This will likely be an earnest, though potentially infrequently updated, account of my adventures, tribulations,
and everyday experiences as I spend two years working as an environmental Peace Corps volunteer in Fiji

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Centipede

Have you ever seen the movie James and the Giant Peach? It’s a great story about a kid flying to NYC on a giant peach with giant insects as companions. One of them is a giant centipede, named, cleverly enough, Centipede. He is a rascally character but likeable just the same and is a good guy. This centipede is nothing like that centipede. Except maybe size-wise.

So this one night, I was sleeping contentedly underneath my mosquito net when I rather unexpectedly awoke. Why I woke up, I’m not sure. It doesn’t really matter; what does matter is that after waking up I heard some pitter-patter on the floor. Great. Another mouse. Deciding that I had to pee anyway, I got up with the intent of chasing the mouse off on my way to the bathroom. I retrieved my nearest whacking object (which happened to be a badminton racquet) and my shoddy flashlight (shoddy only because the battery was dying and was only dimly working in a flickering B-Horror-Movie kind of way) and proceeded to investigate.

I quickly scanned the area looking for signs of movement and caught some whipping around the doorframe (the door frame that is only about 3 feet from my bed where I was standing and doesn’t actually have a door but a curtain). I stalked closer and gave the curtain a quick jab in hopes of flushing the mouse out. This plan made perfect sense to me at one in the morning and, as it turned out, I did manage to ummm…flush it out. From the outer rim of my flashlight’s illumination, this long black segmented body with far too many moving parts emerged from the shadows of the bottom corner of the curtain; it rapidly ascended the fabric until it came to my eye level, roughly six inches in front of me, where it stopped and hung motionless. Definitely not a mouse. In the amount of time that it took for me to realize this I also managed to let out a mangle yelp, hurl myself backward, fling the racquet into the window, and say, “I’m gonna die.”

As I stood there, dumbfounded by the absurdity of my situation, the centipede took the opportunity to migrate to the other side of the curtain. Its movement spurred me into action. Okay, I have to kill it. Right. Get the cane knife. I swept into the next room through the other centipede-free doorway and scanned the area for my hand-held lawn mower, at which point I swore loudly because I remembered that I had in fact left it in the shed near my garden outside the village. I reevaluated - what else could I use? Kitchen knives?…gross. The racquet?...too blunt, probably wouldn’t kill it. A sneaker? … my feet aren’t even remotely that big. What I ended up deciding was that I definitely had to kill it but I didn’t want to attempt to whack it off only to muddle the job and have it escape wounded and keen on revenge, which it would exact upon me the next time I snuggled under my bed sheets and discovered that I wasn’t alone…And I wasn’t confident in any of my remaining household objects to do the job, especially since the first attack would be made whilst the creature was on the curtain, not a very good whacking surface.

Deciding then that there was nothing else for it, I threw open my front door and marched across the grass to my neighbor’s house all of twenty feet away, swallowed whatever pride I was harboring, and gently started rapping on the door – “Ta Te…Ta Te…Nei Nai wake up; it’s Tina.” Within seconds, after some brief commotion inside, the door was torn open to show both Ta Te and Nei Nai standing there looking like they expected to see me on fire with rabid dogs dangling from my appendages. And suddenly I felt like I was four and needed my daddy to kill a spider in my bedroom. After a short and mutually startled pause, I bah-ed out some sheepish statement about there being a big centipede in my house and not having a cane knife. When they just continued to stare I repeated my situation with a little more gusto deciding that I still really did want him to come over and kill it for me, no matter how ridiculous the whole thing was.

Once I finally managed to convey the situation to them, the three of us went back to my house. Ta Te asked me where it was and I pointed to the spot on the curtain where it most assuredly had not moved from. His first remark was, “Just use your sa-sa.” The sa-sa is a Fijian made broom derived from the stems of coconut tree leaves. Oh, right, how silly of me to not think of killing the giant centipede of death with my sa-sa broom. However, imagining that there was no doubt some Fijian trick to killing centipedes with your sa-sa that was as of yet unknown to me, I began searching for it. Ta Te, however, chose not to wait; he found some piece of scrap wood (that I think may have been broken off of one of my support beams) and began hacking madly in the centipede’s general direction. I was terrified that he was missing or worse yet had managed to fling the thing onto my bed in the next room. But to my delight it chose to escape towards the doorframe and he was able to pin it good against the wood. A few more whacks and it was severed in half. Ta Te putted the remains out the open front door with the bit of wood, handed it over to me, said, “Set?” And before I could really force any noise to come out of my mouth he and Nei Nai went back to bed.

By the time I went outside the next morning to use the bathroom, the whole village knew. I know because from that moment on throughout the rest of the day people would stop me, greet me, and then say, “So a centipede huh?”

Now, when I shared this story with my parents the first thing my dad asks is, “Well, did you get a picture of it??” Well, unfortunately, for some reason I was a bit distracted at the time to think of the photo op. BUT as luck would have it, I got another rather large (but considerably smaller than the first) centipede to take up residence on my doorway curtain within two weeks of the first. I was informed that this was because they were rebuilding the house next door and by upending the foundation all the centipedes had to find a new home. Apparently, my curtain was prime real-estate. This time, I did think of taking a picture before I hacked it using that same slab of wood. So, for your viewing pleasure:

So I measured that - it's about 8 inches long. Imagine the first one being 2-3 inches longer and maybe a little less than twice as wide...


  1. I like this blog very much.Thanks for sharing such a valuable information.

  2. This story had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I imagine I will have nightmares tonight...and the worst part is that I can't wake you up to make chocolate chip pancakes with me and laugh away the terror. Major flashbacks to senior year and spiders GOING DOWN ON YOU! haha. For such tough chicks we are totally sissy when it comes to bugs (and arachnids). I guess we have vags (vag's?) after all. Miss you, Stini. Thinking of you often.

    Your long-lost lion-taming lover