No-see-um bites, shopping therapy, hungry kids

no-see-um bites on Ellen's legs

Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Ellen

The bug bites on my legs have reached a new level of alarm. The picture above shows no-see-um bites on my lower legs. But the bites are also all around my thighs, hips, arms, tummy — anyplace my bathing suit or tank top didn’t cover was biting grounds during a recent long beach walk.

I was caught in no-see-um season on Boracay unprepared – without pants. That won’t happen again.

No-see-um bites

No-see-ums are also called biting midges, biting flies, or biting gnats. There are more than 5,000 species on this planet.

In this corner of Earth – the Philippines – no-see-ums (or noseeums) are called ‘nik niks’ (or nikniks). Beaches are breeding grounds for these nasty biting sand flies.

My legs itch so bad — and the bites sting. Each spot is an itchy fire feeling. It sucks. These are worse than mosquito bites– and I have many of those, too.

No-see-ums are tiny – thus the name. They can be less than 1 millimeter to 5 millimeters. I know from my breast cancer tumor size – 1 millimeter is the size of the period at the end of this sentence —-> . But no-see-um bites look much larger, as you saw above.

No-see-um bites can cause infection and parasitic infestation. And, these blood suckers can even cause elephantiasis, which is cause by a worm they carry.

No-see-um season is really all the time. But apparently, late summer tends to be worse if there is not much rain – which has been the case here in the last 10 days or so. But of course, rain breeds mosquitoes, which also love to suck my blood and gave me Chikungunya back in Mexico.

Honestly, I’m really not made for long-term living in the tropics. But here we are. #TravelPandemicProblems

Shopping therapy

Despite my dread of wearing pants in this heat and humidity, I decided to buy some to protect myself from these dreaded no-see-um bites.

On top of the climate, I deal with tamoxifen-induced hot flashes, which is another reason I avoid pants. I had been looking forward to leaving Southeast Asia this month. But the ‘Rona changed that plan for me.

And third, finding pants that fit me well here is problematic. My Caucasian, American backside and hips are larger than Filipina frames. Sometimes Ukay Ukay stores (thrift stores) have American sizes that fit me. It’s hit or miss, and I don’t have much choice on design, cut, color, or size on a thrift rack.

So I decided it was time to splurge. I went to D’Mall on Boracay, where most of the tourist-geared shops remain closed. However, a small number of stores are open. In one of those stores, found a pair of pants that are thin enough and loose enough to hopefully cause less sweating while protecting my legs.

Also, two dresses caught my eye. One is so big and loose and flowing it would be cool, and it’s also long to protect my legs from no-see-um bites (and mosquitoes). The other dress has no practical purpose other than: I liked it. Shopping therapy.

The owner was pleasant, not pushy, humble. She shared with me how slow business has been, and how she hopes for more tourists — soon.

She made me an offer for the pants and two dresses. I respectfully haggled with her.

After some back and forth, I agreed to a price substantially lower than the tags requested. Still, I know I overpaid, and I don’t really care.

Ellen bought pants at the Crystal Shack, pictured here, after no-see-um bites riddled her legs on the beach in Boracay.

As I like to say: we are budget travelers but: we are not cheap. Times are tough on Boracay with the ‘Rona-caused tourism collapse. More than the money, I hope I gave that kind woman a little hope.

Besides, I haven’t bought myself any ‘new’ clothing in …? In all of 2020.

Hungry kids

I haven’t bought ‘new’ clothes because I prefer to spend money on things that matter more. Donations to local friends. Helping the Ati tribe. Buying food for hungry kids.

We sponsor a meal once a week for many children who live in our area on the ‘mainland’ in Malay municipality. And I can’t help but notice, on Boracay, many children look ominously thin to me.

Most of us westerners don’t know what it’s like to be hungry enough to climb up a tree for a coconut. It’s a banned activity on Boracay’s White Beach, yet that’s exactly what these hungry kids are doing. And who has the heart to enforce the ban – when everyone is struggling?

One kid at the top of a coconut tree trying to free the fruit, while another kid waits at the bottom of the tree to pick up the free food.

Rambutan sellers

Earlier this week, I was swarmed by children begging me to buy rambutan. At that moment, I only had one large bill, and one really small bill on me. So I declined and kept walking.

I started to feel a little down. They kept asking. Three of them kept following me. “Please! Please buy! I’m hungry. I buy rice. You buy rambutan, I buy rice.”

They eventually stopped following me when I turned down a street. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the rambutan kids. I could see they were really thin.

I bought more data for the smart phone to break the big bill, and then I went back to where I saw the kids.

They were at the entryway of Nigi Nigi – a popular Boracay bar with older expat men. A table of four guys had sent the waiter out with 300 pesos (about $6.25) to buy all their bags of rambutan.

I am so glad I witnessed that! I had been planning to give them that exact amount – 300 pesos. And I had been inwardly lamenting: WHEN DOES IT END?

We gave away a staggering amount of money in August (for us). We cannot keep doing that now that we have not gotten a September rental payment from our long-term tenant back in America.

It helped me to see other residents, tourists, expats, vacationers — whatever they were — help the locals in some way. Because we Earth Vagabonds cannot help everyone.

Be generous

So that 300 pesos I didn’t give to those rambutan kids? I used it for other people trying to make it. Including a guy selling flip-flops on the street. I didn’t even haggle there.

Ellen smiles under a mask with the flip-flop seller on a street corner, a thin young man.

We’ll still help how we can as we stay in Malay municipality longer. And we are formulating a plan to help local families for the upcoming holidays. We will still sponsor a meal for hungry kids, and we will still help local friends when we can.

You undoubtedly know people who are struggling near you, wherever you are in the world. You hopefully will be as generous as you can be – because Life is Now, and people need help.

Thanks for reading, “No-see-um bites, shopping therapy, hungry kids.”

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