A Tale of Five Chiggers

John Hamilton with the Ndop Cluster, NW Cameroon

During 7 years in Cote d’Ivoire and three previous trips to Cameroon
(including a three week village phase not too far from here in 1990) I did
not meet a single chigger. In fact in Cote d’Ivoire, I can’t re-call
chiggers ever being mentioned. Now in just over two weeks in Ndop, I have
had FIVE removed from my feet!

So what’s a chigger you may be asking. Well, try googling it and you may
find something like this:

chigger n. Any of various small, six-legged larvae of mites of the family
Trombiculidae, parasitic on insects, humans, and other vertebrates.

It’s a flea, I guess, tends to hang around where pigs hang around here on
the Ndop Plain and elsewhere in Cameroon. Particularly active in the dry
dusty season that we are currently experiencing. Well, these Ndop chiggers
certainly have been active; Jon, Sandra and I have all had chiggers removed
in the twelve days since we arrived in Ndop.

Personally I can vouch for the chigger removal skills of three different
practitioners.

First was Oliver from Bamunka who performed removals on all three of us last
Sunday afternoon. Oliver uses a thorn from a palm tree as his instrument of
choice. The flea burrows under the outer layer of skin, most frequently on
your feet and seem to enjoy snuggling in under toe nails. So Oliver
patiently and meticulously pricked at the skin to open the sac to reveal the
larva and eventually removed it intact – without causing any bleeding and
living up to his reputation as a skilled chigger technician!

A few days later I found another one and Oliver had left for college in
Bamenda. So we called on Pastor Edward, who is himself no mean wielder of
the palm thorn, to conduct the investigation. Edward is a big man, but he
performed a gentle, careful and pain free extraction from my other foot.

Yesterday I was experiencing foot itching, a sure sign that I was not
chigger-free! Oliver in Bamenda, Edward busy elsewhere – I turned to Dan
Grove, Ndop Team Leader, to exercise his pastoral care duties. Dan did a
very thorough triple extraction, including a long and tedious one from the
sole of my left foot. Not the palm thorn for Dan however; he used a needle
from Sandra’s sewing kit, but with equal care and no blood.

Much as I have enjoyed three grown men caressing my feet while sticking
sharp points into my skin, I am hoping that yesterday was the last of the
chiggers – as far as my feet are concerned!