As soon as I walked in through the front door of my flat, I was assaulted by a giant cockroach. I heard the eerie, hissing sound before it landed in my hair and entangled its claws in the strands as if digging for gold. I dropped my travel case on the floor and flailed my arms as wildly as that hideous creature was making its nest on my head. My grotesque zombie dance forced it out, and I heard it fly through the door and into the night. I wiped the sweat off my face, strode purposely into my flat, ready to vanquish invaders and reclaim my home.
Apparently, while I had been away, ‘fighting poverty, alleviating suffering and oppression, and protecting the rights of the most vulnerable’, I had been rendering myself vulnerable. I was on the brink of being evicted out of my own home by the creatures things I dread so much. That innate and completely unreasonable fear is fuelled by my lack of control over their movements. I guess that’s why I don’t belong in the ‘conservation and sustainable environment’ group. Actually, my idea of poverty alleviation is to get everyone ensconced in a sanitized, glass and concrete, fully serviced apartment block where the only evidence of life is the tenants’ breathing.
So, here I was, in such a habitat. Or so I had thought. With my bubble burst by the shenanigans of the giant cockroach, I was now on edge. I peeped into the kitchen on my way to the bedroom, breathing a sigh of relief when I confirmed that my kitchen surfaces were not crawling with giant cockroach’s relatives. I dragged my travel case carefully into the bedroom.
Bowel movements are part and parcel of homecoming. It’s as if the body finally feels comfortable enough, at home enough, to express what it really feels. I obliged. I was getting ready to lower myself onto the toilet seat when I glimpsed a black shadow on the inside of the toilet bowl. Upon closer inspection, what I’d hoped would be a thick black thread that had detached itself from one of my granny pants turned out to be a worm. A thin, long, slimy, black worm was crawling up my toilet! With a loud yelp, I dashed out of the bathroom. As you can imagine, everything that had been making itself at home dashed right back up the colon. I contemplated my next move. I gnawed at my lip. Then I realized that the only thing for me to do was to confront that intruder. I walked back to the bathroom and flushed long slimy worm right back to its makers. It took a loooong while before I felt the urge to use the toilet.
With no crawlers on my kitchen tops, I had the confidence to make myself a cocktail. “Home at last!” I breathed as I switched on the television and lowered myself onto the sofa. Bumming on my old sofa is one of the luxuries I miss when I’m out meeting with ‘local communities, facilitating them to find sustainable solutions to their local development challenges’. Sometimes, after days sitting my rear end on hard benches, listening to people talk about the difficulties of accessing cheap medical care, the snow peas that are rotting because there is no ready access to markets, the orphans who can’t go to school because they have to work to feed themselves, and hundreds of similar stories, I normally get visions of my plush sofa cushions. Followed by visions of what the actual colour of guilt looks like.
It’s while sitting on this plush sofa that I encounter my third unwanted guest. Little Rat. That infernal tree that my landlord refuses to cut down… The first announcement of Little Rat’s entry was a scratching sound. The black furry creature (I thought rats were grey in colour) was nibbling the mosquito net that I’d put on my windows to keep tiny intruders out and the fresh sea breeze flowing in. As is my habit when faced with creeping creatures, I was paralysed. In the moment it took me to take control of my nerves, Little Rat had made a perfect circle and I watched agape as he paused on his haunches, looked left and right, hopped onto the window seat and launched himself in my direction at the speed of a missile. I jumped on to the sofa, ready for impact. Lucky for me, Little Rat had another aim. The route was well mapped – under my sofa and onwards to the kitchen. Needless to say, I had no breakfast the following morning. Eventually, I gathered the courage to open my kitchen door and assess the damage.
As I’d expected, Little Rat had done his best to stake a claim to my kingdom. Lemons had left the basket and landed in the cupboard. Polythene bags had the signature round holes. My box of cereal had been savagely attacked. Nothing had gone untouched. Shameless freak that he was, the imp had been imbibing and excreting at the same time.
Lucky for me, all that was left were a few hairs and excreted matter (any other terminology would be too disgusting to contemplate right now). This crawler had happily munched on my cockroach paste, but appears to have quickly realized his mistake, judging by the way he wet himself copiously for fear of his very own life. If I’m right, Little Rat won’t be coming back anytime soon!
As for me, I shall be fighting poverty from the comfort of my couch, where sitting pretty with my feet up and my laptop switched on, I intend to carry out online research on the causes and effects of poverty, theorise on the ‘impact of rodents and other pests on the livelihoods of the most vulnerable’ and propose some ‘sustainable solutions to world hunger through the eradication of pests’. In between my very busy schedule, I shall keep a watchful eye on the door, the windows, the ventilators, the kitchen drain, the toilet and the shower drain and the little opening in the ceiling to ensure that no unannounced visitors get access to my home. Furthermore, anyone or thing found trespassing will be attacked and killed using humane methods such as mosquito coil, insecticide spray, cockroach paste, mouse trap, rat poison and an electrocuting iron, just to mention the current arsenal. I’ll just go and put up the no trespassing sign now.