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Sometimes Asia's abundant insect life can get a man down.
I have spent the best part of the last two hours trying to kill cockroaches and find the caterpillar that has been eating my house plants. In other words, I live in Asia.

Well, I grew up in Asia, so large crawly things with lots of legs and shell-cases and even wings are normal. Except that, after a while, they get me down and sometimes I wish I had chosen a slightly less threatening environment - like England perhaps - when I had the chance.

The tropics are wonderful, they say, and Asian governments love coining imaginative phrases like "Island in the Sun" to lure travelers to some boiling Equatorial place where a few minutes in the sun is likely to curl up your skin like an overdone frankfurter and give you skin cancer 10 years down the road.

The sun bit is fine for European tourists. But for Asians? Who grew up loving the shade?

But back to the aforementioned creatures. I moved to Manila three months ago and I'm willing to swear that Philippine cockroaches are the toughest and most adventurous of their tribe. To the roaches in and around my house an expensive Rentokil raid was nothing more than a routine drill. The only thing that succeeds against them is heavily armed guerilla warfare by a lone, highly motivated individual in the middle of the night.

I'm glad to report some headway.

And, oh yes, the caterpillar. When I found him, he was large and green - which did not surprise me because he'd eaten half a kilo of green leaves in about a week. I killed him, feeling a pang of guilt and wondering who knows the answer to the question: If you exterminate caterpillars, are you by definition exterminating butterflies?

Flying cockroach stories make great conversation pieces over dinner, I've discovered. A surprisingly large number of people dislike them - and some, like me, are terrified of them. It's amazing how many kindred spirits you can find if you confess your fear of roaches, or large spiders, or lizards, or snakes - even over meals.

I once lived in a house in Delhi whose landlady was terrified of spiders. She would call on me to kill spiders and I would call on her to kill roaches. Sometimes. when I look back on those days, I think we would have married each other.

Over dinner recently, I met a fellow journalist and Asia hand - a Scotsman - who told me he was dismayed that the New Territories police in Hong Kong had a Snake Squad. He told me everytime his sister called from UK and described her tranquil garden with its lily pond, he felt a distinct twinge of envy.

"I love nature as much as the next guy, and I had a pond nearby Hong Kong, but no way would I wander out there for a walk in the middle of the night," he sighed into his San Miguel.

Quite I have a story to match, of course as most self-respecting journalists should. I had a spot of bother with my stomach once in the Sarawak rainforest, where I was spending a couple of night with the Penan tribe to hear their side of the logging issue.

So I trotted into the rainforest and did my bit - afterwards looked down to find columns of inch-long red ants emerging from the undergrowth heading straight for me with obvious haste and evil intent.

Now, if that had been an English wood, nothing would have come marching out to bite me, right?

My Scottish friend also swears that mosquitoes in the New Territories are the worst in the world. "They're like hawks," he said in a confidential, whisper, looking around him to make sure none of their local cousins were listening. "They've been known to carry away babies."

I chose to stay in Asia because I love it - and, being into wildlife conservation and photography, I find it depressing to live for very long far away from elephants and rhinos and tigers. Impressive things, they are.

But I could do without the indignity of Asia's greatest levelers: all those distinctly unattractive things that crawl, creep, buzz, go hump in the night and invariably bite like hell.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1.

Why did the author sometimes wish that he lived in England ?

  2.

How much do Europeans like the hot weather in Asia ?

  3.

How long has the author stayed in the Philippines ?

  4.

Give two ways the author used to kill cockroaches ?

  5.

How is exterminating caterpillars related to exterminating butterflies ?

  6. Why are cockroach stories great conversation pieces over dinner ?
  7. According to the passage, in which region are the "creepy crawlies" fiercest ? Give tow reasons to support your answer.
  Fill in the blanks with one correct word from the passage.
  8. The police conducted a ______ on a drug store and found five hundred grams of heroine.
  9. One of the best ways to strike up a ______ with strangers is to ask them for the time.
  10. The Land Dayaks is a ______ who lives in the interior of Sarawak and they are noted for planting hill paddy.
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Answers
 

1.

There are too many insects in Asia.
 

2.

They don't mind the hot weather in Asia.
 

3.

he has stayed there for three months.
 

4.

The two ways the author used to kill cockroaches are (i) By spraying them using the Rentokil insecticide. (ii) By killing them when they come out in the middle of the night
 

5.

When caterpillars are killed, they have no chance to grow into butterflies.
  6. Most people have their own stories to tell about them
  7. The "creepy crawlies" are fiercest in Asia because: (i) the cockroaches here are immune to insecticide sprays (ii) the red ants and mosquitoes are expert at biting people
  8. raid
  9. conversation
  10. tribe
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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