There are few rules to living in Africa.
Rule 1: Always travel with toilet paper or live to go without if the situation arises.
Rule 2: Do not drink anything that you are not entirely sure where it came from.
Rule 3: Do not turn your flashlight on in the middle of the night. You do not want to see what is crawling around.
A few weeks ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to intense itching on my hands. Then feet. Then arms. I could feel raised bumps and that burning sensation would not go away no matter how much I ran my fingernails across it.
The next night the same thing. And the next night. I was losing sleep and eventually I had to admit it: there was something sleeping with me.
First, I tried laying my mattress in the sun to fry the suckers to death. That didn’t work. Then I sprayed DOOM, an over-the-counter anti-bugger, and washed my sheets and blankets (rather I paid someone to wash them). That worked for about a night and the bugs came back in full force. I flew up the white flag and called Peace Corps. I needed the big guns.
I suspected bed bugs but wasn’t entirely sure. I asked others who had these creepy critters before and they described bites of three in succession. Mine weren’t that specific. I could feel the bites at night as I clawed at them but they were gone the next morning. Initially, I thought maybe it was fleas because a few of my family’s cats like to wonder into my house, but the DOOM should kill them. Then I feared a small village of spiders waiting for my to fall asleep so they could feast on my flesh.
A Peace Corps staff member and hired exterminator pulled into my school this morning to take me to my house. The staff member went through the house and asked a few questions about the bugs. He started inspecting my mattress and there he found a small, flat maroon insect: bed bugs.
The exterminator began preparing the bug poison and the staff member instructed to cover my dishes, put my contacts case and tooth brush in a plastic bag and hide all food. This was a serious war. We stepped out and the fumigator did his magic.
After he brought me into the house, which smelled liked chemicals, and showed me a few of the dead bugs walking. He pointed to how fat there were; fat from my blood.
They gave me a few instructions – remove mattress and bedding in two hours and let dry so you can sleep and let the house air for four hours – and were on there way. I probably have to rewash my blankets (pay someone to rewash them) and some of my clothes and wipe things down, a noticeable interruption to my afternoon naps, and my host mother keeps, jokingly, complaining about the smell but I know it will mean a sound night’s sleep. Also, the bug death trap is supposed to reduce flies which is a good thing since I sleep 20 feet from a full-fledge farm.
The lesson that I take away from bed bugs, and there is always a lesson in my blog posts, is sometimes I have to go through a bit of hassle to get out of discomfort. Far too many times, I just live with broken, irritating things because it is too much of pain to correct the issue. I went well into winter before I finally ponied up to pay for a broken car window because blasting the heat worked just as well.
I knew that calling PC meant a full-on fumigation that would be troublesome, but it is not the end of the world. I refused to worry about this issue and trust a solution would come. It did and I will have less red bites in the morning.
You may be reading this and thinking, “Ew, bed bugs.” I think, “Meh.” Because I am pretty B.A. and that is just the stuff we put up with in The Wild. (Note: I do not live in ‘The Wild’ rather a very pleasant rural village.) This will be a fun story to impress, or not, people back home.
For now, so long blood suckas.