Singapore Adventure

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

by venitha

Sleep has been elusive in Singapore, so I am not surprised that insomnia, a stowaway nestled discreetly between our swimsuits and the sunscreen, has accompanied me to Indonesia. I lie awake, in a thatched-roofed bungalow on the beach, and listen to the night.

The mechanical hum of the air conditioner, the rhythmic beat of the ceiling fan, Jim's labored breathing - he has a cold - beside me: noises familiar and continuous are a comfort. Other voices, however, bewilder and cry out for identification. A throaty brrrrrrrrr, a high-pitched wheeeee, a throbbing shriek...

Is that an insect? This island is primarily a jungle, and of course there are teeming swarms of God-knows-what. Earlier in the evening, I enjoyed the company of the largest flying insect I've ever seen. It may have been Tinkerbell. Whatever noise she makes, I doubt it's subtle.

Is that a bird? This afternoon, we lounged on our porch and watched a bird fly frantic figure-eights in pursuit of insects above the water. Abruptly transforming from lithe acrobat to lounge singer, he stopped occasionally to audition for a bird clock. In a grand outsourcing coup, he could easily replace a dozen North American birds, filling all twelve hours on his own.

Is that a monkey? Our bellboy tells us to lock the double doors to our porch when we leave the room. The monkeys; they are smart. Oh, my. I convince myself that an intermittent ah-ah-ah-ah-ah sound must be a monkey; but when I hear it again, decidedly from within our hut, I quickly change my mind.

Blessedly absent from this noctural serenade is the annoying buzz of a mosquito. We watched them spray for mosquitoes: a thick smoky fog that made the huts appear to be on fire. We were amazed and amused until it reached us and we breathed it in. "Best not to think about," said Jim, and we turned away to search out pina coladas to aid us toward this goal. Now, a sweet chemical scent lingers.

Our back-up defense against the insects is mosquito netting, a first for both of us, and it is not at all the boring, utilitarian cover that my mind has always conjured for its image. A fine white mesh canopy adorns our bed. It is beautiful and elegant, pinned up by day and released at night to cascade to the floor on all sides of the bed. Within, I am Jasmine, an exotic princess.

Surely I should be wearing bangles at my wrists and my ankles. Surely someone should be fanning me with a large tropical leaf. Surely someone should peel and feed me large, succulent grapes.

Surely I should just start taking Ambien.