Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Six Men With Machetes

When you’re a child you learn by categorizing. At first, you have boxes with broad categories, like an ‘animal with four legs’ category. Dogs, cats, wolves, lions, etc. fall into this category. With time and repeated correction you start to understand the distinction between cat and dog, and you will probably stop calling all ‘animals with four legs’ simply dog. Now you start to make smaller categories, like ‘dog’ and ‘cat’, and you continue in this fashion. As I learn different dog breeds, I make different boxes or categories in my head, making the distinctions smaller still.

I know that there are many species of dog which I do not know the name for yet, but the box is there anyway, waiting for information, knowing that these species names exist, but I do not know them yet.

Two days ago however, I encountered a creature for which previously I had no box or category for. Perhaps as a child or even as an adult I had briefly encountered this creature in the zoo, but I had never taken careful consideration, or put much particular thought into this creature. Until two days ago, I believe it would have fallen into the category of ‘large lizard-like creature’.

It was a lazy Sunday in Limboto, and Alexa and I were enjoying each others’ company while lounging about in our pajamas. As we typed away on our computers, or read a book, our house cleaner, Amu, arrived to clean our house. (Yes, we are very lucky and spoiled and have an AMAZING house cleaner who cleans our house 6 days a week generally. He’s great, and we really appreciate all that he does for us.) He was cleaning, and being in my pajamas, I decided it was a good time to go back to my room and work there. I was in my room for ten minutes when I decided to go back out to the living room to try to turn the internet modem on and use the internet.

As I leaned over to try the modem, I heard a small crash to my left near where an unused entertainment system furniture. I glanced over, heard a much louder crash while simultaneously seeing a VERY LARGE lizard/iguana-like tail flick up and slide quickly down the wall. Before I even saw the tail descend below the wooden surface I screamed at the top of my lungs, turned and bolted out of the house.

What the hell was going on?! What had I just seen?!! What was that THING??

I had no box for it. No category specific enough to understand and respond to what I had just seen. Was it a large lizard? That just doesn’t seem like a big enough word for this 3 ½ foot creature I had just seen IN MY HOUSE. Lizard conjures up cute, small, harmless creatures from Florida, not potentially venomous, large, carnivorous reptilian from Southeast Asia.

Frantic and shaking a nearby female neighbor tried to explain to me in Bahasa Indonesia what I needed to do next (close the bedroom doors). It appeared she knew what was in my house and I myself was struggling with what I had just seen. Thankfully Alexa had heard my scream (how could she have missed it?) and came cautiously out of the house moments later. I tried to tell her that there was as large, large lizard in the house, but knew that I had not really conveyed what I had just seen. I thought about saying something like, “the size of your torso” but decided that would scare her unnecessarily, not to mention make me sound like an exaggerating fool. But I’m not. The thing was 3 ½ meters long – no joke – with the tail making up a little more than half of its size.

Just then, as I’m cowering away from our front door, and noticing other women down the street looking almost as scared as me, I see Amu coming down our small lane with five men with him. Each of them carry machetes or the nearest blunt object they can find.

They cautiously enter our house and after a mere minute they emerge again with the large water monitor lizard. Yes, it does have a name. Our lizard had been beaten over the head and was bleeding from the mouth, tongue hanging out, eyes shut forever. Holding it by the tail, a man brought it out of our house and laid it on the ground, still bleeding. What a sight.

We took some crucial pictures of our lizard, which helped in identification later, and then waited as Amu cleaned up the surprisingly small mess the quick kill had made.

Since then, we have been processing. It is quite a lot to take in, and Alexa and I have been ranging through a lot of different emotions. The experience was scary and overwhelming, but mostly it made us lose our sense of security and safety. Even as I write this I look over my shoulder from time to time to make sure his brother is not around the corner.

We had begun to feel very safe in our house, like you would any home, but this incidence has gotten us on guard again. The worst part is that we don’t know how it got in. Maybe from our open gate thing to the open air loft upstairs, but it seems that that was closed when we found it, so I’m not sure it got in that way. This means there may be a hole somewhere in our house that we don’t know about, which is very unsettling. Let’s hope that’s not the case.

All in all however, we’re doing fine. Even these two days have helped me calm down about it, and I think the more time that passes, the more I’ll just laugh at the whole incident.

I will say though, that any Indonesians here were just as scared at the idea of this huge lizard being in our house. Alexa’s counterpart wouldn’t even look at the picture. One of my teachers screamed in horror when she saw the picture and exclaimed, “Astaga!” (Oh my god!). Still others laugh, calling it ‘the chicken eater’ and say they shoe one away from their chickens every day. I doubt it, but that’s what they claim.

After some photo comparison, Alexa and I decided that it was a water monitor lizard. Our pictures are below, but I encourage you all to search online and read for yourselves about this lizard in the Komodo dragon family. As I said, a monitor lizard portrayed a Komodo dragon in the movie The Freshman, so they can’t look that much different than a miniature Komodo (my favorite name for it).

Let’s hope our large lizard cohabitants are gone for good, because I don’t want anything that looks like a Komodo dragon in my house again.


  1. Astaga is right, my friend! I can't believe that I was also in your house just hours before this creature emerged. Yikes! But don't worry, I will still come back to visit you guys even though you never know when another one will appear ;-)

  2. that's a pretty crazy lizard... did you think about having it stuffed and hanging it on your wall as a trophy?

  3. Sarah Mecholsky, are you or are you not from Florida? Large reptiles should not frighten you. Especially puny ones like that. Next time I want you to catch, butcher, and stew it.

  4. ahh, good idea Phillip, but they stole away with it quickly. Probably to hang on their own walls as a trophy.

  5. Stephen: Are you kidding? These creatures do not exist in the WILD in Florida. Not this species, and not this size. Trust me. This thing was big. Small to medium reptiles as pets? Fine. Large reptiles running loose in my house? Not fine, Fine.