Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Jellyfish Incident

Saturday, September 12th was a good day. My last day on Thong Nai Pan. Woke up early: 5:40 a.m.

Thong Nai Pan is said to boast amazing sunrises and I had yet to see one. So, I set my alarm.

I sat on the sand with Mary and smoked a cigarette. The sunrise was impressive to say the least. The sky was a purple-orange pastel hue and the fishing boats could be seen heading out for the day. It was dead silent (except for the lapping of the waves) and the beach dogs were sleeping soundly. As the top edge of the sun peered over the horizon, Mary stood, stripped down to her bikini, and walked out into the surf. When she first reached the water, forty feet in front of me, all that was visible was a black silhouette against the brightening backdrop. Tall, broad-shouldered, slender....French....and as she slowly waded out, hip-deep, it was a moment straight out of a Bond film.


I went in shortly after and soaked for a good twenty minutes. Then, quite unusually, I was struck with the sudden urge to run. I ran the entire length of the beach (approx. 500 meters). Once I reached the far end, it dawned on me that I would have to go I ran some more.

I found two plastic buckets on the sand (the kind that the Red Bull cocktails are served in). Some late-night revelers irresponsibly left them and a dozen straws of assorted colors scattered on the shore.

I collected the buckets, rinsed them in the surf, and returned to Mary lying stretched out on her towel. Her English is minimal and my French is non-existent, but she understood "sandcastle."

We dug a circular moat about twenty-feet from the tide and got to work. Mary confessed to me that she hadn't made a sandcastle since she was a child. I, honestly, couldn't recall having ever made one. As a result of the abandonment of the planning stage, we produced a near-perfect circle filled with upside down-bucket-shaped "towers" (all on a single level). It was less than impressive, but I believe that Mary was proud of her work. I am certain that she was relieved that it was completed before any early-rising sunbathers gathered on the beach.

At this point, I took another dip in the sea and returned to my bungalow to get the rest of my allotted rest.

I returned to the beach around noon for eggs, toast, watermelon shake, and jovial discourse. Everyone was out and the skies were clear. I sat with Jason and Scott who were debating whether or not to take a day off of the beer (a daily ritual usually occurring one to two hours before the first bottles are ordered).

It must have been around two when I went into the water. Scott had just returned from doing so and as he toweled off, the look of rejuvenation said the water was good. Ben was eating his lunch and we agreed to throw the football once he was finished. So, into the sea I went.

I was floating on my back and frog paddling. It was instant shock!! My first thought was that I had hit an electrical cable: wrapped around my right knee. My back muscles contracted/twitched/contorted involuntarily and I gasped. My hands went straight for it. It was slimy-soft-mushy mesh. As soon as my fingers caught hold, the fire-sting all over them, I untangled my knee and slung it away. In the immediate desperation, the tentacles or tendrils or whatever were flung onto my left ankle, which I instantly kicked free.

The lengthy eruption of obscenities that directly followed caught Ben's attention. He looked up from his food at me in the water (rarely does Ben get distracted "whilst" eating). I was about chest-deep and hopping and splashing my way back to the shore. As soon as I reached the sand I plopped down on my ass to assess the damage. My right knee and the four inches of flesh above it had a ring of swelling redness and M & M-size white bubbles began forming.

I stood up and walked up the beach. As I passed the tables, Scott looked at me with an enormous grin on his face.

"You get jellyfished?" he laughed (apparently they juggle and cuddle jellyfish every day before breakfast in Australia).

The staff at the guesthouse were most eager to help, but they certainly weren't moving as fast as I would have liked them to. One gave me a cup of vinegar and another wandered off into the brush to find some special leaves. By this time the white-bubbling flesh was growing more and more contrasted with the darkening redness. My entire body was tingling and my knee was burning. It was quite a unique sensation. After a few minutes of pouring green, leaf-soaked water all down my leg, I returned to the table and ordered a "tall" Tiger Beer.

"I saw a couple jellies out there. I should have told you," Scott said with his usual nonchalance.

A kind Dutch or Danish man, not sure, offered to urinate on my leg for me, but I politely declined. The burning stopped after about forty-five minutes, but the overall discomfort lasted long into the night.

Even now, as I type this five days later, there is a collection of red dots all around the area.

Saturday, September 12th was a good day.