Tuesday, 20 March 2012

An intimate introduction to leeches by Luke Kessaram

“Ohh, ohh, sometimes I get a good leeching,” Alpha 7 sang to us as part of their spectacular skit during first changeover.

Before coming to Borneo, I scarcely knew what a leech was. “Do they hurt? How big are they?” I nervously enquired. Soon enough, I was all too familiar with them.

My first phase was the Biodiversity survey. In the remote area of the rainforest which we were situated, my Project Manager Tim Chapman and David Rendle boasted about the creation of a new sport; leech racing, it was eagerly explained, is a game that involves encouraging a leech to move about on the floor using the placement of your feet. It would seem leeches are attracted to bodily heat. As you move your feet around, the leech alters its course.
Alpha 6 - Biodviersity Team Phase I
I’m not entirely sure how a leech race is won, but it may involve whether or not the leech survives – they tire out after some time.

It was also on Phase I that I was introduced to two kinds of leeches. The regular leech is plain and black, and doesn’t hurt when it bites. These leeches contain local anesthetic so they can feed unnoticed by their prey. The second leech I was introduced to contains less local anesthetic thus has a harder time going unnoticed when biting: it is known as the tiger leech, either because of its fierce attack or it’s stripy orange colouring, I’m not sure which.
Leech attack in progress
We were advised to find a friend to check our hard to see places for stowaway leeches. It was also advised that we find a quiet corner and some alone time to check our no-no squares for some of the more adventurous little suckers. We’d all been told the horror stories of boys who have had to pry the little guys from their little guys, but fortunately we’d been able to avoid the most intimate of leeching.

That is until the fateful afternoon of 20th February. I was minding my own business, admiring our newly completed basher when all of the sudden I felt it: a sudden prick, the leech looking for the most appropriate of private places to sink into. Unfortunately for me, the leech found the most inappropriate of places. I exclaimed my concerns to the world, but I was afraid to check. Could I really have been leeched there? Surely not; this was the sort of thing legends were made of – I am no legend. I couldn’t hide from the truth though, and I promptly galloped off to a private patch of jungle to carry out a more thorough investigation. Sure enough, there the little tiger leech was, staking his claim in my most special of special places. I pulled up my shorts and brought the leech back to my group, a trophy to show everyone, before performing the roll and flick.

That’s how you get rid of leeches, the roll and flick. Well, that’s the nice way. It’s a technique I think all venturers are trained in during induction. Leeches are sticky creatures, so just trying to drop them won’t work. You need to roll them up in the palm of your hand to disorient them, and then flick them away. Many people new to leeches panic, and rush to flick them away. The leech ends up not going very far, landing on a boot or a fellow team member. The key is to remain calm, and always aim away from the group. It’s cruel not to. Venturer Beth Maton says “I’ve become so skilled at the roll and flick that I can do it while walking.” A useful skill indeed.

Of course, better than getting rid of leeches is to not get any leeches in the first place. Some people hike around in longs during the day, their trousers tucked into their socks. Others have claimed DEET will repel the little suckers.
Leech on a sock
One way to reduce leeching is to watch where you step. Be a weary trekker. It is said that when trekking in a line, the first person to walk past a leech wakes it up, the second excites it, and the third person gets leeched, unless the leech misses, then it has about 10 or 12 more chances to find a victim. Knowing this, the prudent venture would choose his or her place in the line wisely.

But perhaps the best way to deal with leeches is to not care about them. Project Manager Krystyna Kirkham adopts this attitude. “Below the knee, fair ground.” She says. “On my first day of trek, I took off my boot and there were 27 leeches on my foot and another 15 in my boot. Even the guides were disgusted.” However, there is a line to be drawn. Krystyna agrees: “above the knee is my personal space”. A thought many a PM and venturer alike share, Beth being one of them. Beth’s first leech experience crossed that line.
Leech expert Krystyna
“I ducked behind a tree, had a quick look, and there were not one, not two, but three leeches in my underwear! I felt violated. They hadn’t even asked me out for dinner first!” Well there’s a quick alternative for us lonely singletons out there.

And some people do in fact grow fond of leeches. “I actually have a fair amount of respect of leeches. They are the most determined creature without a brain out there,” Krystyna says.

Beth tells a story of a girl in her first Alpha group who started out absolutely terrified of leeches, but by the end of Phase I was putting baby ones on her arm so that they could grow strong.

Whatever your feelings about leeches, they’re here and they’re not going anywhere. They are as much a part of Raleigh as buggy long drops, bland porridge, and Mac’s frightening motivational speeches. They help make our Raleigh experience, shaping us into the people we will be for the rest of our lives.  So whether your pulling a leech off your left testicle, stepping around one on a jungle trail, or waiting for a well fed blood-sucker to pop in the fire, remember to be grateful for leeches, and the fleeting part they play in our short lives.

