Monday, November 19, 2007

Scorpians, Snakes, and Spiritual Emphasis Retreat

It was the Spiritual Emphasis Retreat for the students. PIBC rented a private campground on Rios Beach and the students and some staff spent all day Saturday and Sunday at the seashore. On Saturday morning there was a three hour time of silence and solitude. We wanted the students to experience this spiritual discipline because it is COMPLETELY foreign to them. You have to remember they come from tiny villages and sleep with up to forty people in two-bedroom huts or concrete “houses.” There is no such thing as privacy or solitude. The solitude was definitely an act of discipline for them. On the other hand, they were thrilled when told there was “plenty of spam” for the weekend. They were not so happy when told there would be no shower facilities. Our Micronesian students shower three times a day (yes, you read that correctly). This retreat was a time for staff to build relationships and have conversations that wouldn’t happen in the classroom. There were profound discussions that took place that we will write about another time. After the evening time of fellowship, the Sorenson clan had to head home because Eric had to preach Sunday morning and the girls had to sing.

Eric had left earlier in the evening to work on his sermon. As the kids and I headed home, we decided to stop at PIBC to pick up some boxes that had FINALLY arrived from the states (sent six weeks ago!). Unfortunately, because of the students being at the campground, the front gate to the college was locked. Fortunately, there was a guy who works at the college sitting in front of his house inside the grounds. I yelled, asking him if he would open the gate for us. The girls both got out of the car and were hanging on the gate and saying they could climb it for me. (I shudder as I think about this because there was a snake lying on the top of the gate!). The worker walked across a small field and let us in. Two minutes later we were leaving the campus with the boxes in our trunk. As we were about to drive out, I stopped the car and told Christian (sixteen years old) to hop out and lock the gate behind us. At that moment Noelle (seven years old) yelled, "Look! There's a snake!" We all looked and saw nothing. (A brown tree snake is skinny and this one was lying flush with the chain-link gate). I asked, "Are you sure?" "I'm positive," she retorted. With my headlights still on the gate, I hopped out and walked toward the gate and sure enough, there was a brown tree snake (a venomous menace to Guam which was accidentally brought in from the Solomon Islands--see article excerpt below). I shouted to the worker, "Hey, there's a brown snake here, do you want to kill it?" The worker jumped up so fast your head would spin! He was grabbing whatever was handy--which happened to be a flimsy plastic rake. In the meantime, the kids had all hopped out of the car and the snake was now nervous, so it started heading down the INSIDE of the chain-link pole of the gate. Fortunately, the thing was four feet long so it gave Christian and me time to think before it was going to COMPLETELY disappear inside that pole. And then, Christian exclaimed, "I'm going to grab it by the tail so it can't get away." Sure enough! He grabbed the serpent’s tail and held tight. Once the worker had reached us with the rake, Christian pulled the snake out of the pole and flung it to the ground. The worker began stabbing the snake with the flimsy plastic rake but this didn't stop the snake; it only ticked it off. The serpent was shaking its tail at us like a rattler! I ran for my camera, and at one point, as I was focusing on taking the picture, I noticed the dumb thing was heading straight for me (got to about 2 feet from my flip-flop clad feet!) and, of course, I started screaming which made Noelle promptly declare, "This is scary, I'm waiting in the car!" The guy again trapped the thing with the rake and instructed Christian to lift the snake up by its head, which Christian accomplished successfully (thus the somewhat cool picture I was able to take of him holding the live snake). Then the worker told Christian to hold the snake's head on the ground while the man proceeded to step on it with his foot (he too was wearing flip flops). This, of course, only managed to injure and annoy the snake, not kill it. Finally, Christian came up with the bright idea of running the snake over with the car (which was idling a few yards away). The man tried to stay the snake with the rake while I proceeded to go forwards and backwards over the snake. Still the snake would not die; it only got thinner!!! So, they instructed me to drive the car on top of the snake and LEAVE the tire on it for a while. That finally did the trick, and the vile viper was vanquished.

When I relayed our snake story to the staff the following day, they told me, “Two female students sleeping in two different tents, were bitten by scorpions during the night because they left their tent flaps open; but this is better than last year when a brown tree snake bit one of the female students during the night.” Sure hope next year, during the Spiritual Emphasis Retreat, Eric will be obligated to preach Sunday morning so we “can’t” spend the night!! By the way, don’t let this deter you from visiting us.

The Brown Tree Snake, Wildlife Services, November, 2001 (aphis.usda.gov)

The brown tree snake was accidentally introduced to Guam in the late 1940s or early 1950s, probably from the Solomon Islands. A native of Australia, Papua New Guinea, and the Solomon Islands, the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis) is a dangerous threat to the economy and ecology of Guam and is the subject of a cooperative program to control snake populations on Guam and prevent its spread throughout the Pacific Rim.

Biology

Brown tree snakes are about 15 inches at hatching and may reach 10 feet in length as adults. Most brown tree snakes are 3 to 4 feet long. This snake is a rear-fanged semiconstrictor and is mildly poisonous. Both constriction and venom are used to help immobilize prey.

The snake's venom trickles into a bite victim along grooves in the rear fangs. Because of the relatively small size and position of the fangs, a brown tree snake must chew to allow the fangs to penetrate the skin.

The brown tree snake is extremely abundant on Guam, with localized estimates sometimes reaching 20 or more snakes per acre of jungle. These population density estimates are among the highest snake densities ever recorded.

Damage

The brown tree snake has caused extensive economic and ecological damage to Guam. It is responsible for numerous power outages across the island each year. This species is an opportunistic feeder and has eradicated most of Guam's native forest birds.



3 comments:

Stephanie said...

All those days hunting boar down at the ranch gave Christians some GUTS!!!! I'd be in the car with Noelle.

Anonymous said...

You have really great taste on catch article titles, even when you are not interested in this topic you push to read it

chuukesegirl said...

ummmm i feel bad and scared cuase i thought there was no snakes in chuuk..i think we should kill all the snakes we found...they could get bigger and kill the people..lol..im serious