Curiosity in the Jungle


The rewards of curiosity

In the low light of the tropical evening, we could see something hanging from the ceiling that hadn’t been there earlier. My husband and I exchanged glances. I got up for a closer look and instantly realized that the new information I now had required delicate handling. 

What was up there, you ask – perhaps already cringing?

It was… a huge scorpion, dangling from a hole in the ceiling, with an equally huge grasshopper in its grip. The first scorpion I’ve ever encountered.

That big scorpion was proceeding to snip off the grasshopper’s limbs one by one. My mind was blown. I had thought to be careful of scorpions on the ground. In shoes left unattended. Now I had to think about the ceiling too??!! 

My family lives in a cool wet place with no scorpions of any kind, and we were so fortunate to be able to visit this rather wild place to give the children a taste of another world, a Costa Rican jungle. The little cottage we had rented sat on a breathtaking corner where a river (complete with crocs!) met the Pacific Ocean and had turned out to be a little bit… maybe a lot… more isolated and rustic than expected. 

But we were game! At least that’s what we thought until the appearance of the ceiling scorpion. I now had some concern over whether we would all be as game as we needed to be! 

When the bats emerged and flew around the INside of the house, I wondered what else would be joining us that night.  

Without advertising my motivation, I quietly walked around the little place, inspecting the ceilings and noting with intense relief that the sleeping areas were fully netted. I might sleep tonight instead of being on guard! I’m not scared of bugs but I do have a healthy respect for unfamiliar creatures, and I am a parent and therefore had some responsibilities. 

After all, we were intruders in this place and might not behave in a way conducive to friendly relationships. And medical help was hours and hours away up a river with no access to a boat, nor any way to summon one until tomorrow sometime when the local river transport might(?) pass by. 

Yep, might have bitten off more than we could chew on this adventure. The only thing I had any control over was my mind. I hoped.

Darkness was complete; we’d been advised to conserve the solar powered lights, and so turned in early. But not before I took the kids on a flashlight tour to meet the other bugs of the house.  Engage curiosity, not fear, is my go-to parenting, and life, technique. 

Most notably, we found one guy that my kids thought only existed in Harry Potter movies: a tail-less whip scorpion (scary sounding and prehistoric-looking but somehow completely harmless), used to demonstrate the unmentionable curses. He sat quietly, twitching his, um, maybe, seemed like foot-long antenniform legs, waiting for our flashlight beams to move on. 

Who needs to meet aliens from another planet when we have such diversity of life right here?!

Bugs are just SO MUCH BIGGER in the jungle than the temperate rainforests of home. Unless you count our slugs. We talked about how the bats would eat the flying biting insects, and how to use the bathroom in the night (keywords FLASHLIGHTS and LOOK BEFORE stepping/sitting). We speculated loudly about what the howler monkeys might sound like in the early morning hours. The kids slept well. Not sure I or my husband slept much. But by morning we knew we were staying.

And were rewarded with glorious sunsets on the beach, all to ourselves. Stilting conversations in Spanish as we took a boat ride over standing waves to another island. Half a coconut from a nearby palm for morning meals. Howler monkeys enthusiastically breakfasting, hanging from the tree just outside the door.

But the icing on the cake was the sight of two wild, endangered scarlet macaws gliding over the trees near the cottage. My heart still soars with them at the memory.  

So, so glad we managed to manage the uncertainty by engaging our curiosity and trusting ourselves to handle whatever happened. And that we looked up!