Monkey attacks: How to avoid them

Reading about Jason Biggs recent experience being attacked by a monkey in Gibraltar reminded me of my own attack by a monkey. Okay, okay, so it only bit me on my thumb. Lightly. The bite barely broke the skin. But, it did give me anxiety later when I had a brief moment of thinking that I had rabies about two weeks after my two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia had ended. My thumb was numb and I felt ill.

The doctors in the emergency room in Rochester, New York where I was visiting a friend assured me that I did not have rabies. Whew! But, as Jason’s story illustrates–and my own points out, monkeys can bite and its best to not get them riled up if you happen to be traveling where they live. In my case, the monkey was a young one that had been captured and being kept as a pet in my village. Not by me, but people who I used to visit.

In other cases, the monkeys and people come into contact because the monkeys just happen to live where the people do, like in some sections of New Delhi, India where they can be like squirrels are in the U.S. You may recall the incident in 2007 when the deputy mayor of New Delhi was attacked by monkeys, fell of his balcony, and died the next day as a result of his head injuries. Monkeys also frequent temples in India.

Or in another scenario you may be hiking in monkey territory. Wherever monkeys are, it’s good to know how not to get attacked. There are ways.

1. Don’t put your hand out in a monkey’s direction. I don’t think I put my hand out, but how did that monkey bite my thumb? It’s a blur by now.

2. If you’re carrying food and the monkey wants it, for heavens sake, give it to the monkey. If a monkey comes at you, it’s likely to want what you have in your hand. Friends of mine recounted a tale where a monkey snatched their young daughter’s milk carton right out of her hand when they were at some park in Thailand. I think, they were in Thailand, or perhaps somewhere in Micronesia where they used to live.

3. As a response to number 2, don’t carry food around monkeys if you can avoid it.

Here are other suggestions I found in a World Hum article from last December:

  • Make sure you keep water bottles hidden from a monkey’s view
  • If the monkey thinks you have food, but you don’t, show your empty palms.
  • Stand your ground if a monkey does attack. Show your teeth as a sign of aggression. Showing weakness brings them on.
  • If a monkey shows aggression, i.e, blinks, shows its teeth, yawns or smiles wide, don’t make eye contact and walk away.

This article also offers advice if you are attacked.

  • Shake a stick at the monkey, and if that doesn’t work, rap it on the head with the stick.
  • Form an O shape with your mouth, lean forward and raise your eyebrows

For more detailed advice and an explanation of monkey behavior, the World Hum article has excellent information. The post also presents a rundown of where monkeys are most prevalent. Jason Biggs was in one of them. They are:

India, Gibraltar, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Cape Town, South Africa

Matt Harding of video “Dancing” named Traveler of the Year

My favorite video of all times is Matt Harding’s Dancing. Every time I’m at a friend’s house and someone is on the Internet, I say, “Hey, there’s something you have to see.” The last time that happened was two days ago in Ottawa, Ohio, the town whose flood I wrote about last January.

Janelle Nanosen at Intelligent Travel offered up Harding’s video yesterday as worthy of end of the year attention. Considering that I had just visited Harding’s website, and it’s such a feel good look at the world’s people, here it is again.

Janelle mentions that Harding was given kudos by World Hum as Traveler of the Year. Of course he was, and rightfully so. As my friend, Tom Barlow at Wallet Pop said when he first saw it, “People in Hollywood spend millions of dollars trying to create the feeling that this guy was able to do in just four minutes.”

As we move into 2009, here’s hoping your travels bring you this feeling every day of the year. Wouldn’t that be great?

Pico Iyer: Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

Pico Iyer, my ultimate favorite travel writer, has a new book out Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Whenever I see Iyer’s name, it’s like a laser beam calling me to read it.

The book chronicles Iyer’s 30 year history with the Dalai Lama that that began when he first met him. This was back before fame struck either of them. As he told in an interview with World Hum, Iyer got the idea for the book five years ago after the war in Iraq started. Then Iyer began to look into the patterns of the Dalai Lama’s life and travels and Iyer’s own. From my understanding, the book is mostly about the Dalai Lama with Iyer’s presence dipping in and out of depending on the chapter and theme.

The idea sounds fascinating to me. I do think there are people who come into our lives at particular times that are turning points for us. Certain world events offer a backdrop or a heightened sense of awareness in our own day to day meanderings. The book also intrigues me because of my own chance encounters with both Iyer and the Dalai Lama that left an impression.

