My Face Was Not Eaten by Flies

SCA Field Blogger Amosh Neupane Records a Day of Crew Work at the Soundview Park Salt Marshes, NYC

I drop my backpack on the floor, kick off my shoes, grab my towel, and hit the shower. “Thank goodness the day is over,” I say to myself. As I exit the shower, I complain to myself about the “back-breaking” labor, the heat, the dirt, the heavy tools, and the other demands of my job. But yet again, as I settle down at home after returning from work, I find myself eagerly anticipating the arrival of the next day…

Last Friday, however, things were a little different. Instead of working at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge where the trail construction work was (and still is) on at full force, the crew was headed to a different location: Soundview Park in the South Bronx. I was horrified when our crew leaders shared information about the carnivorous black flies in the salt marsh where we would be working. Having worked with axes, pick-mattocks, shovels, and rakes, I was ready for a change of pace. But alas, the shocking news about the flies had me worrying for the rest of the day: “What if a fly takes a chunk out of my face?”

When we arrived at Soundview Park on Friday, we tied our SCA bandannas over our faces bandit-style, donned our ever-glamorous SCA sunglasses, and marched into the marsh… I was rocking another bandanna on my head, my SCA shirt, tight jeans, and my work boots. To add to my already bizarre ensemble, I was given a pair of waders that made me look like nothing less than a South Asian rice farmer. The crew was helping the NYC Parks Natural Areas Volunteers restore the salt marsh by putting up protective fencing in parts of the marsh where crows and other birds had been feeding excessively on the young spartina grass. To my delight, my friends Rayhan and Nyima, who are working on another SCA community crew, also joined us at the marsh with their crew for the day. The day wasn’t turning out as badly as I had expected, as I hadn’t yet been bitten by a fly, hadn’t slipped and landed on my back in the mud, and hadn’t yet managed to injure someone due to my incessant clumsiness.

After planting 98 spartina plugs, putting up 960 feet of fencing, and hanging orange streamers to scare away the birds, the crew was done with our work at the marsh and retreated towards the grassy lawn for lunch. After we heard some background about the Bronx River and the marsh from speakers Kathleen McCarthy and Kelly Edgar, we were ready to end the day with some team games. Our crew leaders presented our crew with a mind-boggling challenge: a race where we had to remain attached to our teammates at all times, while never touching both feet to the ground. While the other team was busy brainstorming yoga poses, acrobatic moves, and other kinds of gymnastics, we decided to take the simple approach and walk. But, how? We decided to walk in a row while stepping on each other’s toes.

After a few failed attempts and a warning from our savvy and stern photographer, our plan finally came together and we started moving towards the finish line. Needless to say, our group won the game, because of our persistence and teamwork.

For someone who had started the day fearing that part of his face would be bitten off by swamp-dwelling flies, I had emerged relatively unscathed… Not only did I survive a pair of leaky waders that had my socks drenched in the marsh water, I also learned about leadership, collaborative effort, and exploring new frontiers. Had my feet not been wet, I might even have considered my day at the marsh to be the best day of my internship so far.

See more photos from Amosh’s day at the salt marsh.