OMGSomething creepy happened to me while I was innocently living the expat life in Moldova a few years ago. Yes, Moldova is a country. The capital is Chișinau (I thought you might want to know.) It’s not at all a creepy country, just to be clear. I was quite happy there. Lots of good wine, for one thing. It was just what happened that was, well . . . read on and I’ll tell you the story.

OMG! What is this?

After my nightly shower in my lovely Italian bathroom here in Moldova I make an unpleasant discovery: A tiny dark alien thing has taken up residence at the top of my left leg, in the groin area. There’s not supposed to be anything dark and alien sitting there, and certainly not after a shower. I try to brush it away, but it doesn’t budge and to my utter disgust I see it’s a bug, and it’s stuck, and yes, it’s a black tick.

In that place? How in the world did it get there? I did not dally in any forests lately, naked or otherwise.

Dallying in the forest, or The Dream by Henri Rousseau

I did not leave the centru of Chișinau, where I live. I did not even sit on the patio today because it was too hot. And no, I do not dry my clothes by spreading them out on the ground or on bushes.

At my wails of dismay, my prince, already in bed, leaps to may aid. He checks out the creature with the magnifier, and yes, it’s a tick, wiggly legs and all. Time for the computer. We Google Moldova and ticks and it’s not pretty what comes up. You should try it. Ever heard of Crimean-Congo Hemorrhagic Fever? Symptoms include fever, vomiting, bleeding on the roof of the mouth, stuff like that.

Now, I am a writer and have a fertile imagination and I am sure you can imagine the scenarios going through my head, so I won’t elaborate on them. I won’t even look for photos on the subject. I may never sleep again.

NOTE: Yes, I know, ticks are everywhere, and being impaled by one is not necessarily a typical expat experience, but bear with me.

We find instructions on how to remove a tick, also on the computer. (Have a look, it’s charming.) We hunt down some tweezers, but I have no alcohol or other disinfectant stuff, because I didn’t ship them when we moved to Moldova, thinking I’d buy them when I got there. Then I didn’t buy them. But we do have a bottle of vodka left by the landlord, so we splash that on my private area (a new experience for me), and wipe the tweezers with it.

Then my man goes in for the kill, or rather the extraction of the varmint. Unfortunately, despite following graphic instructions on the computer screen, the tick won’t let go and ends up being ripped in half. After plucking more bits and pieces of the rest of the corpse from my skin, we have to give up. The head is still in there. It is 11 in the evening and we decide to wait till morning to see if we’ll need an ambulance and then go from there.

Somehow I manage to sleep and in the morning the scene of the crisis still looks the same and I decide to avail myself of the services of Medpark, an excellent international hospital. I taxi over there and present myself at the desk. I show the cheery young woman behind it the decapitated tick corpse resting on a piece of cotton that I had sequestered in a plastic baggy. She speaks lovely English, and takes charge of me.

Not the skirt I was wearing, but this one made a better picture.

Within ten minutes I am in an examining room with two non-English speaking doctors in green surgery garb. Yes, two, not one. They are good-looking types, like you see on TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy, or ER, which is always reassuring, don’t you think? I hike up my skirt and show them my groin, feeling so elegant and delicate doing this.

I’m asked where I got this thing. Had I been in the woods or out in the countryside? They are amazed when I tell them nu! No, I’ve only been here in the centru of town.

I am told it is good that I came because the head should be removed. I am instructed to lie down on the examining table. One of the docs disappears and is replaced by a nurse. Miss English is still with me, gently assuring me all will be fine and the operation won’t take long, and am I feeling all right? I tell her I am fine, I am very tough.

The team gets ready with the usual operating stuff, all proper and sterile and so forth, which is to be expected in a super nice clean brand new hospital. Miss English keeps reassuring me as if I am a frightened child. I will be fine. It will be over soon. The handsome doc is joking with her and she tells me he is a cardiovascular surgeon and this is his operation of the century. Apparently he was running loose doing nothing and was roped in to tend to me.

He has plucked the head of the tick corpse out in no time and I get a bandage, but no further instructions. Nothing to worry about. I ask if it is not dangerous, thinking of vomiting and bleeding on the roof of the mouth.

