When I walked into the kitchen, Geoff was in full-on get shit done mode.
“I figured out what it’s called. I might have even found a company here in Oaxaca that has them, but I’m not sure.”
He was talking about mosquito nets, and Geoff — knowing the extent of my itchiness — had selflessly spent the past 2 hours online, trying various search combinations of Spanish words to figure out the question on both of our minds: where can we buy a mosquito net Oaxaca?
Ever since arriving in Mexico, I’ve awoken each morning with new mosquito bites on my legs and feet. Yesterday, an angry 2-inch x 2-inch patch emerged on my calf, blood red and with capillaries and general inflammation that suggested 2 mosquitos had made a great meal of me.
Given that our apartment isn’t sealed — huge gaps mean our sliding patio door is a mere suggestion to stay out, and several windows remain permanently open, the clasps incapable of staying closed — we’re doing what we can: citronella plants, citronella candles and mosquito coils are scattered around the apartment; bug spray is our scent du jour; and we try to cover up.
What we really need is a mosquito net.
If you ask Google to translate mosquito net to Spanish, it comes up with mosquitero, but that’s not really the whole story. Mosquitero are window screens, not for your bed. Better, which Geoff found after spending some time on Google Images, are pabellon mosquitero, or pabellones para mosquitos.
Once we knew what they were called, the challenge became finding one. And so yesterday — me covered in bites — we set out on a mission to find our very own pabellon.
First, we tried the big boxes, grabbing a taxi to a 1-km stretch beyond Centro with a Walmart, Home Depot, Sears, and Soriana, Mexico’s answer to K-mart. Nada.
They say necessity is the mother of all invention, and for me, the need was real. While malaria and dengue and chikungunya aren’t a huge concern in Oaxaca, they do exist. That, and I’m seriously itchy.
And with that…those famous words uttered by people around the world, just before their hopes are dashed: “we could probably make our own.”
Instructions for our DIY Mosquito Net
You will need:
- 5 meters tightly wound tulle; colour of your choice
- 1 hula hoop (bonus points for flare, such as sparkles or noise making, and for wasting time trying to actually hula hoop, and for making up convincing reasons why you’re unable to hula hoop)
- Rope & hooks
- Centre the tulle and drape it over the hula hoop
- Realize the tulle isn’t even close to being wide enough to do what you need it to
- Give up, and resign yourself to continue looking
- Console yourself with a beer – can be combined with Step 3
- Ask in the expat Facebook group where to buy one
“Can you smell that?” Geoff asks.
I can indeed. We’re walking west along Calle Javier Mina — Mina, for short — following a lead from the expat Facebook group. The instructions were vague, with at least 3 different members chiming in: west on Mina (or is it Las Casas?); near 20 de Noviembre and JP Garcia; a shop with “blankets & such” hanging outside.
Sometimes, the most exciting and most frustrating things about travel, about being an expat, merge. Today, it was being slightly lost: we took a road we haven’t yet taken, and as a reward, we found the chocolate street. I stick out my tongue, tasting the thick chocolatey air as cacao crudo is transformed into chocolate in each of the 3 or 4 open-air chocolate shops packed along the single block. Like a real life Willy Wonka’s factory, only open for the world to enjoy.
Mental note for later made, we pass the chocolate shops, a fresh three-bus accident being photographed by a police officer on a scooter, and see the spot we think has to be it. Crossing the street, our efforts have not been for naught: there are pabellon mosquitero galore.
For the record, the tulle isn’t going to waste: combined with double-sided tape and scissors, Geoff has MacGyvered them into some mighty fine window screens.
And for the record, again, if you want to buy a mosquito net in Oaxaca, this is the spot:
La Gran Bodega. Mina 301-E, just after 20th November on the left side of the street when walking west.
They have two different styles: the “4 corners” style we bought, and the “princess style,” which hangs from a single point. They also have a few different types of fabric: 100% cotton (algodón), which is the coolest, but also has the widest holes, a cotton-synthetic blend, and full synthetic.
We went with the cotton-synthetic blend — más protección, más fresco — said the lady. It cost $130 pesos.