The Medically Important Poisonous Snakes of Malaysia

Karen Skolfield


Snakes could be anywhere, which means everywhere. We kid sandwich: parent leading, kid kid, parent trailing. It’s hard to watch where all the feet go, all the hands. Don’t grab the vines. Don’t grab the vines. What did I just say. The insanity of parenting: saying the same thing, expecting different results. A list of things that look like snakes in the jungle: all of it. There’s a group of 60 schoolkids from The International School. “They’re so lucky,” our daughter sighs, “coming here with their class.” We watch the students descend on the breakfast buffet, strip it clean. Are there piranhas in the river? I think that’s South America, but don’t let your hands fall over the boat’s edge. First snake spotted: arboreal, keeper of treetops. Paradise flying snake: say no more. When we walk by the cabins, the school group yells “Hey kids!” to our two in a jingle of accents. Dennis and I are poor substitutes for the company of children, but we’re great about picking up the tab. Boots rimed with red clay. Is that elephant or tapir poo? The disagreement is long and ends in mediation. In the welcome center of Taman Negara, a poster on “The Medically Important Poisonous Snakes of Malaysia,” which implies a larger group of snakes contributing nothing to medicine. By day 4, the kids are 20 yards ahead, waiting at junctions and steep downhills. I’m the only one who gives up ego for guide ropes, my daughter’s sweaty hand limping along in mine. When she slips, I say “I’ve got you,” but that’s not really true.

Karen Skolfield

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.


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