The sort of thing you tell everyone
As soon as the pale child approaching on the jungle path saw me he wanted to know “parlez vous francais?”
As I have since my mother taught me the phrase when I was 7, I answered, “Non, je ne parle pas francais,” and added the newer “je comprends un petit peu…” I want to say that I understand a bit because I speak Spanish, but I’ve never asked how to say the second part of that. My brain, trying to be helpful, falls back to Dutch, but I don’t think “want ik sprek spaans” would help this kid much.
But he got the point. And he looked disappointed about it. But he had something to say, and wasn’t going to be put off so easily.
“You ‘ave ‘ad ze…” he made a wriggling, creeping, crawling, inch worm sort of motion with his finger. I was pretty sure what he meant.
“Leeches?” I offered.
Triumph lit his face. “Oui! You ‘ave ‘ad ze leeches?”
I looked down at my feet, which had been bare for the past couple hours, past few miles. “Not yet.”
The triumph blossomed yet further as he pointed a small pale finger at his older sister. “She ‘as!”
Leeches are like that. They’re the sort of thing you immediately want to tell everyone about, unless maybe you’re an adolescent and they were on you, then they (as everything on Earth) are a potential source of embarrassment.
I am not an adolescent (a fact for which I give thanks daily) so I will let you know in a couple days what I find. Because tomorrow morning I am taking the “jungle train” from Kota Bharu down through most of peninsular Malaysia to the world’s oldest rainforest, at Taman Negara.
The rumors speak of deep dark rainforest, hides in the jungle where you sleep among the beasts, and, most of all, leeches. It seems to be a given that visitors will feed the little creepers, and the only question is whether your hide is one of the ones that gets overrun with them at night or not.
So that should be fun.
And if I do get them, there’s always the response I gave to the little French boy and his sister. She was showing a perfect adolescent blend of irritation at her little brother and embarrassment at his revelation, until I replied “I think that means you get dessert tonight.”
Her face cleared with a shy smile, while her little brother’s showed crestfallen shock. I hope she got her ice cream.
I know I will!