In Dharamsala, in the courtyard of the monastery where he lives, the Dalai Lama walked right by us as he made his way to address the audience who had crowded in to hear him talk. It was the day before the U.S. went into Iraq. I remember how beamy he seemed when he walked by right where I stood leaning against a fence of the courtyard. Being with people from all over the world at an audience on the day before the U.S. went into Iraq is something I don’t think I’ll ever forget. It’s an unusual happening at an unusual time in an unusual place kind of thing.

As for Pico Iyer, I had no idea he was in New Delhi when I sat down in my living room with a cup of coffee and the newspaper one morning. There his name was under a things happening today type section. At a writers conference. “Pico Iyer’s at a writing conference!” I sputtered out, spewing coffee. “Pico Iyer! Today, as in now,” I moaned. “Oh, why do I find out about these things so late?”

“Let’s go then,” my husband said, grabbing our then one-month old and the diaper bag. He didn’t want to be left stranded for who knows how long until I returned. So there we were, hustling for a taxi. We sat in the balcony of the auditorium during the panel discussion that Iyer was moderating.

Afterwards, I went downstairs to say hello and hand Iyer a short odd little creative non-fiction piece I wrote about him. He shook my hand, seemed pleased, and sent me a thank-you post card later. And that’s my Dalai Lama/Pico Iyer global journey story. I’m not sure what turning point I had in my life as a result of seeing either one of them. I think I’m still waiting, but the encounters make me smile when I think about them, so perhaps, that’s enough. [via World Hum]

Women Traveling Solo: An Online Conversation by the Best

I came across this travelers’ bounty on the Rambling Traveler. At World Hum this week there has been an on-line conversation between accomplished women travelers Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Liz Sinclair, Terry Ward and Catherine Watson. The four women are presenting their experiences about traveling alone as a female.

Each entry of the eleven is a mini-essay of sorts that turns on the subject broached in the essay or essays before it. The result is a wonderful blend of thought, musings and descriptions of traveling experiences with some how-tos mixed in. In the first entry Terry Ward describes her first solo bus ride when the man sitting next to her in Jordan propositioned her while the woman, increasingly agitated with the conversation, burst out “He’s my husband.” The next essay turns on the idea of playing or not playing the female card and the complexities of that one. The third essay Liz Sinclair elaborates even further on the idea of the feminine card and recounts using various techniques of flirting, crying or, in once, case breaking a cab driver’s jaw when he physically tried to get more money out of her. I found their conversations fascinating.

For women, whether you are a solo traveler or not, you’ll recognize situations in your every day life where you’ve perhaps felt a similar way or have been in a similar situation even if you’ve barely left your hometown. For men, these women’s conversation is a wonderfully rich glimpse in what it’s like being female–the good and the bad. I would say the good out weighs the bad since the four continue to ramble across the globe.

World Hum Interviews Rick Steves

It’s hard to argue with the success of Rick Steves. Even if you’re not a fan of his guides (I am), you can’t deny the influence he has had on millions of travelers bound for Europe. Our friends over at World Hum recently ran a great interview with Rick. Here are some highlights:

On communication…
“Stuff that we couldn’t even imagine 30 years ago is commonplace now in Europe. In the old days it was a big issue how to stay in touch with a loved one. You’d go to the American Express office and you’d pick up mail that was two weeks old and you didn’t know if you got it all and so on. Now, my son just calls me on the cell phone and you pay a buck a minute and it’s great. I just love it.”

On experience…
“What takes away from the [travel] experience is having enough money that you buy yourself out of all the risk and all the unpredictability. That could happen 30 years ago, it can happen today. When I travel, there’s no unpredictability. If I’m determined to get from Milan to Córdoba today I’m going to get from Milan to Córdoba. There’s something to be said about roughing it for the sake of roughing it. You just have a more vivid experience. You meet more people. You’re more needy. You let yourself into people’s care.”

On drugs…
“I’ve also been comparing American drug policy to European drug policy. People in America think you’re either hard on drugs or soft on drugs. They say Europeans are soft on drugs. I think you’re either hard on drugs or you’re smart on drugs, and I think Europeans are smart on drugs as opposed to waging war on drugs.”

Click here to check out the interview in full.