I was in Japan recently and had two experiences I wanted to share. The first was really the lack of an experience. There isn’t peanut butter in Japan. All the fun flavors of ice cream, all the candies, there were even lots of chocolatiers I saw, but no peanut butter. At one point, I found something called peanut cream, but that was more like a frosting with a little peanut flavoring. I know that PB is one of those uber- American things, but I did find it odd that I didn’t see ANY there. One of my traveling companions had a couple nuts allergies so the lack of peanut butter was just one less thing she had to worry about on our vacation.
The second experience was that I was stung by a jellyfish. Now, this MN girl has spent some time in the ocean before, but I have never been through something like this. I was on the island of Okinawa and my last day there I was determined to get in the ocean. Public transport in Okinawa is not that great- there are no trains, the buses are pretty hit or miss and with almost no English anywhere it takes a lot longer to get around. On this particular day, I found my way to a sight or two and then caught a bus headed in the direction of a beach (missed my stop and then had to walk about a mile extra) and got there later than what I was planning, but at least I made it. I immediately changed into my suit and got in the water. The water was warm- really warm. The temp had been in the 90’s all day and very humid so getting in the water when it was this warm wasn’t even refreshing but it still felt good to splash around and float for a while. I had only been in about 15 minutes when a lifeguard came by and was letting everyone know that there was higher than normal jellyfish activity that day. In fact, he was carrying a small shovel and a bucket of them that he had pulled out of the water. He wasn’t kicking people out or anything- just letting everyone know that this was a Swim At Your Own Risk sort of a situation. The beach had this enclosed area with a kind of net barrier up that was suppossed to help keep the jellyfish to a minimum and I was already in that area. Many other people were still swimming so I decided I would to. Since it was so late in the day I really wasn’t in very long. When I got out I sat on the beach with my camera and watched the sun set. It was lovely and I was pretty happy just snapping photos and relaxing there on the sand.
When the sun was down it was time to head back towards my hotel and find some dinner. I was pretty sandy so I decided the easiest thing to do would be to hop back in the water and rinse off so I did. I waded out and when I was waist deep, I dove in and got all the sand in and then I was walking out and BAMN! I felt this surging pain on the top of my foot and could feel something wrapped around my ankle. Jellyfish! I got out of there as soon as I could but it was too late, the damage was done. I had been stung. I hobbled quickly out of the water, grabbed my stuff on the beach and headed towards the pavilion where they had these foot wash spigots on the outside. I turned one on and quickly plunged my foot underneath and got my first look at the damage. I had this gnarly white, raised, burn-like scar that ran around the back top of my ankle and several smaller ones on the top of my foot and it stung- BAD! It was like being stung by a wasp and 500 of his friends who managed to do it all in a line at the exact same time. The water was cool which felt kind of ok, but otherwise it wasn’t helping and all I could think of was the episode of FREINDS where Monica got stung.
I figured I had nothing to lose, so I got myself in the bathroom stall, did some creative, um… maneuvering and made it happen. I can’t say that it solved the problem, but for me, the pain lessened. My adventure was not completely over at this point. I still had to get myself home to the hotel. Luckily I had a pair of sandals with me because the idea of putting on socks and shoes over the stings was unbearable. I changed and took my urine-soaked foot and walked a mile back towards the bus stop. Along the way I had a bat swoop so low that it actually touched my head, was nearly hit by a falling coconut, was hit by a falling palm and then was caught in a heavy rain all the while rehydrating in case I needed to … re-treat the area.
Since I have been home I have done a little research on this technique. I can find just as many stories of people having success as those saying that urinating on the sting can have no affect or even make it worse. I have talked to folks who swear it helps, and read articles that take both sides of the issue. I appears that it is more likely tied to your personal chemistry and the PH of your urine can vary dramatically and therefore for some it can help and others it can have no effect or even make things much worse. I have also learned that the type of jellyfish you are stung by can also determine not only the severity of the sting, but also the level of salinity and PH needed to treat. One thing that is consistent is that you should not use fresh water to treat/ rinse the area. That makes it worse- by actually releasing more venom into your system. You should soak/ rinse in salt water. So I screwed up when I ran my foot under the water at the pavilion. It is possible that me peeing on myself after this may have helped by bringing more salt back to the affected area. The sting stung most of the night and after that it felt kind of like a minor sunburn would. It really only hurt if you poked the area and was red like a burn for several days and then faded and stopped hurting altogether. It has been 93 days and though it has faded significantly, I do still have a scar. I can tell you that I am glad I tried the FRIENDS remedy. Who says you can’t learn anything from a sitcom?