I saw my first “wild” tarantula a few days after we got here. Happily it wasn’t in our house. It was in front of the entrance to the embassy, and it looked like someone had intentionally stepped on it. I can’t imagine stepping on something that big. So disgusting. I had a huge spider on the wall in my apartment in Florida many years ago and had to smash it with a frying pan because I didn’t have any shoes that were big enough. I feel the same way about tarantulas.

The second one I saw was walking slowly across the grass in the housing compound early in the morning. I’d gotten up about 6am to feed the baby and my husband had gone running. He came back shortly after he left the house to drag me out in my pajamas with baby and bottle in hand to see my first live specimen. He had already seen one on a previous run but had kept to his routine. This time I accompanied him back along the sidewalk. The air was slightly cool compared to the blanket of wet heat that it is usually is during the day, and there was fog across the compound. I never think of fog in warm climates. But there it was. And so we stood together on the pavement watching the surprisingly thin, black, hairy thing with pipe cleaners for legs step lightly and deliberately across the top of the thick damp grass. It moved faster than I thought it would.

There are nine species of tarantula in Belize, three of them being the most commonly seen. One was recently discovered and is supposed to be the size of a human thumbnail. Aw, isn’t that cute? Not really. I did a bit or research in the name of journalism and should’ve copied it down, because I have no intention of pulling up a bunch of pictures of tarantulas so that I can recall the species. I will tell you that the ones we’ve seen are male. The females are much thicker and brown instead of black. And they are a common lowland variety.

We saw one more a few days later as we were walking to the playground. It was at the base of one of the manicured bushes and crawling with purpose toward the center of it. I guess we know where they live now. Note to self, stay OUT of the bushes on the compound.