28 September 2009


In 1961, John F. Kennedy believed so strongly in the idea of the Peace Corps that he used his discretionary funds to fund it instead of waiting for approval from Congress.

In 2011, the Peace Corps will celebrate its 50th anniversary.

If you served in the Peace Corps anywhere in the world during the past 50 years, record these dates and plan to attend the conference to be held in Washington DC to celebrate that milestone.

September 22-25, 2011

10 September 2009

OPHIDIOPHOBIA - fear of snakes

This post is in response to a writing prompt at
Writing prompt: "Scaredy Cat!!!"

OPHIDIOPHOBIA (according to Wikipedia) refers to the fear of snakes. It is one of the most common zoophobias (animal phobias). A typical ophidiophobic would not only fear them when in live contact but also dreads to think about them or even see them on TV or in pictures. Ophidiophobia is a characteristic of fictional adventurer Indiana Jones (and with good reason, I might add.)

I know others are afraid of other creepy-crawlies, but my only phobia is snakes. I acquired the fear from my grandmother who often told a story about a neighbor boy who threw a large black snake across the road at her when she was a young girl. The force of the throw made it wrap it self around her body, before falling to the ground. It was dead, but she didn’t know that when it was flying toward her.
I worked at a camp one summer in an area where there were timber rattlers. Counselors often walked from the main camp to our campsites at night. I was assured rattlers were not nocturnal so I wasn't worried. I usually had a flashlight with me, but occasionally walked without one if the moon were bright. After returning home from the camp at the end of the summer, I read an article about common myths ---and sure enough the myth that timber rattlers are not nocturnal is false. Even though it was months later, I almost fainted.
Once my first husband & I stopped to eat our lunch at a highway rest stop. On the way to a picnic table, I tramped on a snake and it curled over my almost-bare, sandaled foot. I screamed. It was harmless, but it still freaked me out. I went camping with friends, and on a hike, I went off the path to pee ---and there was a snake. It seemed that if there were a snake anywhere nearby, I was the one to run into it.

During my Peace Corp stint in Brazil, our house in Glória was at the edge of a town surrounded by hinterland. There was a pond nearby, so it attracted all kinds of animals, including reptiles. Several times a snake crawled into our house in the space (about an inch) under the door.
Brunie (my fellow volunteer) and I each had a footlocker which we shipped from home with clothing and other essentials. To prevent mildew, we placed each of them on four bricks (underneath the corners) to keep them from touching the mud-brick floor which was sometimes damp. The footlockers served as extra seating.
José Francisco (see photos of him and me, scroll down a little to find us both dressed in red, HERE) a man who worked for the Brazilian Legion of Assistance, was sitting on one of the footlockers when a snake slithered from underneath it, right between his feet. José Francisco ran from the room. I jumped onto a chair. Brunie and I screamed for our next-door neighbor and landlord. He came in and killed the snake and then pointed out its fangs and told us it was a poisonous variety.
In Peace Corps training, we were told that all poisonous snakes in Brazil were deadly. And the fact that the snake was nearly the exact color as our mud-brick floor scared me even more, because in other circumstances, one of us might have walked right up to it, or even stepped on it, without even noticing it was there.
I started to pack to go home, but then someone reminded me there wasn't a bus out of town for five days ---which gave me time to calm down ---sort of.

That was the first time we saw a snake in the house, but it was not the last. It got to the point that I would jump if I saw a thread on the floor. I had a bathrobe that had a tie at the waist which was sewn on across the back, but if not tied, the ends hung down at the side. Those ties would brush my leg and I would gasp in panic. One day, I just cut those suckers off so I wouldn’t be jumping every two minutes when I wore it around the house.
We had lots of other creepy things in our house in Brazil --toads, mice, roaches, tarantulas, bats, scorpions ---but nothing bothered me except the snakes.

What didn’t help was the word for snake in Portuguese is “cobra” and even though there were no King Cobras around, there were several varieties of highly poisonous snakes. In Peace Corps training, a fellow volunteer asked the question, “If a ______ snake bit you and you could instantly amputate your leg, would you die anyway?” The answer was “Yes.” I can’t remember, now, the variety he mentioned, but perhaps it was a bushmaster.

I once saw a dead coral snake on the street in Glória. We were assured that the coral snake wasn’t much of a threat because its jaw span was so small that it would almost have to gnaw at a little finger or toe to inject its venom. We were told they live in banana trees and not to stick our hands into one. So there was no way I was ever going to pluck a banana right from a tree. I always bought them from vendors at the weekly market. I am guessing the dead coral snake I saw was from a cart full of bananas, and that the snake had been crushed by a horse, cart, truck, or automobile.

My husband thinks I am ridiculously silly ---I can't look at a snake on TV, not even a drawing of one.
I had a very difficult time writing this ---even writing the word sn___ makes me crazy. And I couldn't look at photos of them for an illustration, so I did the best I could without actually drawing a sn___ !

Luckily, in my everyday life, I rarely see one, but my husband found a very small harmless one in our basement about a year ago. I wish he hadn't told me.

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(Recent studies have theorised that humans may have an innate reaction to snakes, which was vital for the survival of humankind as it allowed such dangerous threats to be identified immediately.)
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)