Ick. My metropolitan U.S. mission was mercifully free of fleas. (I mean, I’m sure some people had problems, but it wasn’t a problem we missionaries had to deal with.) I only had problems with mosquitos one time. My companion volunteered us to mow a field (and I almost killed her for it). It took three days (not solid, just a couple hours each day), and one of the days was in the early evening, right at peak mosquito time. We doused ourselves in bug repellent, but it didn’t help at all. The next day was Sunday, and let me tell you, I was quite the vision of loveliness at church, with my eyes practically swollen shut from all the mosquito bites.
I’m surprised to not see cockroaches on the list. My first mission apartment was crawling (ha!) with them. And it was in the middle of a heatwave where several hundred people died, and all we had was one small fan to keep us “cool”. At night I would lie in bed in a puddle of sweat unable to determine whether it was dripping sweat or crawling cockroaches I felt on my skin. Oh how I despised that miserable apartment.
Cockroaches were my buddies compared to the mosquitoes (on the coast of Guatemala) and the fleas (in the mountains). What was so annoying about the mosquitoes was how they would keep me up at night buzzing around my ears, knowing they were going to bite me throughout the night. So it’s blazing hot but I had to cover up with a sheet so I wouldn’t get bitten. So it was a choice of a miserable night of sweaty sleep or sleeping okay but having bites in the morning.
On the other hand, in the mountains the fleas were terrible because they would get in your socks or your waistband or under your arms and give you multiple bites which, unlike mosquitoes, lasted many, many days. And itched much more than mosquito bites. Ugh.
Funny thing about Brazilian mosquitoes: they like fresh American blood. In my first area I got bitten like crazy. Way worse than any of the other three more seasoned missionaries in the house, none of whom used repellent or a net. Gradually, that subsided and I just got the occasional bite like everyone else. The same thing happened with other American greenies that I lived with over the course of my mission. I recently read something about how mosquitoes are attracted to the volatile compounds emanating from animals as well as CO2. I’m guessing there’s either something very tantalizing to mosquitoes in the American diet, maybe high fructose corn syrup, that attracts them or it’s just the fact that the green American’s odor stands out that attracts them. I think I want to quit studying yeast and start studying mosquitoes.
Never had fleas, so I’d choose the mosquitoes anyday (fear of the unknown and all). I don’t know what part of Brazil Tom, #5, was in, but where I was in the Northeast it was impossible to sleep without a net or fan. Most of used a fan pointed at our heads to keep the mosquitoes away—they don’t like flying in wind.
Geoff J: I learned all I need to know about chiggers when I was visiting my in-laws in Missouri. One chigger is all it takes!
Having experienced a good amount of both on my mission, I actually voted for fleas. Russ, I’d forgotten how the flea bites itched for so long, but I did not forget the three times I got dengue from mosquitoes.
Tom: “not rain foresty at all.” Ha! Brazil’s northeast is a desert almost like Utah once you get just a bit inland. Doesn’t stop the mosquitoes though—always warm and lots of standing water (for natural and man-made reasons).