Tuesday, August 28, 2007
The Cockroach Story
My boyfriend at the time and I spent a year together in Zimbabwe teaching. We were supposed to be placed in a rural school, but at the last minute were relocated to a school for disabled refugees and excombatants (refugees from S. Africa, Mozambiqe, and Namibia, and excombatants from Zimbabwe) just outside of Harare, the capital city. We had a nice place to live - with a real bathroom, electricity, and even a small fridge! Much more hoity toity than it would have been in a rural school.
Now, we certainly had cockroaches in our kitchen area. It SUCKED when big flying ones came in (screams abounded from me), but luckily they didn't appear too often. Smaller, nonflying ones did however appear frequently on the counters or on the top of the fridge. Whenever we'd come home at night, one of use would have a newspaper, and the other would stay by the light switch by the door. The one with the newspaper would move stealthfully to the kitchen area, the light would be turned on, and BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! We would kill as many cockroaches as we could before they skittered away into nooks and crannies.
But we lived with them.
One weekend we went to visit some friends who were starting a school in Harare. They had been cleaning up the building, and it was empty except for them. We had dinner and stayed overnight. As we were cooking dinner, I noticed there was some powder on the floor along the walls, and asked what it was for. "Oh, we have a small problem with cockroaches." I think I made some kind of smart-assed comment, like, what, you afraid of a few cockroaches, and forgot about it.
Getting ready for bed, we were shown a room with a mattress on the floor. I think I asked about the cockroaches and we were told, oh, it's fine, they don't climb up on things. Ok, fine.
Turned off the light, and went to sleep. We were fast asleep on the mattress and suddenly my boyfriend jumped up with a start. Turned on the light and saw the cockroaches scattering for the nooks and crannies in the room. We looked at each other, not daring to say anything out loud, but finally he said that he thought a cockroach ran across his face. !!!
Very quickly we decided to leave the light on to keep the cockroaches away, and to take turns sleeping. Since he had had a cockroach run across his face, I offered to take first shift. And he fell asleep. And I was left in the silence alone with the cockroaches.
All of them.
At first the light kept them away - they stayed in their nooks and crannies.
Then they became bold and started coming out, even though the light was on. At first when I waved my hand, they'd skitter back to their hiding places.
But then that technique started to not work as well. So I lifted my pillow and waved that - bigger is better. And that worked for a little bit.
Finally they didn't care what I was waving - they knew they weren't going to die. And they slowly came out, not caring that I was there since they'd survive a nuclear war and I wouldn't, their antennae moving around, their tiny little brains thinking - how can I best get onto that mattress and crawl all over their bodies?
Needless to say, I was reaching my limit. And to keep my mind off the cockroaches, I started peeling skin off my recently-sunburned arms. Got one good piece, rolled it up, and threw it across the room.
A cockroach ran over, picked up the ball of flesh in its mouth, and started eating.
I lost it.
Hysterical and exhausted, I woke up my boyfriend and blabbered that we could NOT stay in that room. I was so hysterical that I think he actually had to slap me in the face (not too hard) to calm down enough to be willing to walk across the room and open the door. We knew that there was a room across the hall that had tables and a chair, and we thought we would sleep sitting up in that room, since we had been told cockroaches don't climb up on things.
Closing Scene: Light from our room falls onto the door of the room across the hall. My boyfriend opens the door, and the light falls upon the closest chair, upon which a cockroach sits. [cue WeeWeeWee Hitchcock music]
We slept outside on the ground.
And it rained on us.
And I got some sleep.
And no cockroaches on my face.
Postscript: The next care package my oldest brother sent included rubber cockroaches. Of course.