After our second day of language school, we came home and our babysitter announced that while we were gone she found a five and a half foot snake in our bathroom. What? Since I grew up here, I can say with some authority that in our first three weeks here we had a pretty decent introduction to the local population of creepy crawlies.
When we first got here and experienced all of these things at once it sort of felt like we were under siege, since we come here with the Western combative attitude that dominates nature and pushes it away. We have our space, nature is in it's own space, tamed, controlled, and kept distant. This society lives differently. We adjust to whatever the weather conditions are that day, attempt to be less offended by bugs, and try to do away only with the dangerous. It's a culture shift!
To start with, ants. They are incredible. If I set down a glass that had sweet tea or pop in it, within 10 minutes there is a ring of ants around the moisture at the bottom of the cup. If we kill a bug at night and leave it on the floor, the next morning we find a trail of ants cleaning up after us. If we find an ant trail in the middle of the house, we put out a couple of drops of ant poison for them to feast on and take home and then hopefully all die. I usually leave the ant trails that are outside the house. We also have to clean up food immediately and keep everything sealed at all times, lest you end up with ant cereal or some other delight.
Termites and carpenter ants are less visible but more destructive. Our house is cement block, but the window and door frames are wood and all of them have terrible termite and carpenter ant damage. When we moved in here the house had been empty for a couple of days and you could tell where termites were currently at work based on the piles of termite dust that had built up. Several times we sprayed bug spray into the wood holes in those places and were greeted with streams of carpenter ants crawling everywhere. The next morning our place would look like there was a carpenter ant massacre. I know from past experience that we have to be especially careful of Isaac's precious books, as termites can chew through your whole library before you even know they're there.
Roaches are possibly my least favorite animal in the world, and they come a couple of inches long here. We killed three the first night we were here, but luckily now that we've taken up residence they seem to have retreated back into hiding. Much worse were the rats! Since our bathroom is off the back porch and the houses are very open air, we had our back door open the whole time the first couple of days we were here. We spotted three rats in two days and caught one in a glue trap. Since then we've been much more vigilant about closing doors, but that doesn't always stop them. Just last night, Isaac saw a rat scurrying into Elly's room. He chased it through the house and finally killed it with a broomstick!
Luckily mosquitoes aren't bad here at all, not compared to where I grew up in Papua or even compared to Texas in the summer. Malaria isn't a problem on this island, so we'll appreciate that for the year we're here! The local spiders are, however, pretty impressive. We've noticed that they are generally high up in trees or in the midst of patches of trees, and we know that they eat they other bugs, and so we have declared a truce. The five-inch spider up above our patio can stay there... as long as he stays there. The harmless (but big and incredibly fast) banana spider that Isaac found in our kitchen was less welcome.
Slugs were unexpected. When it rains we have huge snails and often find slugs in our bathroom. Should we be bothered? We don't know. We aren't at all bothered by the little geckos (ceecuks) that crawl around our walls and ceilings. We agree with Judah that they are “so sweet” since they don't do any damage and keep away other bugs. That five and half foot snake in the bathroom? It was just a harmless green tree snake that our neighbors said probably fell out of a tree on a windy day and crawled into the closest corner it found. So, no danger there, but it still gives us the shivers!