Dateline: December 09, 2011
Government Qtr. #37, Talguw, Rull Municipality, Yap State
After over 600 reported cases of Dengue Fever, the government declared a state of emergency, and organized an island-wide cleanup effort to destroy the breeding grounds of Dengue spreading mosquitoes . Each community across the island was instructed to form cleaning parties to remove trash, fill in pits of standing water, and trim back shady jungle growth from around their homes. Schools were shut down so students and teachers could participate, and government offices were closed. It was war, against an enemy so small, but with vastly greater numbers and on its home turf.
Miranda and I mobilized at 09:00 hours. Completely lathered in mosquito repellant, iPods fully charged, and machete and lawnmower locked and loaded, we surveyed the battlefield: our front yard. Untouched by human hands for nearly a month, the yard had begun its inevitable return to the jungle. Vines slithered up the remains of a once proud fence, and snaked across the ground towards patches of tall weeds. A perfect breeding areas for mosquitoes. It had to go.
Over the next several hours (cue action scene montage, preferably to “Eye of the Tiger”), we mowed and chopped and hacked away at foliage so tough and resistant it must have been some new form of superplant.
Peanut supervised from a safe distance, curious but wary of the strange machine we were walking up and down the yard. Even with a relatively new push-mower, it was a slow and tiring process to carve away at a small section of ground, and then to go over that same section several times to cut weeds that refused to go down. Then again, the mower was designed for cutting grass, on an actual lawn, not overgrown jungle scattered with coconut husks, termite infested tree branches, and jagged chunks of coral. Miranda also filled bucket after bucket full of rocks of various sizes. She used these to fill in a rather muddy spot in our yard.
Miranda and I switched off with the raking and mowing. After gathering up a huge mound of cut vegetation, I shoveled it in back into the jungle, fueling the fire of growth at least away from the front yard. At one point, I raked so furiously that the handle broke in two. This was highly amusing for several neighbors who were intently watching my every move from the comfort of hammocks stretched as close to the property line as possible. Peanut ran to the edge of the yard, intermittently barking a warning of “back off”. They stood their ground, finding Peanut’s attempt at bravery also pretty amusing. With half a rake, I went back to my labors under the critical gaze of a nine-year old in a thuw.
After a little while, I noticed that my neighbor had ordered his family to clean up their yard, which they did in record time due to their rather large workforce.
Eventually, the yard began to retake its usual shape. It wasn’t perfect, but we made a good faith effort. Near the end, Miranda and I were both drenched in sweat and thoroughly exhausted. We retreated back inside, and drank as much water as we could. The shower, with its temperature varying between chilly and arctic, actually felt good.
Resting for a moment on the couch, we heard the telltale plinking of raindrops hitting the roof. It got steadily louder until everything was drowned out by the sound of rushing water. As it often happens here, the rain continued for several hours, sometimes in a downpour hard enough you can’t see more than a few feet in front of you. The kind of rain that hurts when it hits you. It’s still raining as a write this, and it doesn’t appear to be letting up any time soon.
Even though D-day may have been affected by the weather, that’s just the way it goes sometimes. Now we can rest guilt-free inside for the rest of the day, getting a little down time out of this D-day. Let’s just hope the enemy mosquitoes aren’t using this as an opportunity to increase their numbers in the fresh rain water. We did our best to fight the good fight.