So, today I learned more about the little jellyfish in the water. When we first got stung, I imagined long, invisible filaments from a giant jellyfish, a torment we would not be able to see or avoid. I think this is because I saw a jellyfish while I was snorkeling in the clear sandy water at the beach near the ancient city of Neapolis in Nabeul. I saw a beautiful pink translucent jellyfish the size of a salad bowl streaming along just above the sand in 4 feet of water. It had 2 foot long tentacles that gently waved as it pulsed dinner-plate, bowl, dinner-plate, bowl, and this is what I was imagining had stung us on our first day, especially because it stung Zay AND Tayo AND me. I mean, it must be something long and vicious, right?
Then I started snorkeling every day, and I saw little jellyfish that look like a basket crocheted from brown thread, the size of a cookie. They are less than 2 inches across. They terrified me at first, but it is easy to avoid them. They are kind of cute, but they don’t really go dinner-plate, bowl, dinner-plate, bowl. It’s more like toonie, doll hat, toonie, doll hat.
Then, today, I found out how the Tunisians deal with the jellyfish. I met a Tunisian dad and his daughter while I was swimming in the sea with Tayo, and when I pointed one out near the kids, he walked over to it, swished it over onto it’s back, picked it up in his hand, and carried on our conversation. When I remarked on his ability to withstand the stings, he said, oh, they don’t sting on the palm of your hand, the skin is too tough. Here! And he dumped it into my hand. Then I was the one standing in the sea holding a conversation while nesting a jellyfish in my palm. Later, when Tayo and I were swimming on our own (the Tunisian dad and kid left shortly after he asked if he could invite me for a drink and I indicated that I would have to check with my husband to see if he would look after the kids), we saw another jellyfish, and we were talking about it and moving away. An older woman nearby, floating in the waves in her turquoise 4 piece full-length bathing suit and headscarf ensemble heard us, stood up, walked over, picked up the jellyfish in her hand, and took it to the beach, buried it, and came back. I thanked her (in Tunisian Arabic, no less,) and she nodded.
Later, I headed out for my swim with my snorkel and mask, and saw quite number of the crocheted baskets toonieing along. For the first time, I wasn’t scared. I decided to put my new knowledge to the test. I poked one on it’s bell, I swooshed it around, I poked it again, all the while cleverly evading the little stinging tentacles. Then I realized I was playing with a stinging animal about 4 inches from my nose, and even thought stinging arms are only about 2 inches long, one enthusiastic wave would make me the fool who stung her own self in the face with a jellyfish, and that seemed unnecessary. So I swooshed it away and went back to watching the schools of fish below me swarming all over the rocks on the bottom and flashing silver and turquoise in the beams of sunlight. I was just telling myself a story about how I was a congenial giant who was known to be friendly and allowed to be a part of the waving band of blue fish below me when I learned something important about the sea. Just because one has finished with a jellyfish and swooshed it aside, out of sight out of mind, as it were, does not mean the jellyfish ceases to exist. The sea is not like a living room, where if you set your jellyfish down on a coaster you can expect it to remain there. The sea is more like a bucket being carried, with everything rolling about in the waves together. I was suddenly reminded that I am not actually a member of the beautiful school of fish because a) they keep an eye out for danger and don’t swim into jellyfish and b) they don’t have knees with which to kick the wee little jellyfish. I was brought back to humanity by touch-sensitive crocheted cnidocytes emptying their toxins into the back of my knee. I wish they had size sensors or something. It seems like a waste of poison to me. I’m obviously not going to be done in by a coin-sized basket of jellied knitting. Geez.
For extra reading, try this link about the causes of increasing jellyfish numbers:
Addendum: this was last week, and the kids have been afraid of going in the water becuse of the jellyfish. To show them how not-harmful they are, the day after the I learned how to scoop the jellyfish out of the water, I showed the kids how easy it is to get rid of any jellies we see, so no need to be afraid. However, I wasn’t quite brave enough, so I scooped it out on my swim shirt. We looked at it for a while, and exclaimed over the x of gonads running across it, and how small the mouth hole is, and how they use that hole as a mouth and a bum. Then it came time to follow the tradition of burying it in the sand. Zaylie started to weep and yell about how we can’t hurt the little jellyfish, and we have to put it back in the water so it can LIVE! So I did. Except I didn’t notice that one little tentacle had ripped off the blob before I threw it back in. I didn’t notice, that is, until I brushed my leg with my arm, and stung myself with an amputated jellyfish arm. Then I convinced the kids to go back into the water, now that we could move the jellyfish away from us. Then Tayo walked into the jellyfish that I had just thrown back into the waves.
Now, there is mass hysteria when I suggest we go into the sea. The wide, sparkling blue beautiful sea. They won’t even touch the wet sand. I bought swimming pants for everyone to wear, to protect against the jellyfish, but they are frightened. The other day I made them go in, then one of them “saw” a jellyfish, aka a bit of seaweed, and they climbed up me in a blind panic until I’m sure I looked like one of those inverted-pyramid-of-people circus performers, except with more wailing and vicious scrabbling for the out-of-water positions. Happy beach holiday, kids.