Yesterday night, I went to bed sticky and it wasn’t because I had been perspiring all day.
It all started when I noticed a sizable red circular blotch surrounding a red bite on my right inner thigh. The blotch stung slightly, was warm to the touch, and seemed to be the result of some type of insect bite. I had a similar mark, but smaller and a bit less painful near my right elbow. Since I noticed them when I woke up in the morning, I believed I had acquired them some time during the night before. As they day progressed, I became more worried about the spot on my leg, whose diameter was the length of my index finger. What if I was bitten by some type of poisonous insect? What if the spot gets larger during the night and I wake up tomorrow morning with a gigantic, burning splotch on my leg?
When I went to dinner at the Casa comedor, I didn’t feel quite well and left immediately after finishing my toasted bread with refried beans on top. As I walked back to our Casa Verde in the sprinkling rain, I cried for the first time since we arrived here. It was the combination of fear of the the unknown bites, feeling slightly ill, and frustration with some of the kids’ behavior/conversation at the dinner table. I just needed to cry it out and get over it, so I did.
Pete joined me soon after he finished his dinner and we decided we would go back to see if someone at the Casa might know what the mysterious bites were. I decided to first ask Ines, a Dutch woman who has lived and volunteered here for the last three years. I knocked on her door and began to cry again as I asked her if she knew what they might be. She was extremely caring and calm as she said that there aren’t any poisonous spiders around here (except for tarantulas, which I’ve been told are very uncommon,) and that kids often have big reactions to certain bites. She suggested that I ask the Casa Social Worker, Vikki, who knows a lot about such things. Later, I approached her and she said they looked like they were the bites of an animalito. ¿Un animalito? “Like a spider,” I asked. No, a little animal. Ok. I didn’t really get much more than that, like what type of animalito. I just waited for her to tell me what I should do about it. It turns out, she recommended...limón! I am learning that rubbing on some limón, or lime, is the cure for many different types of ailments. Just that morning, a girl got stung by a bee as she was doing her morning chores. I accompanied her to the office to see what they recommended, and the remedy was limón. We then went to the kitchen and the cook told another child to cut her a limón and squeeze the juice onto her sting.
When Vikki recommended limón to me, I laughed, and then explained that I laughed not because I thought her recommendation was silly, but because I’m surprised that limón is used for so many purposes. Vikki explained to me that limón has anti-inflammatory properties as well as many others. She asked a girl who was in her office to tell another of the staff members to toast me some limes. A few minutes later, I went into the kitchen and they cut the steaming hot limes in half. Ironically, the woman who was preparing the limes for me was stung by a bee in the process and applied some lime juice to herself. I then rubbed the hot lime halves on my two red blotches. It stung a little, but that might have been more from the heat of the lime than the pain of the bite itself. I asked the staff member who was with me what I should do with the other three lime halves. She said that I could take them home and rub them on as bug repellent later in the night. She asked if I often get stung/bitten by insects and I showed her my red-spotted lower legs. Yes. Bug repellent, just one more of the useful properties of limón!
I thanked everyone who had been so helpful and Pete and I went back to the Casa Verde, after helping a teenage girl prepare for her English test the next morning. When we got home, I liberally applied lime juice to my arms and legs. I felt sticky and had pieces of lime pulp stuck to my skin, but I was confident that if Vikki and the other staff recommended limón, there must be some be some truth to its healing and repellent properties. Good old natural remedies.
I had a really good, deep sleep last night. I didn’t wake up itching in the middle of the night as I had the past two nights. I woke up feeling good, and while the red blotches were still visible, they had faded to a lighter shade of pink. I took a shower, applied lotion, and then applied a light coating of lime juice once again on my arms and legs. It’s midday already and I can say that I haven’t been bothered by bugs much at all today. It seems that I’m becoming a limón believer just like everyone else.