100 Hours of Humo(u)r – Hour 10: Gecko Talk
By Dave Fox
Singapore / Laos
One of the bonuses of living in Southeast Asia is your home comes with free pets — and not only that, but pets that feed themselves and tend to leave when they need to take care of other bodily functions.
I’ll admit, I do still jump when the geckos surprise me — just because they don’t come around often enough for me to expect them. But every now and then, one comes visiting and hangs out in the apartment for a while.
There’s something that people who don’t like geckos don’t understand: Geckos are highly unlikely to kill you. Furthermore, they could save your life. Geckos like to eat bugs, including mosquitoes, which, in these parts, are known to carry unpleasant diseases such as Dengue Fever and malaria.
There are three distinct sounds a gecko will make:
1) Smaller geckos, the size one encounters most of the time, make a chirping sort of sound.
2) Big geckos make a sound that sounds like their name. “Gecko, gecko,” they say. I did not believe this story when I first heard it — in part because I heard it from Globejotting.com’s web designer, Matt Preston, and there’s a lot Matt tells me that I don’t believe. But then I was in Thailand last year, on the island of Krabi, and I heard the unmistakable sound of a lizard on a tree, saying “Gecko. Gecko.”
“Hey,” I said to my wife, Kattina, “I think Matt Preston must be hiding behind that tree!”
Kattina looked at me and said, “That’s not Matt Preston, you idiot! It’s a really big gecko!”
(Which it actually was.)
For my North American readers, I should qualify this. “G-E-C-K-O” is the closest spelling in the English language that one can come up with. Both of the consonant sounds are actually what linguists refer to as “glottal stops,” in which the back of the throat closes up for a split second. Kind of like the Cockney accent in England.
3) The third sound a gecko can make is a distinct splatting noise when it falls off the ceiling and hits the pavement. I first came to recognize this sound in Laos last summer after having spent more than a year total in Southeast Asia. I’m not sure why so many Laotian geckos kept falling down, as opposed to geckos elsewhere, but I think some amphibian chemical dependency intervention might be in order in Laos.
While the stumbling demeanor of Laotian geckos is troubling, nothing could prepare me for what I would encounter in Cambodia six weeks later. That story is coming sometime within the next few hours.