Pulsars, Plants, and Present Participles

'Journeys in Hong Kong and Beyond'

The Big, The Small and The Ones I Don’t Want in My Flat

It has been 1 month, 1 week, 6 days, 5 hours and 33 mins since my last blog. I know because of the time stamp on my previous blog and my ability to use a calculator.  I have been agonizing over what to write about these last forty-three days. My previous posts, I realized, have had a slightly negative tone, despite the fact that I am absolutely loving my time here in Hong Kong. Don’t fret though I am loving my time here, I indubitably miss everyone back home, and the little things like going next door for mouth-wateringly delicious homemade artisan sausage* or going for a hike on a crisp fall day and seeing the beautiful red and yellow changing leaves. Canada also has an abundance of wildlife that I do not get to enjoy here, squirrels, foxes, and even raccoon are all lamentably absent.  Hong Kong hosts a variety of its own small species, they’re not as furry and cute as ours however, and while they’re small compared to Raccoon they are a little larger in comparison to the rest of their phylum than I am comfortable with.

For example, the other night while out for a walk I came across a beautiful Boa Constrictor sliding his way along the boardwalk. He was definitely more scared of me than I of him as he continued to slither on away from me and several times attempted, unsuccessfully, to squeeze his way through the fence and off into the bushes. My companion was not thrilled with the idea of a snake sharing our path and refused to continue any further.  I managed to capture a few photos of the feral snake out for a mid-evening swivel before I was dragged away by a less then enthused companion.  There was also the night awhile back my companion spotted a Golden-Orb Spider waiting patiently in her web for fast-food delivery, “Flies are fairly fast right?”. She was bigger than my hand and in this case I think I was a little more scared of her than she of me. I snapped photos but did not venture too close. Her body, (not really sure if it was male or female) was easily the size of my hand. I was brave enough to be a shutter bug but when it came time to provide an analog for her size I was a little more than dubious to venture near. I had no choice, however, to venture near to the Brown Huntsman Spider that entered my flat via the exhaust vent in my bathroom. He caught my eye as I was washing my hands and gave me an awful fright. I have only seen such a large spider in the wild one other time in my life and that was at camp when a dock spider briefly appeared in our cabin one night only to be scared off by a barrage of shoes, dead flashlight batteries and whatever else we could find to hurl at the poor arachnid. This spider was not on its way out unfortunately, he had ventured in but was not heading towards the vent when he was spotted. I regret to inform you that the arachnophobia in me took over and rather than go for my camera I reached for the shower head and sprayed him to the floor where I eradicated him with a 1.5 litre water bottle.
Not all of the large insects here give me the willies, nor do they scare my students. Giant Grasshoppers often find their  way onto our school grounds and onto the playground. I recall a day not too long ago while out for recess duty several children where following/chasing a large grasshopper around the outdoor basketball court. The grasshopper took flight from the  free-throw line and soared gracefully through the air and into the hair of  a young girl. I expected a scream, a frantic flailing of the hands, swatting incessantly, but no, not a peep, just a smile and a relaxed yet slightly joyful ‘is it still on me?’. ‘Yes’ I replied. ‘Okay’ she said, ‘could you get it off for me’ she asked as though it was random thread on the back of her shirt. I gently approached her head and the grasshopper took flight once more to the pure elation of the children, and the young girl. Off they all went chasing it once more, asking it if it would like to be their class pet.  Not too long after on my way out of the school another young girl had an even bigger grasshopper crawling on her arm. Several on lookers from the school including two Casa children, a teacher and several passersby gawked at it as it crawled down her arm and into her hand.  The young student was fascinated by the grasshopper and felt bad that it was missing one of its hind legs. Not once did she show any signs of fear or discomfort. When I asked the brave young girl about her large green friend the next day she informed me that it was healthy and well at her home. She had taken in the injured grasshopper much like a Canuck might bring in an injured Blue Jay or chipmunk.
Here in Hong Kong furry mammals are not the norm, unless they’re called ‘Rover’ and wear a collar. Children here have to be resourceful and make pets out of the giant insects, though I have yet to meet anyone keeping spiders around.  Nature walks are made entertaining by the cornucopia of arthropods found here, and as long as they stay out of my flat I am happy to capture their image and share them with you.
*If you are ever in Cambridge, and you have not tried one of Rob’s sausages from his little truck in the Southworks plaza on Grand Ave, I highly recommend you stop by and try one. Here is a link to his menu from the summer though I am sure it has been updated.

Fraser • 10/01/2015

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