it was super raggedy in the back) – maybe I’ll try this in a few months when it grows more.

And showed her this picture of Katie Holmes:

I'm fairly sure the stylist thought this was actually me.  I didn't correct her.

I’m fairly sure the stylist thought this was actually me. I didn’t correct her.

And left looking like this:


Though I can also do a pretty good Justin Bieber swoop:

This is also basically my brother Rickie's haircut.

This is also basically my brother Rickie’s haircut.

All in all, it’s not exactly what I wanted or expected, but I look in the mirror here about once a day, so it’s a good time to have hair I don’t love to look at. And even if I don’t love how it looks at the moment, I do love how much easier it makes my life – how much shorter my cold showers are, how I can just pop my motorbike helmet on and off, how I don’t have to move my bun around for different Yoga poses. Not too bad. Oh, and the people in my office spontaneously applauded when I walked in the next morning. They’re easy to please.


My hair is now en route to Dublin, Ohio, where A.J. Hawks’ charity will pass it on to someone who will make wigs for cancer patients or Britney Spears or whoever. I sent it the same day I sent an expense report to Georgetown for almost $1000. Hopefully I didn’t get those mixed up! I imagine there are few things creepier than an envelope full of hair. Also, I really need that reimbursement. I have a lot of barrettes to buy.

October 9, 2012

My New Roommates

by Tabitha Kidwell

Disclaimer: If you don’t like bugs and rodents, don’t read this. Also, don’t move to Indonesia.

I may have been premature with my statement “the rains have come” last post. Unwavering sunshine is still prevailing, but I still hold out hope.

One major reason I am hoping for rain is because I am hoping it will wash away the rat family that has taken up residence in my pipes. There is basically one pipe that runs from the roof drain, through my bathroom, under my living room, and drains here:

Then everything goes into this open air sewer directly in front of my house:

Some history: one night, a rat got into my study/food storage room. I thought he climbed in through the open window, so I just closed the door, went to bed, and hoped he would be gone in the morning. It was a successful strategy and I only lost a cup o’ noodles. I thought closing the window would solve the problem, but the next morning a bag of soup mix had been nibbled on. My housekeeper told me they were probably coming from the pipes, so I constructed this:

Water can pass through, but not rats. Nice, huh?

But then I was awoken at 4 AM one morning by a rustling in the garbage in the other room. I arose just in time to see a little furry thing run into the bathroom and disappear with a clink of the shower drain. I have since started keeping a brick on there and that seems to have stopped them. I definitely confirmed that they are living there, because I saw 3 or 4 little guys peeking out of the drain hole pictured above, and I can hear their little squeaking at night. I’m hoping the rain will wash them away for good, but who knows.

Rats aren’t the only vermin to have taken up residence while I was away for the summer. I also have been killing cockroaches at the steady rate of one per day. They’re not even fast cockroaches, they just sit waiting to be smashed by my flip-flop. I wonder if they are a ploy sent out by the cockroach mafia to distract me while they are dealing cocaine in my back yard (or maybe I’ve been watching too much of The Wire?). I even killed one by accident in the door frame. It got stuck there, 3 feet off the ground, and for an entire day, an army of ants dismantled it and carried it away.

Which reminds me: ants are a problem, too. There seems to be a whole hierarchy of ant types: big, fat ones in the kitchen, medium-sized in my study, and teeny in the living room. But no matter the size, if I leave an empty teacup out for 5 minutes, they will swarm the still-sugary surface. I’m worried if I sleep too late they will begin to dismantle me like they did the cockroach.

In short, life is hard. But at least the spiders and small and the geckos are cute. And a mosquito hasn’t woken me up buzzing in my ear for like 2 weeks. So I’ll take the rats, ants, and lazy cockroaches. Until I figure out that cocaine scheme. Or until it starts to rain.

