Softball was my worst sport ever. I was the girl who sat in the outfield and picked dandelions while the ball rolled past me.
How great was Show and Tell day in grade school? I used to love to show off my favorite toys and discover other things I could ask my parents to buy for me. Some of my favorite Show and Tell items include rare Pokémon cards, League Participant (aka Nice Try!) softball trophies, and my Talkgirl — a pink and therefore much cooler version of the Talkboy tape recorder used by Macaulay Culkin/Kevin McCallister in “Home Alone.”
Even as an almost-grown-up, I still see things that would be perfect for Show and Tell. This is especially true when I travel because I discover stuff I’ve never seen before. Hence the creation of Show & Tell Tuesdays. In honor of its inaugural post and, of course, Halloween, I thought I’d start it off by sharing my creepiest memory from Southeast Asia.
It was a dark and stormy night. (Really, it was.) Rain and wind pounded against the roof of our crowded bus as dozens of sleeping bodies rocked back and forth with the bumps and curves of slippery unlit roads. Monsoon season was upon Northern Vietnam. I sat restlessly in my seat by the window hoping this 27-hour ride to Laos would pass quickly. I stuffed another sock into the vent overhead to block the blasting A/C and slipped my eye mask on.
Just as sleep began to take over, the bus suddenly veered right and screeched to a stop. Pulling my eye mask to my forehead, I squinted as the overhead lights flickered on and the driver yelled to get off the bus (yelling is popular on Vietnamese transpo). I pulled back my window curtain to reveal a small covered market armed with a few sleepy workers. Eager to stretch my legs, I climbed over my sleeping friend and followed a line of zombie-like passengers to the door, careful not to trip over the huge rice bags piled in the narrow aisle.
Stepping out of the stuffiness, my breath of fresh air was met with humidity and the scent of fish, of spices, of phở, of animals. I lazily strolled along a row of small snack stands eyeing bags of chips, bottles of beer, fresh fruit and sleeves of Oreos. Then, a slight crackling, almost like Rice Krispies in milk, caught my attention so I made my way toward the end of the row to explore.
I think it’s some kind of wasp nest, maybe Asian paper wasps?
And there it was. Somehing I had never before seen and never wish to see again. A nest. A nest of larvae, squirming away under an overhead fluorescent light, crackling against their little nesting holes.
Yes — larvae. The mushy insect babies that infest dead bodies, compost piles and old food. And make for a tasty and popular (not to mention protein-packed!) snack in many parts of the world, including, apparently, Vietnam.
My nostrils flared, my throat made some sort of gasping noise, and my hand went straight to my iPhone to capture the horrific scene. Like an accident on the highway or food in someone’s teeth, I couldn’t bear to look and I couldn’t look away.
In general, I have a pretty strong stomach. I used to eat lunch while watching Nip/Tuck and I always watch the needle when I get shots. Bugs don’t really bother me, either. I take them outside instead of killing them! But for some reason, the larvae was too much for me that night. Unable to shake the maggoty holes, the crackling, or the smells from my memory, I spent the rest of this bus ride — two nights and 38, not 27, hours — itchy and tired and grossed out.
If I had stopped groaning in this video, you’d be able to hear the horrible crackling that caught my attention in the first place.
Snacking on larvae is super popular in Southeast Asia. Cooked, salted, doused in soy sauce, or just plain. I’ve seen little kids pop these like Smarties and Gushers, no problem. It’s really not as gross at it seems.
No… wait. Yes it is. It wasn’t until I saw and heard just how these snacks are created that I came to this conclusion. To be fair, I never tasted any bugs in Asia. Maybe, just maybe, they’re the yummiest thing since caviar. Maybe someone can fill me in. But aside from the obvious animal rights violations (poor innocent maggoty creatures!), these little guys are sadly freaky. And this was only the first (although largest) nest I saw in Asia.
I think I’m going to keep this Show & Tell Tuesday thing alive. I try to surround myself with things worth showing and telling about. They might not be as fun as Talkgirls or larvae, but hopefully they keep you reading!