Friday, December 12, 2008

Michelle vs. Nature

At first I was worried about living alone in the campo, until I realized that I was far from alone. An abundance of nature’s creatures inhabit my living space and I’m learning to coexist with them, more or less. My house with its sizable gap between the tin roof and cement walls provides a nice resting place for birds. They perch there and fly through the beams and then out again. Once, a hummingbird got caught in between my window and the curtain. Those things flutter around so fast that I thought it was going to have a heart attack and drop dead on my windowsill and the last thing I wanted to have to deal with was a dead hummingbird so I opened the curtain and then hit the ground as if there was a drive by. The hummingbird found its way out and Marisol told me that it meant I would be getting a visitor. There’s a nest of birds in a hole in the front of the house outside which I see no reason to disturb, there’s enough room for all of us. The birds appear early in the morning, singing as birds often do, making me feel like an Ecuadorian Snow White, except I don’t think Snow White had to clean bird poo off the walls of her cabin in the woods. And speaking of poo, there were the strangest droppings in my bathroom (not mine). I couldn’t figure out what they were until one night when I was in there and I see a bat hanging upside down from a wooden beam above the shower, directly above where I usually encounter the droppings. There’s nothing like peeing in the middle of the night and worrying that a bat is going to come flying at you mid-stream. So far that’s only happened once and it just kind of fluttered around the ceiling and then I got the hell out of there.

Another creature I encountered in my bathroom is this tarantula that was kind of just hanging out on the wall for a couple of days. I named him Hank and I had no problem with him except for when he would move as I opened or shut the door. “Just chill there, Hank. No need to get excited,” I would say. Each day he moved down a little lower on the wall and I was getting tired of having to run in and out of my bathroom so when he finally reached the floor I took the broom and flung him into the backyard. When I told my neighbors about it they told me that those spiders are poisonous and I should have killed it. Sure enough the next day I’m walking through the back door of my house and I feel something fall on me, I look over and on my shoulder is a tarantula. I of course freak out, take my shirt off and throw it across the room. Then I get the broom and smush the tarantula until it’s dead. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Hank, but perhaps Hank’s scorned lover or mobster uncle, who knows, that thing came out of nowhere.

The worst of the worst are the ants because they are just everywhere and they are almost impossible to get rid of. My house is not messy because I have a cleaning ritual every morning and I sweep the house so much that I created a specific playlist for this activity. Still, the ants march on, in their bizarre lines from the counter and up the wall, crawling on the toaster and the stove, until I start cooking and they all scatter frantically. I’m going to make an aji (hot pepper) and onion insecticide and spray it around the house and see if that helps. I want to start composting in my backyard and I would like to start doing worm bins but I know the ants are going to be a problem. Plus the chickens eat all my kitchen waste anyway.

Ah, I suppose that brings me to the roosters. Ecuadorian roosters, compared to the time-of-day-challenged Bolivian roosters that I became accustomed too, are pretty accurate when it comes to their crowing. Ecuador, unlike Bolivia, kind of has it’s shit together, for lack of a more culturally sensitive term, and this applies to their roosters as well. I know exactly when it’s 6am without looking at the clock, not just because it starts getting light at that time, but because the roosters start going and then, right on schedule my neighbors start playing music or the radio loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear. The strangest thing is, it almost sounds like the roosters are having a dance party. It’s like they’re singing along with whatever Ecua music is blasting and I can picture them doing a rooster soul train in my neighbor’s backyard. I turn over in bed and go back to sleep with visions of break-dancing chickens in my head.

At night, because the lights are on, all sorts of creepy crawlies enter the house. For the most part I let them be as long as they don’t get in the way. I killed a moth that was the size of a bird and felt horrible afterwards, so now I mostly just fling things out of the house with the broom. I have seen some adorable little frogs hopping around the bathroom but so far no snakes, although I know there must be snakes in this area and with the rainy season starting everyone keeps asking me if I’ve seen any which makes me feel like I’m going to have a snake encounter pretty soon. I went to the snake museum in Quito so that I would be able to identify the poisonous ones. The Med office offered us emergency snake bite kits to suck out the venom if we wanted to have them, “just in case” but I don’t think they really work. There are some really cool looking bugs here too, like giant rhinoceros beetles and these leaf bugs that don’t blend in very well inside the house. I’m definitely adapting and learning to coexist with the “natives,” they are just a normal part of everyday life for me now. I have to say, I’ll take birds and bats over the cockroaches and mice I had to deal with in New York any day. And speaking of creatures you wouldn’t want in your house, here’s a picture of Christian and Daniel (two of my besties in site) with their pet armadillo:
Yeah, I was pretty flabbergasted myself.

1 comment:

Tiffany said...

Ooh, I love strange pets. The whole armadillo, sloth, anteater family is awesome.

I noticed you were thinking about composting. There are a lot of ways you can do it yourself. I started mine with some elbow grease and Composters. They have compost bins and compost tumblers, worm hotels, red worms and books and stuff. They'll ship anywhere, too, so that's cool. Let me know if you need any help or have any questions. I've been doing it for a while, it's nice not seeing all those food scraps go to waste.