Peruvian bug swarm on This American Life
October 16, 2006 12:34 PM   Subscribe

"This American Life" filter: a story about traveling to a city in Peru or Ecuador, and being overwhelmed by swarms of horrible insects. I caught part of this broadcast a couple of years ago. It could have been any time between 2001 and 2005. I would like to find out the date of broadcast, the name of the city & country where the events occurred, and the kind of insect that caused the problem.

The storyteller was on a trip to South America with some friends, and they landed in this large city that had become a desolate and deserted wasteland, filled with clouds of horrible insects. All the businesses were closed. There were piles of burning insects in the streets. After a day or two of this nightmare, they escaped to the mountains. Passing back through the city a week or two later, they were amazed to find a clean, bright city with lots of happy people. It was a different world entirely. They asked about the bugs and learned that the swarm occurred annually for a couple of days, and the locals would simply take off for that week. But it was never listed in the travel brochures. The person they talked to said, "Why bother? It lasts only a couple of days!". But it nearly ruined their vacation.

As I stated earlier, I missed certain key parts of the broadcast. Can you help me, O wizards of AskMeFi?
posted by Araucaria to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Have you checked out the complete archives of the show? It's probably in there somewhere.
posted by alms at 12:40 PM on October 16, 2006

this doesn't sound familiar to me at all. were you sure it was this american life?
posted by sporky at 1:24 PM on October 16, 2006

Response by poster: alms writes "Have you checked out the complete archives of the show? It's probably in there somewhere."

Just like the needle is somewhere in the haystack. I've searched using terms Peru, Ecuador, bugs, insect, insects, travel, tourism, worst, nothing turns up. I think this is because the archives themselves are not text searchable, only the snappy headlines.
posted by Araucaria at 1:25 PM on October 16, 2006

Response by poster: sporky writes "this doesn't sound familiar to me at all. were you sure it was this american life?"

Yes. Have you heard every one of the 317 episodes?
posted by Araucaria at 1:30 PM on October 16, 2006

Araucaria, you can also use Google to search a specific site for specific terms, e.g. all occurances of the word "peru" on the site "". This does appear to search the descriptions of the shows, as well as the titles (but obviously not the full text of the shows). I tried a couple of the terms you listed, and nothing obvious came up.

If no one else can come up with the reference for you and Google doesn't help, you could try just skimming through the 317 episodes. I've done that in the past looking for specific shows, and it's only taken me a couple of minutes to find what I want.

True, it's not as easy as having someone else just do it for you, but then, you know, sometimes life is like that.
posted by alms at 2:00 PM on October 16, 2006

I'm up to episode 299 and I don't recall an episode like this.

I have an hour commute each way. It makes listening to episodes easier.
posted by lairc at 4:28 PM on October 16, 2006

This episode is called "Vacations" and is sadly devoid of any descripton. I listened to the first 90 seconds of it on itunes but it was just Ira talking about a family vacation to Hawaii, so no clues there. However you might have better luck than me checking out the free stream from the site. The episode is way old tho. 1995.
posted by brain cloud at 4:46 PM on October 16, 2006

I have listened to all of the 317 episodes and that does not sound familiar.
posted by Alison at 6:41 PM on October 16, 2006

Yes. Have you heard every one of the 317 episodes?

Yes, heard them all, and it doesn't sound familiar at all. It's certainly interesting enough to be memorable.
posted by tomble at 2:05 AM on October 17, 2006

Was it recounted by a man or a woman?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:31 AM on October 17, 2006

A more important question, it now seems: are you *absolutely* certain that it's from TAL? I am not the first obssessive-compulsive TAL fan to show up in this thread, but it doesn't ring a bell at all.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:46 AM on October 17, 2006

Response by poster: My absolute certainty has waned since I posted. It could have been Studio 360. My radio memory is associated with vision/position — I remember what I was doing or where I was driving when I heard something — but this year I've both moved and gotten a new car, so my audio equivalents of bookmarks (earmarks? don't we want to eliminate those?) have gotten completely disrupted.

Another possibility is that it is indeed on the 1995 Vacations segment and it was included as a filler segment on a broadcast many years later. Isn't it possible that different cities might broadcast different "classic" segments if there is no new show available?
posted by Araucaria at 2:19 PM on October 18, 2006

really late reply here, but yes i have heard all the episodes. this american life is entirely produced by them, and no they don't send out different shows to different cities though they do sometimes use material they've had to clip from older shows and reintegrate them into newer shows but again, this story does not sound familiar to me at all.

the story sounds great but i think you've got the wrong show.
posted by sporky at 2:24 PM on December 12, 2006

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