Lately the electricity has been going out every night around 7, just after dark. My host family hates it when the power goes out because it interrupts their soap opera-watching routine. I don’t watch soap operas, but I hate it too. By day, I feel like the master of my home. For the most part, I decide who comes in and out, be he man or beast (unless he happens to be a fly – I have no control over flies). But as soon as it gets dark, the equation is flipped. At night, the animalitos are boss. As long as I have the power to flood a room with light, I feel okay about the situation. I can see who’s around, and the guys that don’t like the light tend to make themselves scarce. But when the power goes out, it’s just me and my headlamp against a whole world of creepy crawlies.
I always seem to have my most intense encounters with the lesser beasties when the power is out. Last night, for example, I was contemplating watching a DVD on my laptop, when the lights went. It was about 7:30, so I decided to just go ahead and call it a night. I fumbled around the dark house for a few moments looking for my headlamp. When I lit it up and shined it around my room, a flash of activity in the area where I store clothing caught my eye. I came closer and saw a bunch of large ants crawling among my bras and panties. Uh-oh. I’ve dealt with these ants before, so I sort of knew what to expect.
Cautiously, I lifted up a pair of underwear, then threw it down on the floor violently. It was covered in giant ants, and underneath it was a pile of what I assume were eggs – round, white, bean-shaped things that the ants were now rushing to grab onto and cart away. I began to lift up underthings with two fingers, throw them on the floor, and smash ant eggs with my feet, all the while praying that none would fall or crawl down inside my rubber boots. I don’t know whether or not these guys bite, and I was hoping they wouldn’t give me a chance to find out.
Some of the ants on the floor were scrambling furiously to move the eggs to safety. Others looked shell-shocked. They had grabbed onto eggs and were sitting stock still, holding them. I grabbed a bandana and swatted the remainder of the eggs off of the shelf where my clothing was. Then I left the whole mess for the morning and went to close the doors.
I’ve developed a fear of snakes since I’ve been in Nicaragua. It’s funny, as I’m here longer, I find more things frightening, not less. I have this image of a coral snake – highly poisonous – coming in under my door during the night to get out of the rain. In this vision, the snake sneaks into my bedroom, slithers up a bedpost, somehow gets under my mosquito net, and nestles in among my covers, where it wakes me up, gets startled, bites me, and leaves me to die alone in my house, where no one finds me for days.
I realize that this scenario is unlikely, but nonetheless I have taken to shoving plastic grain sacks under the doors at night. Last night, as I lifted up one of the sacks, out from under it wriggled a millipede, also – according to what I have read – potentially poisonous. Luckily I was still in my boots, so I stomped that guy good. Another enemy vanquished, I got the bags under the doors and went back to my room, where the ants had mostly finished carting off their precious babies. I got in under the mosquito net, checked for scorpions under my pillows, and said my nightly prayer asking the powers that be not to let any chagas bugs (aka assassin beetles) bite me. Then I went to sleep.