April 7, 2015


Ah, getting to know the local wildlife... it has to be one of the advanced steps in the expat process - right before you reach expert level. Apart from the occasional coyote I haven't really encountered many wild creatures here. No mountain lions, rattle snakes or - thank god - bears while we were up in Northern California. Actually, most of the animals I've seen were water creatures; like the sea lion that popped up right next to me (probably the best moment ever), the pelicans looking for some fish while we were body boarding and that time I was completely oblivious to the presence of a porpoise - if I can believe Nick that is. Because by the time I had figured out what a 'porpoise' was, he was no where to be seen anymore (the porpoise, Nick was still there of course).

And after all of those wondrous moments in nature I was bound to have a less pleasant experience. You can't have it all, right? Enter the stingray. Now before you start imagining the teacher guy from Nemo, I'm talking about a very small, brown stingray. Harmless almost, except for that sting. So here's what I learned from my encounter with the little inhabitants along the shoreline of San Diego: 

1. Don't jinx it: 
Considering Nick has never been bitten by a stingray while he grew up here says a lot about my luck. On that particular day - the day after my birthday by the way - it was the first time he mentioned the fact that there are stingray. We were going in the water at Torrey Pines near the reef and all of a sudden he joked 'Don't get bitten'. What did I do? Exactly. Right when I put my fins on I felt a slight sting...

2. Go back to shore & don't panic:
Since I didn't exactly know yet what had bitten me I was worried at first. I considered swimming out anyway but when it started stinging (pretty accurate name if you ask me) I decided against that. And once you get out of the water that pain fully hits you. Also any feeling of shock quickens the heartbeat and makes the toxic spread faster (or so I've read). 

Of course I took a picture (only one!)

3. Expect it to f*king hurt: 
I'm not a big cry baby and actually I think I got off pretty easy, but I couldn't really put any pressure on my left foot after that sting. It's this throbbing pain that comes in waves although it's different for everyone and if you're allergic it can be even worse. In my case the worst pain lasted about 4 hours and changed to something more like a bad bruise by the evening. Nevertheless, it was sore for about two weeks after and I still have a small scar as a souvenir. Strong stuff!

4. Water is your friend and enemy: 
So there was nothing else for me to do than clean the wound - we concluded that after looking up the worst case scenarios - and wait it out. According to this lifeguard the best way is washing it with hot water, which I didn't do but be prepared to be in (even more) pain. Washing the wound with water was like breaking a peace treaty we had just established... 

5. Shuffle next time: 
And when all that's gone and forgotten, all I could think about was how to avoid them next time. And that's when I read about the 'stingray shuffle', it's not as catchy as it sounds. I'm paranoid by nature so I tried to get back on that horse as soon as possible and started shuffling like an idiot. Stingrays usually float around close to shore and don't want to attack unless some human steps on them - which is understandable. So if you alert them by shuffling they'll go away. Yes, you look pretty ridiculous but that's a small price to pay. Also, in general you won't find them in any busy or stormy areas, or so I've been told. They're mellow like that. 

I guess it's part of the beach experience? Have you ever had a run in with local wildlife? 

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