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I've narrowed the list of suspects down to these bastards

I've narrowed the list of suspects down to one of these bastards





– Mindy’s Wife

It felt like a big hair had gotten caught under my right eyelid. But it was more. Oh, so much more.

 We were enjoying our first day of horse training at the Steppe Riders Ger Camp, preparing for our great Mongolian adventure – a three week ride across the central province of Arkhangai on the country’s famous ponies. After bonding through shared duress and Olympic spirit in Beijing with our new friends Dave and Val, the four of us had elected to team up for the big trip. Over bottles of wine at our rented flat in a Soviet era apartment building in Ulaan Baatar, we dreamed of buying horses and roaming the country-side, experiencing Mongolia’s intoxicating blend of wilderness and down home hospitality.

The only problem was, none of us knew a thing about horses.

So before we wandered off into the sunset, we headed for Steppe Riders, a well-known trainer of greenhorn tourists who want to be cowboys. Located just 40 minutes away from UB, Steppe Riders still managed to feel a world away from the capital’s bustling, westernized streets. Herds of goats and half-wild horses wandered the buckled and ger-flecked green hills. With Steppe Riders’ owner, Mindy, we spent a warm day learning to saddle, bridle, tether and hobble horses. I also learned that I didn’t enjoy any of these activities and quietly resolved to hire a guide and horse man for our trip.

After an afternoon’s solid work, we hit the trail for a short ride to test our new skills. We galloped and trotted to a small watering station, where our mounts slaked their thirst in the sweltering heat, ceasing to drink only to vigorously shake their heads up and down to ward off the relentless flies.

We’d just gotten back to the Mindy’s camp when I felt the discomfort set in. I dismounted my horse and rubbed my suddenly-burning eye to induce tearing. Nothing. I blinked rapidly. Nada. Obviously, I thought, the day’s dryness and dustiness were to blame. So I headed back to our ger and doused myself with eye drops in order to flush out the irritant.

Still, I was irritated.

So, I took a nap. In retrospect, it was one of the worst things I could have done. When I woke up, I found the problem was only worse.

“I think I’m going to need your help getting this hair out of my eye Janine.” I was looking in the mirror and thought I could see it – a small clear string just a millimeter long or so. But everytime I blinked, the darn thing was in a different position or had disappeared altogether.  I put my head in my wife’s lap and stared up at her nose (very fetching by the way), while she held back my eyelid.

“I see it!” Janine said with the excitement that only Janine could muster staring at a red-streaked irritated eyeball.

Then silence.

Then, “hrmmm…” Then silence again.

Then, “Honey, I don’t know how to tell you this. But, it’s moving.”

I got up and ran back over to the mirror. Peeling my eyelid back again, I stared at my eyeball – there was the hair.

And sure as shit stinks, as I watched it, the little bugger (which may very well be its proper scientific name) moved.

Even better, it crawled across my pupil to greet another little bugger. I imagined their conversation.

Tom! Great to see you! 

Same here Lisa! Say! This sure isn’t like any horse eye we’ve devoured in the past! 

Nope, that’s for certain. Still, pretty tasty eh?

You bet! I’m nearly stuffed! Hey, let’s check out the bloodstream!

And then they crawled away.

One feels many urges when one first discovers insect larvae living in one’s eye. The first, of course, is to run around in circles shaking one’s head furiously and shouting “Get it out! Get it out! Get it out!” Second, is the urge to immediately board a plane (or buy a plane if necessary) and fly home to a country where eye infestations are uncommon; seen only on t.v.; say on a show about some place incredibly far away that only crazy people travel to. Pick your country.

Then, a feeling of calm sets in. Strange, preternatural calm. “Okay,” I said flatly. “Let’s talk to Mindy’s wife and see what to do here.” Mindy’s wife was a vet. And to be totally acurate here, I said this dripping wet after unsuccessfully resisting the third urge – to dump a litre and a half of bottled water on my face in an effort to flush the little buggers out.

That hadn’t worked either.

Thus began an interesting new portion of my day, wherein I saw the world through the perspective of someone staring out their apartment door’s peep hole. A succession of people came to look at my eye bugs. First, Mindy’s wife peered in and after a hissing, excited “yessss!”, announced in Mongolian to her translating husband that she was familiar with this type of infestation and that the larvae (which came from horses) could be wiped out of the eye with the aid of a clean tampon.

That really got everyone interested. Soon Dave, Val, Mindy and even our new camp-mate George was stopping by to stare at my cornea.

“Ummm, I don’t want to sound prissy here,” I said prissily. “But do you have anything other than a tampon?”

Janine had already been rummaging through our supplies for a suitable substitute to a feminine hygiene product and now emerged triumphantly holding a small plastic rod about 4 cm long with a spongy tissue-like substance attached to its end. It was a device designed for cleaning the sensor on her digital camera. The whole thing looked like a cross between a miniature mop and a tiny squeegee. “How about this?” she said excitedly.

Hell, even if I’d preferred the tampon, I wasn’t going to be the one to take that innocently happy look from her face. 

The entire camp, including Mindy’s brother, neighbor, 3 children and 3 children’s friends assembled to watch the procedure. Once again, I laid my head back in Janine’s lap. It was a lovely evening. Blue skies and golden sunlight. Perfect for larvae removal.

We started with some bad news. Apparently, during my nap, Tom and Lisa had decided to procreate. In fact, they’d held a full-on orgy. When Janine looked in my eye, she beheld, not a couple, but a small party of parasites.

“Oh my,” she said.

The face of Mindy’s wife immediately came into my field of vision again, staring with barely-hidden excitement down into my eye. “Yesssss!” she hissed. Apparently, this was the extent of her English.

Janine began the painstaking process of tracking and squeegeeing each clear little worm as it crawled around my eyeball. From my perspective, all I could see was her face, hovering large above mine, focussing intensely on the hunt. Each time she saw a bug, she would exclaim “There’s one!” and then carefully scrape it off my eye with the squeegee. Then her face would be replaced by that of Mindy’s wife, who would inspect her work and exclaim an ever-helpful “Yessss!” before the process began anew.

We did this about a dozen times. By then, my eyeball looked and felt as if I’d just dipped it in a lovely rasberry vinagrette.

Finally, it was over. Or so I thought until, just to be safe, I told Janine to check my other eye. For a long moment there was simply silence and staring. Then:

“There’s one!” she said, reaching for the squeegee again.

I think one of the children clapped.

“Yesssss!” said Mindy’s wife.

“Can we ask Mindy’s wife to go away now?” I asked.

“I still can’t see them,” muttered Dave walking away, disappointed after watching the surgery curiously.

It took roughly 20 more minutes to clean the other eye. By this time, I dreamt of cool dark caves where eyes were superfluous, of cucumbers placed by little angels on my twitching eyelids, and of never, ever, touching my eyes with my hands again.

I put half a litre of antibiotic drips in my eyes and went to bed. My fourth day in Mongolia was complete. I had learned a little about horses, a little about ocular parasites and considered it all a success.

Everyone had been very kind during the whole little crisis. Apparently, once it was over I was fair game.

Valerie looked at me sympathetically for a moment as I lay in my cot, then said with a little grin in her light Parisian accent, “I hope none of thee bugs went to your brain and laid eggs.”

“That would be great for the blog,” Janine laughed.

“Thank you all,” I said to my alleged friends, turning over and closing my eyes. “But I think I’ve got a decent enough post already.”


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