October 24th, 2009 | Published in China - Life
So…the inevitable has happened. Last night I had my first encounter with the rat with whom I am, apparently, in cohabitation.
It was very simple. I came home from dinner (after dark) and flipped on the light, only to witness a dark shadow dash across the floor and behind the couch. With a groan, I steeled myself for battle and kicked aside the old coffee table and the grimy old leather couch in the corner of my living room.
Kicking aside the couch actually occurred in pieces. The couch is one of those piece-together jobs from I would say the 70′s. It’s comprised of five sections that fit neatly against each other, and it is L-shaped, to fit in the corner. Until last night I had not really touched it or sat on it much, because, well, it looks like something rats live in. Which, it turns out, it is. After I kicked aside a couple sections of couch, my new best friend the Big Hairy Rat came scurrying out and ran into my bedroom. Great. Exactly what I wanted.
Let’s call him the BHR for purposes of this blog. So, upon witnessing a one Mr. BHR flee into my bedroom and then around the corner into the bathroom, I quickly suit up with a small plastic trash can as a shield and a Puma sneaker as let’s say lightsaber, and head on into the bathroom, ready to do gruesome battle if necessary. And, lo, the BHR is nowhere to be seen. I search for obvious hiding spots and discover none, and determine the only possible escape route to be under the bathtub, which locale I can’t really see into or access in any way.
I should mention that before I entered the bathroom, duly armed, I first turned on the light and flung a flip-flop in there, the idea being to “flush him out”, which idea didn’t seem to do anything.
So, once in the bathroom, I decide to start whaling on the tub in an effort to coerce/scare the bejesus out of the BHR and get him, I hope, to flee the bathroom, my bedroom, and the whole premisis entirely, to be honest. I whale and whale. But no BHR. Apparently he has an escape hatch behind that tub, somewhere, because I stay in the bathroom and listen, and bang on different parts of the tub, and then just stand there and try to be really really quiet, hoping he’ll come out, but nothing. No BHR. No rat. So I resign myself, and give up. I go into the kitchen and inspect the situation. Of course, it turns out that I forgot to change the trash before I left for dinner, so he had been attracted to a banana peel from that morning. Which banana peel he had pulled out of the trash and nibbled on, I assume fruitlessly.
That was not his first taste of banana. Last week I had left two bananas, an apple, and a tasty little cream-puff-like treat out on the counter in the kitchen overnight, only to discover the next morning that the cream-puff had completely vanished, the bananas had both been eaten a little and even the apple had been chewed.
So the BHR loves variety. And he likes his fruits, not just his sweets.
Honestly, at first the rat thing completely freaked me out. I mean, fucking rats. I hate rats. And I haven’t even had to deal with them before, really. And then after I inspected the couch a little more I discovered the place where he has dragged a good number of things, like dead cockroaches and the like, to nibble on. I still haven’t figured out what I’m going to do to the couch. But I guess I’ll probably just put it back into the corner. There’s nothing I can do, really, about the rat, or the couch. So I’m just going to have to deal with it. Which isn’t really that hard. It just means emptying the trash before nighttime, so there’s nothing for the rat to nibble on. Which is easy, because the trash bags in China are tiny.
There are other creepy-crawlies, too. Like cockroaches. And these big beetle things that fly in here sometimes. And there are a ton of bats on campus. I assume there are giant spiders and snakes roaming the forests around here, since it’s like 70 degrees or hotter year round and 90 percent humidity all the time. And I hear there are a lot of monkeys in the woods, too. Not that monkeys are creepy; they are just, well, far out.
I just hope I do not get bit by any superpoisonous snakes or frogs, and that no mutant breeds of man-sized spiders invade while I am living in tropical China. (If spiders were man-sized, by the way, I once heard that they would be able to run at 300 mph.) But I have other things to think about, really. Today I found a website called “Skritter” that helps you learn to read Chinese, and I spent a few hours on it. And learned how to write my name in Chinese.
Which is, by the way:
Xu (meaning to allow or praise, pronounced like “shoe” in my last name)
Zhi (meaning ambition, or, “will”, pronounced like “ji” in Jim)
Xiang (meaning fly, pronounced like “shyang”)
Praise, ambition, fly. Ya heard.
Maybe next I will try to learn the Chinese word for rat.
Maybe then the BHR will leave me and my bananas alone. Effing rats.
Addendum to the rat posting, next day:
It turns out I was correct about the giant spiders thing. Today I went on a hike with some students and we saw, in a giant scary spiderweb, a huge, malignant looking spider. It looked exactly like a black widow, except with a reddish hourglass figure on its back, instead of its belly, and it was approximately the length of my thumb. I tried to take a picture but dared not move close enough.
Also, after witnessing the rat again in the bathroom last night, I decided to blockade the entrance underneath the tub. So I think the rat is trapped under there now, maybe, unless I spotted a totally different rat last night. I also brought up the subject of rats with my students on our hike today, and they suggested that I try to flush the rat out with water and strike him/squash him with a shoe. Yeah…I dunno about that. The students also suggested that the rat likely “has many friends”. Yeah, I guess I am still in denial about that.