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Life in Mexico: bugs, disease and puppy dog showers

Karen Blue

One of my readers asked me to talk about bugs and diseases. These are simply my experiences or observations and they apply to the Chapala/Ajijic lakeside area south of Guadalajara. I'm sure different parts of Mexico have their own unique vermin.

Mosquitoes

I usually have one very loud mosquito in my bedroom at night. It dive-bombs me and I can hear its buzz through my earplugs. If I get up and put one of those little blue felt things in my plug-in mosquito conqueror, it encourages my mosquito to go elsewhere.

Outside there are a few mosquitoes — not really many, and the citronella candles tend to keep them away from the table top. They often go for the ankles and toes. I gave up real shoes for sandals a long time ago. If you remember to use Off or rub on some Avon Skin-so-Soft, that will generally work. Citronella plants around the patio work well too.

No-see-ums

During the rainy season (now) there are often swarms of no-see-ums. Okay, I'm sure there's a technical name for them. They're very, very tiny and you can only see them if the light is hitting them right. Generally they're heavier closer to the lake. They don't bite, but you can swallow them if you walk through a swarm with your mouth open.

Spiders, cockroaches and ants

We have a lot of these. The Mexicans call them cucarachas. I prefer to call them water beetles. They're huge and usually enter through the drains or are found in the septic or water tank areas. "They say" spiders are good to have around. I don't remember exactly why.

We have large black ants that attack bushes, plants and trees at nights. They don't like humans. One night they stripped my year-old Japanese flowering tree of all its flowers and leaves. You have to take a flashlight out a night to find them. I was told to pour gasoline in their nest when you find them and light it. Don't. A square yard section of my wall was blackened and I singed my eyebrows. Then I was told, "No, Blue. Don't light it; just pour it in." The hardware stores sell a white powder that kills them. That's what I use now.

I have a fumigator come in about twice a year for $25 dollars. For a week, there are a lot of dead insects and then they're gone. I always do this before my friend, who's paranoid of anything that crawls, visits.

Scorpions are probably the biggest problem. Contrary to popular belief, they don't kill you, or your animals, if treated right away. All the pharmacies carry kits to use in case of a bite. I have never seen one in my house in more than three years. I think shoes are a necessary evil and prefer to go barefoot in my house.

Scorpions tend to show up more in homes near new construction. Again, Mr. Fumigator can keep them under control. The fumigation work is normally guaranteed for two or three months. I have friends who make sure no bedding touches the floor. They check the sheets each night before retiring and they always wear shoes or slippers — after checking them first to make sure there are no unwelcome guests.

Stomach upsets

Most everyone has one or two bouts with upset stomach and diarrhea when they move here. Most of us expats have the same problem when we return to the States or Canada to visit. After a few weeks, your system adapts to the new foods and water and you keep Immodium in your medicine cabinet in case of any upset.

My worst episode was timed perfectly. It was during my first month here. I vacillated between being afraid I was going to die and wishing I would. I was staying at a B&B. No TV, no phone, no room service. It was one of those rare occasions where it rained for three days. Some Hurricane was howling on the Pacific Coast and we got the tail end of the winds and rain. A Mexican friend brought me Coca Cola mixed with cornstarch. I lived. Some of the Mexican remedies are quite helpful.

Typhoid

I know of two people who have contracted Typhoid — two out of all the people I've met. One man had a mild case. He received medicine and was fine in a week or two. The other person — a fragile petite lady — was hospitalized for a few days. It took her six months to recover her energy. Typhoid can be contracted in many ways, but generally has to do with poor hygiene on the part of food handlers.

Amoebas

This is probably the most common ailment. The trick is getting the problem correctly diagnosed early on. There is one doctor here who specializes in microbiology. There are cures for these buggers, but one can become quite sick until they take effect.

Okay. Remember, I'm not a doctor, I didn't research these problems, I'm just reporting on what I've personally observed.

Puppy Dog Showers

To end on an up note....

First of all, thank you to those of you who sent my your kind condolences on the death of my precious poodle Pierre two months ago. Born a few days later, Max came into my life a week ago as a seven week old bundle of joy. He was given to my by a wonderful lady who saw me on the lake shore after the tragedy and had two miniature schnauzers who were very pregnant. She called me the next day and said she'd love for me to have one of her puppies when they were born.

At the time, I wasn't ready to have another dog in our lives, but six weeks later she called and said it was time to come and choose. One dog had seven puppies and the other only two. I chose an all black one with silky wavy fur. I've had him for one week now. I love him to death and my poodle, Maurice, is tolerating him at this point.

Last night, I opened the door, expecting to find two friends who had asked to come and see our newest family addition. There were ten of my friends carrying food, wine and presents for little Max. It was a surprise puppy shower.

Yes, I'm getting choked up just thinking of it. I'm sure I've mentioned before how precious friendships are down here. We're all stranded from our family and our previous support groups. That, plus the fact that we have more free time here, makes us be there for one another in ways that wouldn't be possible in the hustle and bustle of working life.

Friends of less than a few months can become as important and as close as those we've known for many years. Two of my friends baked a big cake shaped like a dog bone, others bought little toys, food, and treats. Of course, Max prefers his empty toilet paper roll and empty thread spool to any of the expensive rubber toys he received!

My Lakeside friends grieved with me when Pierre died and were here to celebrate with me this special little puppy who's bringing so much joy into my life. I'll get a picture taken with Max and Maurice and put it on-line soon.

Published or Updated on: September 1, 1999 by Karen Blue © 1999
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