The Mosquito Man Cometh


Ripped out of a lovely dream, the throbbing buzz gives me an instant headache.

For a millisecond I wonder what that god-awful noise is. I turn my head and see the baby wake up with a similar start, more towards the soul-searing terror end of the spectrum.

I snatch her up just as she starts to really panic.

“It’s OK, baby,” I tell her in a calm voice. Falsely calm. Still sleep-fogged and fumbly.

Then I remember I have to work today. It’s Monday. “It’s just the moquito man,” I tell Miss M. I’m on late shift, so I have the luxury of sleeping in… until the mosquito man does his thing. (And to sleep deprived parents out there – yes the baby sleeps til 9, but she won’t GO to sleep until midnight, which is just hell for a working mum.)

Every Monday the mosquito man parks his van outside our house and pulls the rip-cord on a fog machine. Dense clouds of white poison billows across our small front yard. The spooky scariness of the garden white-out evokes thoughts of ghosts, monsters and aliens. Perhaps a combination of all three. It’s no wonder the baby is afraid.

I am not sure the fog does anything apart from making the local mosquitoes a bit high. I don’t think the fog is so good for humans though, so Darling Man and I usually blunder about shutting windows and trying to distract the baby.

I rush to the kitchen to make up a bottle before the poison wafts back to our old-fashioned kitchen, a wall of wire mesh making it virtually an outdoor room, a bush kitchen.

Once the fog machine has passed us by and the baby is involved in her bottle, I start making myself a coffee (cursing the jarpot Darling Man bought instead of a kettle).

This is usually when I’m caught out for a second time, standing in my wall-less kitchen in a work shirt and undies or a greying once-white nightie as the mosquito man does his second pass, spraying liquid poison in the drainage channel that separates our house from our neighbour’s.

Singapore takes mosquito-borne diseases seriously. You can be fined for having stagnant water around the house. A colleague told me he was once fined after an inspector found water in a saucer under an indoor pot plant. He lives in a highrise, so no one is safe. There’s also prime time television ads warning of the dangers of dengue.

We watch these ads with worry. Our house has no mosquito screens. When we first moved in, we rigged up a mosquito net over the baby’s cot. But over time we’ve stopped using it, relying instead on an ad-hoc combination of mosquito coils, tea-tree oil and manic mosquito-chasing every time we see a leggy silhouette against our white walls.

We know the dangers of dengue. Darling Man and I were both struck down with the disease in 2009 while we were living in Hell Money Hem in Ho Chi Minh City. It came on fast, beginning with a back ache and a sore head and quickly escalating to a high fever that couldn’t be tamed. I was five months pregnant at the time and within a few days I was in hospital in an isolation room, hooked up to a drip, having regular scans to check the baby was ok.

It was a very stressful time. Darling Man and I spent days wedged together in my narrow hospital bed, watching snowy television and sharing meals delivered by our favourite restaurants.

“It’s ok, she’s a strong baby,” Darling Man kept telling me, as I blinked back tears.

Darling Man’s insurance wouldn’t cover the fancy Western hospital I was in, so he spent his nights writhing on our bed at home and organised friends to bring him to the hospital during the day.

Miss M’s personality was already evident by the time she was a five-month fetus. In one scan she appears to be giving the finger, or flipping the bird, as Americans would say. In another, she somersaults away from the scanner, a printout capturing a beautifully formed pair of heels and a lot of black nothing. She was cheeky, even then.

Thankfully, I recovered. The baby was unaffected by the disease. But now I worry about the effects of the anti-dengue poison that she inhales every week. What can we do but plan our escape?

9 years ago

By: Barbara

A career girl who dropped out, traveled, found love, and never got around to going home again. Now wrangling a cross-cultural relationship and two third culture kids.


  1. Cam says:

    That sounds awful!
    The first photo really brings it home, I can’t imagine that the cloud of spray is good for human ingestion
    Cam recently posted..Photo of the Week- Window into the Spirit of Cambodia

  2. Kent @ NVR says:

    mosquitos. Such an interesting read and yet another thing we don’t have to worry about when we’re not on the road.

    We were in Argentina a while back when there was a huge threat of dengue. It was scary to see so many people getting hit by it. Your experience sounds terrifying.

  3. robin says:

    Damn I’d only just simmered down after my recent mosquito related post and now you’ve got me going again…
    robin recently posted..Seriously- Carnaval

  4. Andrea says:

    Oh how awful (both the poison and Dengue). John has to really watch mosquito bites now with his arm condition and we’re headed into mozzie territory in the central part of South America now. I didn’t know about fines for standing water in Singapore…another thing they fine you for over there though this time it sounds like a reasonable charge!
    Andrea recently posted..How to Have a Jolly Good Time in Valdivia Part Two- Everything Tastes Better With Beer

  5. adventureswithben says:

    I’ve never seen anything like that before. Wow!

  6. yikes! that poison sounds SO awful – but the alternative is worse, yes?
    Wandering Educators recently posted..Exploring Italy through Food and Wine

    • The Dropout says:

      Well, I’m not sure the poison is very effective, so we sill live with the threat of dengue. If I’m a bit slow getting up, I often see mosquitos flying through the fog, looking quite chirpy.

  7. Lisa Overman says:

    Either way it doesn’t seem like a great combination. The fog seems scary too. I hope you make your escape.
    Lisa Overman recently posted..Prayers for Japan

  8. Laurel says:

    Oh no, that poison does look terrible. When I lived in Thailand we had screens on the first floor of our house, but not the second where the bedrooms were located because “mosquitos can’t fly that high.” Yeah right. I had an allergic reaction to the bites and each bite ended up really swollen and years later I still have scars from mosquito bites all over my legs. It was terrible and I can only imagine how stressful it must be with a baby.
    Laurel recently posted..First Impressions of Manchester

    • The Dropout says:

      Ah, Laurel, don’t worry, it’s not so stressful. It’s just something Singaporean that I wasn’t expecting when we moved here.
      Darling Man is allergic to Australian mosquitos. He gets huge welts all over his body when we go to Australia.

  9. Dengue is pretty scary glad that you made it through. I would be worried too about the those sprayed poisons. I feel like I would want to leave the house when they are spraying. I am surprise that you stayed there.
    Scott @ Ordinary Traveler recently posted..Keeping in Touch with Your Significant Other While Traveling 4

    • The Dropout says:

      Hey Scott, leaving the house would mean walking through the fog in our pjyamas. On the days I’m leaving the house at about the same as the mosquito man, I have a sore scratchy throat all day.
      We are so chronically sleep deprived that it took us several months to work out that the mosquito man came every Monday.

  10. That’s ridiculous! I’d rather get some mosquito bites!! Grow some basil plants in your window and you won’t get any – rather that than the dreaded fog!
    John in France recently posted..The Smell of Paradise – New Zealand

  11. Nancie says:

    That looks nasty.

    I have a friend who see mosquitoes everywhere. We were in Bali together over Christmas, and I thought I would go mad. She bought buy spray and sprayed it constantly. I really tried to ignore it, but about two days before we were leaving I snapped. I snapped nicely, but I made sure she knew that her obsession with bug spray was WAY OVER THE TOP.

    • The Dropout says:

      Oh, that would drive me batty too. You can get citronella patches to stick in your clothes if you’re that obsessed. We tried them, they seemed quite effective but the baby keeps putting them in her mouth.

  12. ayngelina says:

    Oh wow, how harmful is that stuff to your health as well?
    ayngelina recently posted..How I Quit Happy And Got Much More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge