Showing posts with label bugs and other grossness. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bugs and other grossness. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Shopping Surprises

Recently my cousin mentioned on Facebook that he had stepped on a cockroach.  In a grocery store. 

Which, of course, is gross.

But in all honesty, at first, I didn’t think much of his comment… till I realized he wasn’t one of my friends in umpteen different developing countries around the world.  Then, yes, it made me remember the prospect of this was actually not really ok.  Or expected, ever, in this context.

Fast-forward to today.

I headed into our local “grocery” store – the kind that has some of the non-local products available (think: Pringles, ice cream, and apples), and is bigger than the typical duka on the side of the road (think: the size of the soda-bottle return area at Meijer).  As I peeked around a stack of baking powder tubs to see if there was any soda bicarbonate (baking soda) hiding behind it, I found this.

I stopped, stared, realized it wasn't moving, and grimaced.  But then, as I walked away, a few interesting tag lines ran through my head regarding the situation.  And at the risk of never having anyone come visit me again, I'm sharing said comments here for your reading enjoyment.  Here are my thoughts:

“ha! that’s hilarious!”

“Would it be weird if I took a picture?”

“Is it bad that this totally won’t deter me from coming back?”

“Health codes? Hmm.  What’s that?”

“It’s so tiny!  Usually the ones running around eating food in dukas are at least 5 times this size!”

“I’m just glad it’s dead… this is gross of course, but it’s the live ones that make me jumpy!”

“Should this bother me more?  I’m still planning on buying something…”

“Why was he poking around the soda bicarbonate?  There was sugar right across the aisle..."

“Is THAT why they’ve been out of soda bicarbonate for a month?” :P

“I wonder if I should have told the shopkeeper… hmm… maybe they already know?”

Saturday, April 13, 2013


One of the basic parts of life here by Lake Victoria is the presence of lake flies.  These flies are not present at all times, but there are days and times when they very much make their presence known.  Every so often we look out across the lake and see a funnel cloud – or smoke cloud? – hovering above the water.  No, it’s not God.*  At least, I don’t think so.  It’s lake flies.

Usually the house where I’m staying doesn’t get affected by the flies.  We’re further from the lake and not in the direct line of flight, I suppose.  But the other morning we awoke to discover them… everywhere. 

At school, which is beach-front property (can you say that when you can’t touch the water due to illnesses present?), everything was COVERED.  Desks.  Walls.  Chairs.  Floors.  We postponed class for a bit till we could get things swept out, but it’s hard to get rid of the ones still flying around your head!

The kids, being extra-ordinary missionary kids who live into every opportunity presented them, moved from not wanting to touch the insects in the morning... to running through the swarms with mouths open during break time, competing to see how many they could catch in their mouths at one swoop.  Seriously!?  (I heard they taste like ants… and like candy.  Those two reports seem a bit different conflicting to me…)

I wanted to seize the opportunity for learning and study the little creatures, but due to power cuts I couldn’t print, show a video, or do anything else to help aid the process.  So we went on with our regularly scheduled programming planned lesson topics. 

The next day, though, when they were still prevalent, I realized I had my chance.  We collected the little buggers in containers and covered them with plastic wrap to observe.  Then we used magnifying glasses to draw them in detail.

Later we even learned about the life cycle.  The kids were amazed to learn so much about the crazy little things… and so was I, to be honest!  (How CAN an insect this small really lay up to 3000 eggs in a sac at one time during their one-day adult life?  Craziness!)

Turns out parents learned a lot too! 

Life is getting back to normal again – with a few more black dots littering the ceilings and walls of our rooms.  But I’m glad for working power (at just the right moments for printing), internet (for making little-known information available to kiddos), and for a God that knows what He’s doing.  Even if I don’t quite understand why we need these little creatures flying around our heads and into our mouths at every moment. 

More questions for heaven?

(*Genesis 1:2)

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Bat Chronicles

There's this tendency in the West to make everything cute. Cuddly. Approachable, and oh so lovable.

Have you ever seen the book Stellaluna? It's the story of this adorable little bat that gets knocked out of a tree into a birds' nest as a baby, and tries her best to be accepted as a proper bird in her new home.  Admittedly, one scene is a bit confusing as the illustrator attempts to portray sonar visually with a light-beam coming from Stella's eyes, but otherwise it is a precious, bubble-wrapped safe method of introducing young, impressionable children to the wonderful, intriguing, and much-to-be-explored world of bats.
Whoever wrote the book must either have never seen a real bat, or been seriously inventive in their lovable cuteness factors. Because bats? They aren't cute.

Pictures from,, and

Take our house. The entire attic is filled with the constantly squeaking, thumping, dirty little creatures. And as the ceilings in our rooms are made of wooden slats with openings to the attic, the bats generously share their guano leftovers with us on a daily basis, too. On the floor. On top of my mosquito net, and filtering down to my bed. And into any unattended glasses. (It's always wise to check your glass before consumption...)
a view of my mosquito net and floors on a regular basis
Our guard eagerly volunteered to go up and take care of the problem. Armed with a stick, a wire to encourage the bats out of corners, and a scoop, he came back down covered in sweat and dust with 35 bats and 2 hugely heavy containers of guano in tow. (I wondered if we should also have armed him with rabies shots, but he didn't seem to think there was a need.)
The end result of our guard's efforts.  I'd say no bats were harmed in the making of these pictures, but, well, I'd be lying.
That evening, as we heard Stellaluna's cousins making themselves comfy in the attic, we reassured ourselves that at least there were less guano piles above our heads waiting to fall.

More recently, the beautifully-crafted, mice-like creatures have found ways from their otherwise preferred upstairs abode into our living quarters. My roommate, having lived in Musomaland for longer, is more experienced and adept at such maneuvers. The other night I came home to see this:

Ronit got it outside still alive.  We'll just assume it lived a long and happy life, despite two very curious hungry dogs chasing after it...

Last night, though, made me realize just how ill-adept I might be for life in the Land of Tanz. I've survived tarantulas, flying jumping spiders, massive rats, and disgusting cockroaches, but this... this just might be my breaking point.

I stepped into the shower and heard a familiar squeaking sound, more than familiarly close. Turning, I looked up at the doorway I had just passed under and... there it was. I wish I could say it looked like cute little Stellaluna. But no. It's brown curled-up hunched-over disgustingness sat on the trim above the door that I had just walked through. I won't pretend I didn't freak. I'd seen them before lifeless, but never this close... and never turning to get a better look at the two-legged, no-winged creature that had just entered it's newly-claimed domain.

Since I was alone late at night by myself, I opted for the "close-the-door-put-a-towel-over-the-crack-and-take-a-bucket-shower-instead" tactic. And as I lay in bed contemplating the dilemma, I was more inclined to swallow my pride the next day and ask a guy to come help me than trying to get rid of this disgusting lovable creation of God all by myself.

The next morning I called a friend, who bravely entered the battle zone with a mosquito racket.  After a thorough search our little winged friend was proclaimed missing.  The good news: I could now take a shower.  The bad news: Who knows where it might pop up next?  As I started preparing for said shower, I took yet another glance at the drain, and found... this.

The scene quickly turned to this:

After another call to my friend, I was finally able to enjoy a shower in my own home.  


In light of recent developments, I propose a truce. I'll stop complaining about the guano-rain, and the bats promise never to show their faces in my quarters again. It seems like a win-win situation.

Either that, or these little rascals seriously need to start helping with rent...

Monday, September 3, 2012

How to Kill a Poisonous Snake (Tanzanian Style)

Here at Language School, we generally have a “cultural session” after chai (tea) on Fridays.  The idea is that language is culture, and culture is language.  So having informative classes on both aspects of life here is critical to forming relationships and having a positive presence in the country. 

Last week Thursday, however, some little friends decided to switch things up a bit.  We were in the middle of learning the past, present, and future negative tenses of “to be” when one of the other teachers poked his head in and said it was time for an impromptu cultural session (aka teachable moment).  Turns out that a couple of snakes had decided to sun themselves near our classrooms in the trees, and the guards wanted us to watch as they killed them so that we’d know what to do.  Curious, we filed out of the classroom and down the path to where the guards were waiting.  Much to our chagrin, they told us that we had just walked past both snakes without even realizing it.  Ok, they were in the tree and looked like mangled branches.  But it took me quite a while to spot them even when someone was pointing them to me.  Yikes!

Here’s the process, in 7 easy-to-follow steps to killing any poisonous snake that might come your way.

1. Find snake.  Recognize it’s not just a branch.  Determine if it’s actually poisonous (ok, it probably is), if it's aggressive (most here, I've heard, are not), and if it’s the spitting kind (thankfully, these were not).

2. Tell the guards or guys around you (ok, this might just be my own idea… but it seems like a good one!) and help them find large sticks and rocks they can throw.

3. Huddle around far enough away that when the snake drops and if it’s not dead yet, it won’t get you.  Have camera ready to take pictures of guys beating snake with large sticks, throwing rocks, and creating quite a ruckus.

4. Ensure snake is dead by stomping on its head with your heel.  (Hmm, sounds Biblical somehow…)  Then deposit snakes for inspection, and watch as they continue to wriggle around.  Gross.

5. Side Note: This is a good opportunity to check and see if any of the snakes recently had lunch.  And if so, to remove the rather large lizard with your cool knife.  Did I mention gross?

6. Move snakes to a place where all the 3 through 12 year-old boys on the campsite won’t want to play with them.  (Realized a bit too late, unfortunately.)

7. Attempt to go back to learning verb tenses in classroom banda. :)

Monday, August 6, 2012

How to Deal with a Centipede

There are a lot of things I can deal with here in Tanzania.  Others I've gotten used to.  Then there are a things that I'm more than happy to let guys take over on.  They seem to enjoy helping and I'm more than willing to let them do so.  Probably anything under my "bugs and other grossness" category would fit that last description.  Here's a recent scenario of my thankfulness (aka How to Deal with a Centipede....

1. Walk into shower, realize that there's a colorful little wiggly thing with lots of legs.  Recall previous experiences with these speedy little guys running toward my feet that have a nasty bite and immediately step back out.

2. Quietly walk into the other room where your housemate and her fiance Victor are sitting, and request assistance with the critter.  Watch as housemate reacts and breathe a sigh of relief that I don't have to do anything as Victor comes to the rescue.

3. Walk behind Victor and take a picture with outreached arms and highest zoom possible, so I can finally explain to people what these little tiny super-fast creatures look like.
Sorry it's not very clear... but I WAS taking this picture from a good 6 ft away on digital zoom...
4. Step back and allow Victor to take control of the situation.  Which means using a broom handle to half-pick-up, half- smash the centipede.

5. Ask if it's dead.  And then ask aloud why not.

6. Watch as he carries said centipede at arms length into the kitchen, gets out a pot, lights a match, and procedes to kill it with fire. 
7. Explain hopes that the pot will get washed REALLY well aloud before leaving Victor to play with fire.  Then retire to take originally-planned shower, after carefully checking the drain for signs of any more friends.

(Note: Friend's significant other can be substituted in this instance by one of our guards if needed, depending upon who is on the premises.  If no guys are around, it's also possible to grab a mosquito zapper and hit/zap the centipede as it runs towards you as many times and as quickly as possible until it's stunned, then, well, call for a guy to dispose of it, of course!) :)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Introducing... my Neighbors :)

I'm in Dar!  In case you're not on Facebook and didn't get the memo.  It's taken me a bit to get back on internet though, so I apologize for the delay.  I also arrived sick, so I tried to hide from the world for a few days so as not to infect even more than the three airports and two airplanes full of people that I had already spread this thing to.

Anyway, while I'm here in Dar for a month or so, I thought I'd introduce you to a few of my neighbors.

                                                                                                        is Marie.

She’s from Minnesota-Alaska-Tanzania.  Or something like that.  She's the special needs teacher at HOPAC and is amazing at what she does.

Marie and I were roommates my first two years in Dar.  We had some good times, some hard times, and learned a lot along the way.  We also laughed.  a lot.  (It was better than crying on the craziest of days!)  Whenever the guards had to peak their heads around the corner to check and see what all the laughter was about, or opened the gate to see two white girls carrying a plank of wood a kilometer down the road with everyone staring, or joined in a game of baseball using a marshmallow and a spatula in the dark outside when we were cooking and the power went out... that may have been us.  They usually turned around, shook their heads, and laughed in disbelief. 

Hey, you've got to make candle holders somehow when the power goes out, right?
I have to say I'm very glad I'm starting out here in Dar with this girl in the room next door.  It's making transition a bit easier.  On the other hand, I’ve found a few more neighbors that aren’t paying rent living right around me, too, and thought I’d share them with you as well.

The first neighbor I discovered was the reptilian kind.   Upon walking into the toilet, I felt something drop on my head and had a vague recollection of this being a normal occurrence here in the Land of Tanz.  I looked around for a frog, and found a long tail swirling frantically around in the water in front of me.  Oh, yeah.  Geckos.  I tried to help get him out but he just hid under the rim, so I left him to his own devices and went to borrow another facility.
This isn't the same one, but I thought I'd preserve the dignity
of the one in the toilet by not taking it's picture...

Next came another bathroom visitor.  Or rather, visitors.  I'm used to having ants around the house - this is Tanzania, after all!  But for some reason, these ants decided that our bathroom hand towels were the perfect place to set up shop.  Literally.  Colonies were formed, emancipation proclamations were written as they advanced from the great outdoors, and little pieces of white… something were moved in.  I’m hoping (I think?) that it was food.  Maybe.  Gross.

This is Bethlehem, or Bethy for short.  She was born on Christmas a couple years ago and we've had her since.  Unfortunately, she lost her sister a few weeks back and has since decided to daily remind us with long cries that she, too, is evidently well on her way to dying.  This morning she opted to enjoy the sunshine instead, which meant I got to sleep just a bit longer (or maybe that's just the jet lag wearing off!?)
Walking up to our house, you'll see this.

The house with the red roof is where I'm staying.  The goat... well, it seemed to be enjoying the view :)
 And this.
 And a bit of this.
This guy didn't seem too happy to see me, but I made an executive decision
that I could take him on if needed and kept walking. 
 Don't you keep your lawnmower on a leash?
Later I saw the little shepherd boy responsible for these guys walking one along the path with a rope, that was tied around the goat’s neck and his own waist, but felt a bit conspicuous pulling out my camera from behind him.  So I’ll leave that one to your own imagination.

Last, but not least, is our other lawnmower.
Actually, Stafford helps out with the gardening and watching the house, but when I woke up this morning I heard the sound of snip snip snipping and went out to investigate.  He was happily whistling and worshiping the Lord as he cut the grass away in our yard... pole pole (/pole-a pole-a/, or slowly), bit by bit.  Gave a whole new meaning to the phrase "whistle while you work."  He offered to teach me and I got the hang of it pretty quickly... at least in the 1 foot square block I worked on!  I asked him (in my limited Swahili) why he didn't use a machete instead, which is a popular way of cutting grass here, but he explained that this process is better because it makes the grass shorter and more even.  It also keeps the grass from getting pulled out of the ground, which keeps it looking nicer.  He has way more perseverance than I do, it seems... but I appreciate the hard work!

So... there you have it.  My trusty neighbors, in all sizes, shapes, and multiples of legs.  I've seen a lot of other great people the past few days too that I've missed tremendously, but I've been too busy giving them hugs and catching up to pull out the camera.  Hope you're enjoying life... wherever and with whomever it might be!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Wycliffe Wyldlife

The last night of training at Wycliffe in Florida, our group was taken to the local GatorLand park for a tour and adventure.  We got to see some rare all-white crocodiles (they're not albino, but "leucistic," meaning they have even less skin pigmentation...). 
We also "met" an insanely massive dog-eating crocodile who once terrorized dog-walkers in Tampa Bay, FL (at least I think that's where it was) before he was captured and stuck in this park to save him from the wrath and revenge of dog-owners everywhere.

(Crocodile not pictured here for his own protection.)

After learning about crocodiles of various colors and appetite preferences, we had a chance to learn about some of the crazy creatures that God put around us in the world.  They had a scorpion, a tarantula, and even a few lizards that are a little out of their element in FL... but which we'll see in our yards in Tanzania!  While there was NO WAY I was going to touch the hairy terrestrial tarantula they offered, I did get to hold a baby crocodile… and eventually worked up my courage to touching… then holding… a python!  Still can’t believe I did this.
My roommates at training... with the crocodile
Really, my hand placement isn't that impressive - the croc's mouth was taped shut!
Step 1: Dare to touch the snake.
Realize it's not as slimy as I thought,
and that it's actually kind of cool to feel the muscles moving.
Step 2: Watch my friend from Tanzania hold it and give in to self-induced peer pressure.
Step 3: Jump in and volunteer to hold it before chickening out.  Realize it's not so bad.
Step 4: Give snake back and realize while it's not so bad...
I'd really like to now take a long hot shower! :)
We had a lot of fun at the park, and it was great to see even the little kids eager to touch the animals.  However, when we got back to the center and prepared to take out our trash, we soon discovered that there is plenty of wildlife on the center itself.
On the corner of John Wycliffe Blvd and Great Commission Drive...
Not a question of whether there might be... evidently there IS in fact wildlife in this Dumpster! 
I wonder if this helps decrease the impact on the environment
by renting these big metal bins out to hungry critters?
I only wonder how many incidents had to happen before these signs went up... :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Giant Cockroaches

I don’t like cockroaches.  Not one bit.  I think they’re gross.  Not as disgusting as slugs, mind you.  But still annoyingly gross. 
My amazing kids to the rescue!  Trying to rid my desk of the cockroach that wanted to make it's home in my air con.  This picture is proof that even the hardiest of third grade boys are slightly startled by crawling cockroaches.  Glad it's not just me!
If you look closely, you can see them using my baton.  Glad to know it comes in handy for more than just rewards for good spelling!  (He had to promise ahead of time to clean it off if it touched the roach...) 
After arriving at school this morning, turning on my air con, and seeing a massive cockroach crawl out of the opening… I started thinking about why it is that I hate these creatures so much.  Here's what I've come up with.

1. They are impossible to squish.  You hit them with a notebook, or a shoe, or something else hard over and over… and they still keep crawling around.  Sporadically. And generally, towards your foot.  Which, of course, causes a jump backward.  Not because I’m necessarily scared of them, but because it just grosses me out.

2. You don’t REALLY want to smash them anyway.  They squirt white.  Whoever heard of white blood?  Or yellow?  The little ones in our house leave yellow spots, the big ones white.  And that’s just gross.  Especially when it’s on your mosquito net.

3. But you also don’t want to let them keep running around.  They might make more little cockroaches.  That are also impossible to kill.  And that’s problematic.  Because no one wants to open the fridge… or the drawer… or the cupboard… or anything really… and see a roach scurrying for cover from the light.

4. These interesting creatures have exoskeletons and are very hardy.  Because of their ability to survive floods, thrashings with notebooks, and other horrible atrocities, these guys have been around for a long time.  According to Wikipedia, cockroaches are among the hardiest insects on the planet. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources like the glue from the back of postage stamps.  Some can go without air for 45 minutes. They can survive for a week without a head, and only die then because of dehydration.  In one experiment, cockroaches were able to recover from being submerged underwater for half an hour.  Somehow, all this doesn’t give me much hope for a happy, cockroach-free future for my children some day.

However, if you would like to help prolong the agony… uh hm, I mean encourage the population of this fabulous race of creatures, you can check here for more information on how to care for them as pets. 
Supposedly, Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches make great pets.  They are especially good for classrooms.  Feel free to take any of the Tanzanian ones home with you on your next visit!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Being Thankful... But In All Circumstances. A borrowed blog post :)

A friend here in Dar posted this recently, and I thought it was a great reminder for us all.  Check it out here...

Give thanks in all circumstances.
What does that mean, anyway?

Yesterday, I did not want to give thanks.  The power went out at 7 am.  I had huge loads of laundry to do that obviously would not happen.  It was hot.  Our house is dark.   My house worker was sick.  How would I get everything done?  At 6:45 pm, when we realized it still wasn't coming on, we sent out dozens of text messages to our students, changing the location of Youth Group.  The power came back on at 10 pm last night.  Lots of chatter in the Dar community about this and we all are coming to the sad realization that electricity rationing has started again, even though the power company has yet to publicly announce it.  That means that the 15 hours without power yesterday will probably be a regular occurrence. 