Alpha 2’s Poetic Adventure by Ingrid Elliott

Boys, girls, boys, girls, please all gather round

for I’m telling a story so don’t make a sound.

This story is of course about amazing Alpha 2,

with their many named pets and a throne for a loo.

From completely stuffing their faces each day,

to going to church and singing in Malay.

With some mud fights and dog fights, bitch fights and mozzie bites,

this story is full of our Phase 2 highlights.

So sit back, relax, listen and smile,

for who knows, this story might go on for a while.

It all started on that dreaded day,

when the Alphas were split up and we all went away.

Some however were still together with their old Alpha mates,

which some of the others didn’t always appreciate.

Danum here, Danum there,

Danum bloody everywhere.

Just kidding Bo Bubbles, Willemyn and Chris,

we all understand its Dan and Rich you really miss.

Rich and Dan

So after a long bus drive, we finally arrived,

and into our old shack we all quickly dived.

With cobwebs around and here and there a leak,

it only took a few days, till we turned this shack chic.

With a cupboard so tidy and drawings on the wall,

with bag racks, cup racks and mess tin racks and all.

Since there was some miscommunication on when the materials would come,

there was more time for work on the house to be done.

So we built a gym and a shower and a loo fit for kings,

together with some other quite impressive little things.

Also on the baking front we were quite great,

with everyday new ideas of cakes to create.
Chef Nikki

There were flapjacks, chocolate cake and of course banoffee pie,

all of which the calorie count was pretty dam high.

But we didn’t care, we ate ourselves fat,

and the villagers always fed us, on top of all that.

Still our supplies man Parasol was nowhere to be seen,

so we made some new pets, of whom we were all very keen.

There was a frog who fell down the long drop called Trevor,

who I swear to god, must be the smelliest frog ever.

To be honest I can’t even remember how many dogs we gave a name,

as most of them in my eyes looked exactly the same.

I do remember we named the girl dog Ralph and Sarah was boy,

and boy o boy did they give us joy.

It was Ralph in particular we all loved the most,

teaching him tricks and feeding him toast.

So Ralphie and Sarah, Mafia and Vanilla,

and Stacey the scorpion who was a real killer.

Stacey the Scorpion
And gosh, almost forgot Minna and my favourite pet of all,

Milly the millipied who climbed up the wall.

Due to Millies awesomeness we made her a song,

and sang different versus of it all day long.

Milly the millipied

However apparently our voices were that bad,

that every time we sang it, the group just got mad.

But anyway enough about all the cute little pets we had,

for Parasol had arrived, what a good lad.

Parasol arrives with materials

So we could finally get cracking on with some real hard work,

James’s eyes lit up, and on his face was a smirk.

Smirky James with Chris
So we all got excited and started digging away,

mixing cement and finding a place for the big tanks to stay.

Waterpipe there, and waterpipe here,

it wasn’t till long, till out next plan was clear.

Alpha 2 planning
We’d start on the other dams, three at a time,

all close together but with a sh*t muddy climb.

Muddy mountain
It was all going so well, till we found,

one dam was too low for the houses up ground.

O what a muddle, what can we possibly do,

thank god for Nikki, for she had a clue.

So off they went rearranging the pipe,

this time at a bit more of an appropriate height.

PM Caroline and pipe
And of course it all worked out indeed,

so we were rewarded by the villagers for doing a good deed.

Necklaces, bracelets, crosses and such,

quite overwhelming, it felt like too much.

The villagers and Alpha 2
So we decided to treat the villagers with a nice song in church,

even though finding that song was quite a bit of a search.

There we stood bellowing away,

not that they understood a word, since it was not in Malay.

These church sessions seemed to go on all day,

so Minna and I decided it was hangman we would play.

And as each and every word became dafter,

it got more and more difficult to hold in our laughter.

Not only in church but also at night,

did we find people giggling when we turned off the light.

There was Elliot who groaned and moaned and talked all night,

and Caroline and Minna who got caught up in a kick fight.

And then there formed a couple that shared a klamboe,

chatting all night, can you guess who?

The evenings were full of chase the joker forfeits,

and Harry Potter themed Mafia with deaths on the quiddich pitch.

And IQ tested, where Minna shocked us all, with an IQ of 129,

higher than the guys and higher than mine.
Ingrid and IQ Minna

However unfortunately it wasn’t always just fun,

as tension arose when the video had to be done.

You look too stroppy, you’re not in beat,

stand over there and don’t move your feet!

At moments Ingrid would stamp off in a strop,

and tell the whole group she would officially stop.

But there are no quitters in our Alpha 2,

so we finished the video, which turned out quite fun to do.

With our freshly new haircuts and our fly Raybans on,

our second phase ended with a lot of good fun.

So now you’ve all heard about our 3 weeks away,

new friendships were made and memories to stay.

So wake up, wake up, this story is over,

and let us all enjoy the rest of changeover.