Being a mum of a newborn means long hours of having the baby attached to your chest as she nurses or sleeps (especially if you decide to follow attachment parenting where the baby and the mother are barely separated day or night).
Being a milk dispenser/pillow for my baby, and staring at the ceiling has become my national sport, and I have been too scared to sleep. I’m afraid I might squash the baby or a visiting gecko might fall on us.
Over the past months I have been immobile for hours and hours, doing nothing except dispensing and/or pillowing, and surfing the internet using my smartphone. My phone is the only thing that’s kept me sane.
I decided to put my phone to use in solving my gecko problem. I searched for apps that could produce sonic waves that would drive away geckos, snakes and other creepie crawlies. Of course, I found none.
There were only anti-mosquitoes and rat apps and they are useless, as proved by the mosquito that bit my hand holding the smartphone emitting the supposed mosquito-repelling tone.
Then I wondered if there were any other expats who shared my phobic pain. I can’t imagine any Vietnamese being phobic to geckos, surely such a person would be considered very un-Vietnamese. There must be a fellow expat who shared my phobia and they might be able to advise on how to survive gecko-land AKA Vietnam.
Social media has been my tool of choice to know more about the vibe of a new place and the inclinations of its different crowds. Facebook has a lot of Ho Chi Minh City expat groups. Some are general, some are topic specific, some are nationality specific, some for women only and others for families. A wealth of information and experiences in almost every topic. I was optimistic I would find a sympathiser here or there.
Going through one group, I found a lady expat posting the picture of a huge lizard she found wandering by her door. Just looking at it made me shiver (the baby woke up but that’s another story). The lady was asking what it was, how dangerous it was, and how to get rid of it. I went through the comments out of fear rather than curiosity and the replies were too strange to be true.
Around 30% of the respondents were asserting it’s a common water monitor and she should keep it as a pet (which I could not fathom). The other 70% were suggesting she should eat it, even describing how to catch, hold down, then slay it. Some even recommended recipes!
I know snakes are a delicacy in China, the French eat frogs, some Americans in the south eat alligators. Also bugs and insects are popular in a lot of Asian countries. So I am not surprised, just sick to my stomach.
The following monologue took place in my head when I re-read the post. I realised the lady lived in District 7, which is 45 minutes away from where I live, by car speed not lizard speed. So I am safe, yay. Wait! Who said water monitors aren’t to be found where I live? Damn it, now I must check doorways as well.
Narrowing my search to geckos, I saw so many posts by people thankful for them because they eat mosquitoes carrying so many diseases like dengue, Zika and malaria. Also, a lot of people found them cute and funny! This made me reluctant to post my inquiry about getting rid of geckos.
It would be so out of place. In a way it made me feel like more like an alien. As if it’s not hard enough to live in a foreign county where I don’t know anybody, geckos are pursuing me both virtually and in real life.
I discarded the thought and reminded myself that the best way to get help is to ask for it. I posted on one of the expat groups asking how to get rid of geckos, highlighting that it’s a phobia that I failed to control.
The reaction was hysterical. I was bombarded with comments asking me to leave the country. As Vietnam is geckos’ natural habitat not mine! Some comments calling me brutal and cruel, others calling me a sissy city girl and few pleading with me to let them live.
Hold on people! Who mentioned anything about killing them? I don’t want to kill them, I just don’t want them near me. They can live in the whole of Vietnam, in the whole world for all that matter, just stay out of my house.
Geckos deserve to live, but so do I.