Yet I am told to give thanks in all circumstances. 

This morning my eyes popped open at 6 am, early for a Saturday.  Immediately I thought, "I've got to get the laundry in the machine while the power is on." 

The laundry went in, the flour came out.  I spent the morning doing what I love:  creating with dough.  The washing machine hummed and my electric beaters whipped up the cream beautifully.  There's my thankful heart. 

My gardener called me outside.  "There's a problem," he said, "A small one."  He told me he was fixing a drain outside our house by pulling up some concrete slabs that cover our drain pipes.  He pulled up the slab for me.  "Wadudu," he said.  Bugs.   

I looked inside the hole and shrieked.  There were about 100 cockroaches of varying sizes.  "SO THAT'S WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN COMING FROM!" Those nasty, nasty creatures who are not fit to live have been creeping into my kitchen cupboards.  Two inches long, those beasties are.

I raced into the house, grabbed the insecticide, and proceeded to empty the entire aerosol container into the hole.  "DIE!" I screeched.  My gardener must have thought I had completely lost it.

Does God want me to be thankful for cockroaches?

Be thankful in all circumstances. 

The afternoon was easy.  At our friend Kathy's house for our "Thanksgiving Saturday," turkey with all the trimmings, a group of friends ranging from ages 2 to 65.  Laughter, chattering, exclamations over every dish served and "Can I get this recipe?"  Kids hyped up on sugar barreling through the house.  Just like a Thanksgiving should be, except without the blood relations.  It was a wonderful day.  Easy to be thankful.

But...Be thankful in all circumstances.  All.  Not griping, not complaining...but trusting His goodness and His Sovereignty in every situation. 

I still have a long way to go.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rats! And other adventures in the third grade :)

6 May 2010

A recent post on my FB page stated:

Another adventurous day in the third grade: Getting drenched on the way to school, watching a rat fly out of a student's cubby where it had been making a nest, students having giggle fits on the carpet for no reason, and finally, the great chase (and kill) of the rat around the classroom with some helpful secondary students in tow! I now have a much cleaner classroom and, I think, a lighter heart. :)

You've got to love the laughter and fun of random events. Here are a few pictures of the crazy time we had!!!
It started out oh so simple.  Take out a few things to get the rat.  But wait, those shelves are HEAVY! 

Watching the rat run back and forth, back and forth... and chasing after it (a bit like rats!) ourselves!


...and forth... 

Finally, our expert HOPAC rat catcher caught it under his foot by the tail.  The only problem was that the rest of the rat was under the bookshelves, and for some strange reason, decided to stay there.  Eventually, our little four-legged friend got away, and went behind my computer a few times before getting caught in a similar fashion.  

Thankfully, the service learning class had taken my kids outside for an extra game time (in exchange for the 8th grade rat catcher) before all this ensued... so no screaming occurred during this whole incident.  I did have a few students get "injured" outside while playing games (meaning they needed a "plaster" - or band-aid, as we'd say in the States...), who decided to stay and watch the fun.  But mostly, it was a secondary fiasco in the grade three classroom that rainy afternoon.

Our expert rat catching team.  Complete with lots of smiles and laughter to go around!! 

Uh, this is the part where I'm supposed to say that no animals were harmed during this incident.  Unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps!), I cannot tell a lie.  The rat died.  (Ahh, let's all give a mournful sigh together.)  My girls were afraid to hear a final squeak, but our expert was too good for that, and we were all spared such a tragic ending.

Despite the rain, the whole group took the rat out to be "buried" on HOPAC's campus somewhere.  I didn't see any reason to follow.  My class was coming back in a minute, it was pouring - HARD, and I didn't feel the need to mourn this poor rat who had sought shelter from the rainy day in my student's paper-filled, messy tray!  

The group came back laughing.  And told me they had tossed it over the wall.  (WHAT?!)  Where people routinely walk by on the outside.  (Uhh...!)  "But we didn't hear anybody say anything - just a thump when it hit the ground... so we don't think it landed on anyone's head" said one student who had been worried about the final mouse squeak.  

What a change in perspective.  At least I can sleep better at night! :P