March 6, 2012

File under “stupid”

by Tabitha Kidwell

Weird stuff happens in foreign countries. The bacteria and the food is different, so things that your body can deal with just fine in America cause serious problems abroad. For instance, when I had been in Madagascar about 10 weeks, I got a huge whitehead zit. Grossness alert ahead: It was the kind that is just begging to be popped, pus just under the surface, so I obliged… then had to spend 5 days in the hospital because it got infected and the infection threatened to speed to my eyes and my brain. Not cool.

So, I thought conditions in Indonesia were somehow to blame for the horrible bloating I’d been having for the past few months. I thought maybe I was allergic to soy or MSG, but after carefully watching my diet, no patterns emerged. I thought maybe I was overeating too much on vacation, but I seemed to get really bloated even if I didn’t have much to eat. So I did a google search, and it said that parasites and worms, though they usually cause diarrhea and weight loss, can also cause bloating and constipation if it is a truly massive infestation. I was pretty sure I was being eaten alive, starting with the intestines. Thanks a lot, Indonesia!

So, I finally got myself to the doctor last month. I went to the fancy western clinic in Jakarta, and used their wi-fi while I waited for the doctor. When I went in to see Dr. Dian, she poked around my abdomen and confirmed that, yeah, I was really bloaty. “Are you on your period?,” she asked. No. “Do you have any known food allergies?” No. “Do you drink a lot of soda?” None. “Do you have any heartburn or acid reflux?” No. “Do you always chew gum?”


I had, at the moment, been happily chomping away on a piece of sugar-free Extra Dessert Sensations Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream gum. Over the past few months I had become something of a sugar-free gum connaisseur. I had a lot more free time, and I was finding myself nibbling and snacking whenever I was sitting around my house, so to try to avoid that and keep my mouth busy, I started chewing sugar-free gum. Unfortunately, Indonesia only seems to produce, like, 3 flavors, and I got sick of those real quick. I started asking for gum in packages, I bought some when I was in Australia, and my mom brought me some. By the middle of January, I had a huge stockpile. I even had more waiting for me in packages when I got back. Here’s an idea of just how much (and this was after I had chewed a ton and given away probably a third of it):

Having so much gum made feel like I needed to do all I could to use it up, so I started chewing more and more. By the time I went to the doctor, I was probably up to a half a pack a day! Basically, if I wasn’t eating or sleeping, I was chewing gum. Wait, not just chewing gum. I was chomping, snapping, blowing bubbles, and generally annoying everyone within earshot.

So, back to the doctors office: She told me that chewing gum makes you swallow more air and can lead to bloating. I read on google later that the artificial sweeteners are also bad because your body doesn’t digest them well. She suggested that I try a week without gum and see if it helped, then come back to see her again if it didn’t.

So, I tossed the last of the gum I brought with me on my travels.

And the bloating was over.

Meaning, I had managed to chew so much gum that I was able to convince myself I had a massive infestation of worms. Not cool. No hospital time, so not as bad as the zit, but right up there.

Anyone want a lifetime supply of sugar-free gum?

August 28, 2011

Cobra Blood

by Tabitha Kidwell

Drinking cobra blood is the kind of experience you should probably do if given the chance. Apparently, it is a very powerful source of vitality in Chinese Medicine. So my new friend Megan and I went with a bunch of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) to a Chinese restaurant in Bandung to do just that. First, they got out some snakes just to show off:

a king cobra…

and a python, which they let us hold…

Then we started going into the back a couple at a time for them to take the snakes out of the bags they were stored in…

…and chop off their heads.

Then the Chinese people drained the blood, cut out the stomach bile ducts, drowned the ducts in vodka, and brought it out to us.

And we drank it.

And were revitalized!

I know this sounds and looks disgusting, but it really was not that bad. The blood had almost no taste, and the hardest part of knocking back the bile was the vodka it was floating in. I don’t know if I would do it all again, but it was definitely an adrenaline-producing experience. I was all nervous before then all giddy and shaking afterwards. Maybe next time I’ll just try skydiving or cliff jumping. There’s less gagging when you tell those stories.