What Have I Gotten Myself Into

It was the end of our 2nd month in training, and time to go out to our current site to meet our counterparts, find a place to live, check the place out. We got off the bus in our little town, looked around, and saw a small sign on the little tienda: Se alquila cuartos (We rent rooms.)

So, we checked inside and the owner was more than happy to kick her numerous children out of the one bedroom, with a large double bed and a bare light bulb, to give it to us. I noted that there was no mosquito net, but nothing we could do about it at this point.

It was spring, so not too hot yet, and we had brought our sleeping bags, not knowing what our accommodations would be. We set out to discover our new home town, to meet people, to find where we would buy rice and beans and pasta, and at the end of the day, we returned to our "hotel" room.

Soon after dark, we turned off the lightbulb and crawled into bed. My husband was quickly snoring, but I was having trouble falling asleep, and thought I felt something in my hair.

I woke him by saying, "was that your hand in my hair?" to which he responded, "No."

I ordered him to turn on the light and when he did, we found that our walls, ceiling, floor and bed were covered in cockroaches.

My husband and I argued the rest of the night: I wanted the light on so that I could watch where every roach was and see if they moved; he saw no point in having the light on, believing that I would not get any sleep anyway, and he should at least be able to get some! (The light stayed on and he slept through the glare; I was a wreck!)

The next morning, in my not very proficient Spanish and Guarani, I asked the owner if she could possibly do something to keep the roaches off of us, because they scared me so.

I was thinking mosquito net; she laughed, said "ndaipori problem" and while we were out that day, she fumigated the entire room with Bygone. (My husband still says that we will probably die 10 years earlier of cancer caused by a spray long outlawed in the U.S., but ubiquitous in Paraguay.) We didn't see another cockroach in that room all week.

When a month later, we returned to finally settle into our site, I found that everyone in town knew of the Americana who was scared of las cucarachas, and they teased me about that for the next two years! I never got over my fear of cockroaches, but I did learn to live with them, as I had no choice!

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.