Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015 March 18: Whoa! That's Not the Sort of Thing You Want to Find in Your Bathroom!

Our home, like many Sri Lankan homes, has become the abode of many and assorted creatures. In a place where no house is completely sealed to the outside elements due to slatted window spaces for airflow and the need to air out houses daily in order to keep the insides from mildewing, it's just a fact of life.

We have had our share of winged creatures. Butterflies drift through. All sorts of flies - damsel flies, houseflies, gnats. Mosquitoes, the bane of mine and Elanor's existence. Despite mosquito coils, mosquito screens in the bedrooms, mosquito nets over the beds, Elanor and I still awake with mosquito bites every morning. Yesterday a tuktuk driver in Colombo saw Elanor's legs and told us about a product called soffel which is supposed to keep mosquitoes away. It is on our list of items to find today.

Beetles have also made their way through. Yesterday we had a scarab beetle trudging along the floor until Steve put it outside. Beetles are his thing, not mine. He loves beetles. That's why he and his best friend Sam have a collection of about 35 000 of them from all over the world. You can read about some of Sam's beetles adventures here.

Spiders are common as well. There is a species here that I am calling a ghost spider, for lack of a better name. So transparent you barely see them, with tiny bodies and long legs. Most of the time I only know they are there as I see them scurrying away from the morning's dust pile as I sweep the floor. We love watching the jumping spiders. Completely harmless - to us! - but they sure make quick work of other insects.

Geckos are also plentiful. Last night Elanor had the tiniest one I have seen yet crawling down her wall. While I was cooking supper another ran along the wall in front of me. Every night we fall asleep to the click click click sounds that they make. Surprisingly loud for such little creatures. We love them. Sri Lankans have a love-hate relationship with them. They love them because they eat all the bugs. They hate them because they can get into your food and they do poop on your walls.

Ants also come and go. We had harmless big black ants one day, but I just swept away their trail as they went out the door and they haven't been back. There are also tiny little red ants. They mostly leave us alone, unless we are in the shower. And they are surprisingly strong. Elanor and I watched a dozen of them carrying a bite of pancake that she had dropped, all twelve tiny ants moving in perfect unison to carry away their prize.

There is a palm squirrel that thinks he owns the place. We think he lives in the roof in the two feet of space between the red tile shingles on the outside and the wooden slats on the inside. The same palm squirrel that tried to move into the spare bedroom one day.

Our yard is slowly becoming populated as well. A koel spends part of every day in one of our trees now. I am not sure which wakes me in the morning - the koel calling or the local mosque! He also starts telling us about 4:30 every evening that the day is done.

Sometimes creatures show up in the bathrooms, Elanor's bathroom especially, since it is on the ground floor. Geckos are common, as are ants, mosquitoes, gnats, beetles, damsel flies, as she chooses to keep her bathroom light on so she "doesn't have to turn it off and on all the time" despite both Steve and I frequently telling her that she is attracting insects by doing so. Like many ten year olds, she knows best and her parents could not possibly know what they are talking about.

And so, a few nights ago, she took a shower, then came into her bedroom where I was sitting in the A/C and working, and said, "Uh, Mom? Something skinny and black just went under my shirt that's on the floor." Note: We have also been telling her that she shouldn't leave things on the floor.

I looked at her said, "I don't have anything to do with skinny black things in bathrooms. That's Dad's area! Go tell him!"

Steve went into her bathroom, and the next thing I hear is "Whoa! That's not the sort of thing you want to find in your bathroom!"

I don't know about you, but that's not the sort of thing I want to hear. Ever.

Apparently one of these things - or one very similar to it - crawled out of Elanor's drain, across her floor, and eventually into a crack in the wall.
It was a centipede. A scolopendra, for those interested in knowing the scientific name. These (not so) lovely creatures can get up to 30 cm (1 ft) long in the tropics. The big ones can take out rats and bats, and their bites can be very painful, though not fatal.

That is not very comforting, though, when reading the experiences of Chulie de Silva on her blog. She writes: "The pain was sharp, excruciating, just below the elbow.  This must be the pain that precedes a heart attack  says my sleepy mind and  if so might as well die in the comfy bed – why get up?  Coming out of deep layers of slumber I wait for the heart attack that shows no sign of coming."

But don't kid yourself - they are found in smaller varieties all over the world. In Newfoundland we call them 'earwigs', and we were cautioned by adults to steer clear. With good cause - even the small ones can deliver a painful poisonous bite.

I never wanted to find these in my bathroom back home.

And I really don't want to find them in my bathroom here!

I get the heebie jeebies just thinking about it. As I said, Steve is the bug guy, not me!