- Katherine Sirvio
The Spider That Ate My Brain
Parasites that are small enough to pass through your skin; fleas, lice and mite infestations on your body, and insects that nest in your nose, ears and mouth while sleeping were all reasons I was told to use extra caution while traveling in Israel. And above all else to make sure I wear a head net. This is a net that literally is a hood or bag that covers your entire head and has a draw string around your neck. I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of a rope around my neck.
Obviously, this doctor was either very well traveled into the outreaches of civilization or had never traveled at all. I am guessing the latter. But she scared me enough to buy the bloomin' thing which I had thrown away just the day before.
The day before what? Just wait a minute, we will get to the spider eating my brain portion soon. My husbands mother is the eldest of seven children. Her youngest sister was born after she herself had started a family. Therefore, my husbands aunt is younger than he is. As it turns out, we are the same age (at least part of the year). This is the introduction of Aunt Jenny. We hit it off great; both art students, travelers, adventure seekers. At this time, she was married to a gentleman from Israel. (Don't get lost here, this is one of those stories with a friend of a friend of a sisters cousin who knew....) Anyway, my husbands Aunt Jenny invited me to travel to Israel for her husbands, sisters wedding. Done.
I did all my research, was doing diligence to get my vaccinations, purchasing head nets, and following the advice of a doctor. "Don't swim in still waters", "Don't eat things you can not peel", "Don't drink any water that is not bottled and opened by you", "Investigate the seal of all water bottles before consuming". It was overwhelming. But I did as I was told since I had never traveled to Israel or anywhere in the middle east before. At least for the first day...
We had been travelling for some time now. Everything was normal. We enjoyed family in Ashdod, hiking through Be'er Sheva, snorkeling in Eilat on the Red Sea, walking on water in the Dead Sea, praying at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem (there's another story for later), wandering Haifa, looking at art in Tzfat and dancing the night away in Tel Aviv. Now we were up in the Golan Heights near Jordan. We had just returned from horse back riding along the mined boarder and were settling into a room we rented at a local kibbutz. I had thrown the net hood away just the day before. Aunt Jenny and Uncle Eitan were in need of some 'alone' time and went off to visit the new born calves. I stayed behind at the room.
It was a hot afternoon, I had stripped down to my underwear and a t-shirt. Staying all together in a room, I had a modest cot that I pulled out into the center of the room. There was a small air conditioning unit on the wall which I cranked up and a TV mounted in the corner of this sterile white walled room. I turned on the TV and began watching a Jordanian drama. The acting was terrible, even though I couldn't understand a word, you could just tell. As I cooled off, laying on my back on the cot, I suddenly saw something out of the corner of my eye run across the ceiling above my head and slightly behind me. I leapt to my feet.
There staring me down was the largest spider I had ever seen. The entire thing was as large as my hand with all fingers extended. It was black and white in high contrast and fast as hell. It sat heckling me, in the corner opposite the door, (thank goodness). I opened the door, never taking my eye off this thing and yelled with all my might "Jenny...Eitan" in hopes that they were not out of ear shot. This continued 3 or 4 times. Just then the spider went to make a move. His legs on one side of his body started to move like when you are tapping fingers on a table in order from pinky to pointer. I didn't know what to do, but in a wink I decided to throw one of my shoes at it. He moved back into the corner eyeing me up as if I had won that round. I continued to yell out the door "Jenny...Eitan" but to no avail. The spider started again and I threw my second shoe, he barely stumbled. I think he knew he could make it. I eyed the counter and saw the car keys. Good to know. The spider looked at me and started out again, as he sprinted half way across the wall I threw my last item, a water bottle. I scored and he dropped right there and fell behind that little wall air conditioner.
I dropped to my belly and looked under it from across the floor. I could only see a couple of his long legs dangling out from behind the unit. To my feet in a shot and at the door again yelling "Jenny...Eitan". The silence was deafening, as they say. When I turned back to the air conditioner, I just caught the tail end of the dash the spider had taken while I was distracted and he made it directly into my suitcase. That was the last draw. He won. In my underwear and t-shirt, I grabbed the car keys and I walked out the door. At this point, as embarrassing as it may be, you should know I was crying and had snot running down my face, a complete mess. I took the walk of shame and got into the hot car and sat with the windows rolled up tight.
After about 10 minutes, Jenny and Eitan returned to find me in the car. I explained about the spider, they laughed and thought it was just another tall tale or exaggeration from Kathy. They went into the room and saw nothing, came back to the car to tell me all was clear. I was adamant, I would not go back into the room until there was a body. They again went back into the room; they took apart the beds, looked throughout the suitcase, and came back again with the all clear. I still stood my ground. One last time, they went in and that's when it happened. Eitan, a six foot plus tall man of significant stature came out and said "he is behind the little microwave, I have to get someone, I have never seen that before". All I could think is 'I threw away my head net and I need it now. That huge spider is going to get into my mouth'.
As it turns out, they are finding new species of spiders in Israel even still. The guy from the kibbutz called it an 'ocaviche'. He got a broom and helped the spider walk on his own out the front door. He is part of the natural Eco system and needs to remain that way. Also, if you did try to crush him, he might just jump up and eat your brain!
I found this picture online that looks just like the one I saw at the kibbutz. National Geographic web states that "With a leg span of up to 5.5 inches (14 centimeters), the new spider is the largest of its type in the Middle East, the scientists said." It would be okay with me if I didn't ever meet him again. We continued to travel throughout Israel and truly enjoyed the entire adventure.
Floating in the Dead Sea The Wedding Night