“Oh, no,” says Miss English, “not in Moldova. In Russia, yes! You can die!” (From Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever perchance?)

I thank the doc for his operating expertise and he grins and takes off. Miss English takes me to the office and another lovely person gets my bill ready. It comes rolling out of the printer with two items on it: One for what I can figure out means “dressing,” the other for the actual procedure. The total is the equivalent of $ 8.50 or € 6. Actually this is the charge for the “dressing” only because the procedure is listed as costing 0 as in zero. Apparently the cardiovascular surgeon considered it below his dignity to charge for extracting a tick head from my, well, you know where.

You just gotta love this.

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Surely you have tales of greater horrors than this, about alien invaders like guinea worm or hook worm. Or perhaps you have an interesting doctor story to share. Make my day!

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Do you love your own country, warts and all? Do you actually know your own country’s warts?  As a traveler or an expat you discover the idiosyncrasies of other cultures and countries, but you also learn to see your own homeland with new eyes. (A shocking experience this can be, not?) It’s interesting as well to learn how foreigners see your culture and your people.

There are 195 countries in the world, more or less, depending on your definition of country and the odd successful war of independence here and there. Lots of fun out there to dig up, wouldn’t you say? Prejudices, clichés, generalizations, etc. So, for your possible elucidation and/or edification I’ve gathered up several quotations by wise and learned souls describing the personality and characteristics of various countries, their own, or others.  May I assure you that these views are not necessarily mine?

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Eating in Sweden is really just a series of heartbreaks.  — Bill Bryson

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Many people are surprised to hear that we have comedians in Russia, but they are there. They are dead, but they are there.  — Yakov Smirnoff

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Italy is the paradise of the flesh, the hell of the soul, the purgatory of the pocketbook.  — German saying

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New Zealanders?

New Zealand is a country of thirty thousand million sheep, three million of whom think they are human.  — Barry Humphries.  (Now that’s just plain mean!)

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Every country gets the circus it deserves. Spain gets bullfights. Italy gets the Catholic Church. America gets Hollywood.  — Erica Jong

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English bed buddy: hot water bottle to keep you warm

Continental people have sex lives; the English have hot-water bottles. – George Mikes

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Canada has never been a melting pot; more like a tossed salad.  —  Arnold Edonborough

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France is the only place where you can make love in the afternoon without people hammering on your door.  — Barabara Cartland.  (You’re wrong, Barbara)

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Apart from cheese and tulips, the main product of Holland is advocaat, a drink made from lawyers.   — Alan Coren, British humorist

If you’ve been a loyal reader of this blog, you will know I hail from the land of cheese and tulips. Advocaat is one of my favorite desserts. Advocaat is a distant but more refined relative of English and American eggnog.  It is a liqueur made of egg yolks, brandewijn (a type of brandy), sugar and vanilla. Depending on the brand, it has an alcohol content of 14-18%. The original, traditional version is very thick, like pudding, and you eat it with a spoon, preferably with a dollop of whipped cream on top (sadly lacking on the photo because I didn’t have any handy).  If you happen to pass through Schiphol, Amsterdam Airport, you’ll find it in the duty free shops. There is an inferior tourist version that is more liquid, but forget that. Get the real deal and eat it with a spoon, or put it on ice cream, or make lovely desserts and mixed drinks with it. If  you cannot lay your hands on a bottle and you’re really desperate you can make it yourself. Here’s a recipe for advocaat.  I’ve never made it myself, so don’t give me grief if it doesn’t work out.

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I like Ireland because it means I’m near France. – Harry Harrison

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Rioting is a Kenyan thing.  If they didn’t do it, they’d be Tanzanian.   — Dr. Mavura from Tanzania

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A tiny portion of all the cheeses in France

France: How can you expect to govern a country that has two hundred and forty-six kinds of cheese?  — Charles de Gaulle

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In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.  — Orson Welles

Note: This is a repost from years ago, but I’m thinking you enjoyed reading it anyway (again).

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Now, dear reader, do you have some other gems and warts tucked away? I’d love to find some pearly quotations or warty words about other countries. All in good fun, of course.

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