Rats in the BF (Part III)

I gagged and looked away. The smell was so strong now, but that couldn’t be the reason, could it? There is no way that a dead rat has been sitting in my utensil jar for two weeks now, rubbing up against the very utensils I use to eat, that I put in my mouth on a daily basis! I looked again and it was still there, as dead and rotting as ever. I couldn’t believe it, it all made sense now why every time I took a sip of ice tea it smelled like poo – the spoon that I had used to stir and then left in my cup inexplicably had been rubbing against this dead rat for some time. I was basically licking a dead rat for the past two weeks!

I came out of a semi state of shock, took the utensil jar outside of my house and dumped its contents in a garbage area of sorts (the previous dead rats, Dimanche had all picked up by hand and thrown over the wall of my house, as I had no plans on touching them). I didn’t know if I should tell Dimanche, I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know if I was going to become seriously ill, but then I reasoned that I had basically been licking the dead rat everyday for the past two weeks and not gotten ill, so it must be ok (maybe even good for me?). I was going to call our PCMO (Peace Corps Medical Officer) to ask her, but then I thought, how on earth am I going to explain this? It was probably best to not even try, they might just wackyvac (a Peace Corps slang term for someone who is sent home because they have gone ‘crazy’ to some extent, at least in the eyes of the administration) immediately, since it is pretty odd that I knowingly smelled rotten sewage all over my kitchen but didn’t do much about it.  No, I was still here, alive, and in Burkina Faso, if this was going to kill me, it would have happened by now.

So I did not call anyone or tell a single soul in my village, but spent the next few days on edge, constantly worried that I would fall violently ill. The fact that I didn’t is amazing in itself. I considered throwing away all my silverware immediately, but did not feel like buying new ones either (Peace Corps volunteers are known for being incredibly stingy, something I probably took to the max). So I spent the afternoon washing each of them with bleach, over and over. As soon as I had gotten rid of the rat there was no longer a smell in my kitchen, but that made it even harder to clean since I did not really know when to stop. So I didn’t, for a couple of hours at least.

At any rate, that was not the last time I encountered rodents that needed to be killed in my humble abode. However, that was the largest haul – in total it was five. After having seen four of them the day after we put out the poison, I figured that had been plenty and we got them all. I didn’t think much about it in the following two weeks, but given that the dead ones were spread out across the house, it had been highly likely there were others. I had considered the matter done, but that dead rat hadn’t. In fact, he ensured that he would get the last laugh. Unlike his brethren that laid down to die within a small radius of the poison, this punk rat stumbled onward, looked around for a suitable location, climbed up the table and crawled in my utensil jar to die. He wanted to ensure that his rotting carcass would continue haunt me, and that it did. Alas, though I did learn a valuable life lesson. To this day now, whenever my ice tea starts to smell like poop, I immediately stop drinking it and try to figure out the issue, instead of waiting until after the fact (who says you don’t learn any valuable life skills in the Peace Corps?).

THE END (at least I hope – I don’t think any rotting carcasses followed me back home . . . )


The sacrifices we make for such goodness

Rats in the BF (Part II)

Fast forward to two weeks later. I had grown more confident in my surroundings after the demise of the rats, and often even left my mosquito net to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night now. It had been about six weeks in village, and I was starting to settle in. This particular day I had just come back from buying some bread along the main strip, and returned to make a sandwich. Another great prize from my care package was a jar of real American peanut butter, along with a jar of marshmallow fluff.  I was going to enjoy myself and make a fluffer nutter this fine afternoon, in addition to drinking some ice tea from a mix I had bought in my regional capital – middle class Sideradougou life was good.

I went into my kitchen to begin preparing, and noticed a really foul smell. It had been there for sometime actually, but smells come and go in these parts. I hadn’t paid too much attention, assuming it would go away eventually. It was definitely worse today though, but no matter – I had a mission and wasn’t going to let something like a putrid smell distract me.

I went over to the corner of my kitchen were my utensil jar was, and where the smell seemed strongest, and got out a knife to cut open my bread and spread the peanut butter, followed by the fluff (there are competing schools of thought on the right way to do it, but I’m a peanut butter first kind of guy). I grabbed another utensil to prepare my ice tea. As is typical, after stirring I left the spoon in the cup. I took both my sandwich and drink over to a table in my living room so to speak (I actually had a very large house by Burkina Peace Corps standards – as I had replaced a married couple, the village had ensured they received a big house since there was two of them). I began happily eating my sandwich and drinking my ice tea. Something was odd though – before the smell had been confined just to that corner of the kitchen. Now it seemed to have followed me (could it be I? yes probably, but it seemed there was also something in addition to that). My food in particular had a bit of an odor around it, and it was strong whenever I drank my ice tea. No matter, I was eating a fluffer nutter and drinking ice tea – life was good for the moment and I didn’t want a wretched stench to bring me down, I could deal with that later.

So I finished up my meal and decided maybe now was time to figure this all out. I brought my dishes back to my kitchen and started sniffing around, trying to figure out where the smell was coming from. It was definitely the back corner, where on a small table I had my water filter and utensil jar. As I sniffed around I noticed it was actually strongest right by the utensil jar. That’s odd I thought, I wash my utensils all the time, I wonder why they would be stinking so bad?

I sniffed around a bit more just to make sure it was the utensil jar and not something else, but it was definitely strongest there. It literally smelled like poo, something must’ve been rotting there for some reason. But what, metal spoons don’t typically rot do they?  I peered into my utensil jar, but as the married couple prior had left me with more knives, spoons, and forks than I could ever want, it was too crowded to see anything inside but blackness. I poked around a bit, but still nothing. I figured the smell must be something else, but thought I would do my due diligence and take out all the utensils for a better look.

As I was taking them out by the handful I saw something and froze. It could not be, no way! I took out some more and kept looking – then I almost puked. There were no more utensils remaining in my utensil jar, but there was a brown blob, similar to the one I had showered with two weeks ago . . . a dead, rotting rat was sitting in my utensil jar!

to be continued . . .

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If you were a dying rodent, where would you hide? (note: utensil jar on the shelf is already taken)

Rats in the BF (Part I)

This story is positively gross. If you plan on judging me, I suggest you avoid reading it (especially if you have food around you, or plan on consuming some at any point in the next 72 hours).

During the first few weeks at my house in the village of Sideradougou, Burkina Faso, where I lived for two years during my Peace Corps service, I spent a lot of time cleaning the place up. The volunteers before me, a married couple, had left nearly six months before I arrived, and the house had not really been kept up during that gap. It was actually quite in disarray, but at least it gave me a ‘project’ of sorts to concentrate on during the beginning when everything was weird and awkward in village, and I had no idea what I was doing there (not much of that really changed drastically later on anyways).  At any rate, after about a month I had finally gotten the place set up how I had wanted, cleaned it up with some help, made a few modifications, and got some new furniture – it was finally starting to feel like home.

However, there was a small, continuing problem. I had received a care package from my parents in the United States, with a Costco sized bag of Cheez-its as its main prize. I would leave them out on a recently constructed but very uneven shelf that I used as a pantry in my kitchen area. Overnight,  I often heard weird noises and shuffles around my house, but given my deathly fear of bugs at the time, I refused to get out of my impregnable mosquito net fortress (like hiding under the covers as a child, I assumed I was ‘safe’ in there). Yet one morning, I was looking over that beloved box of Cheez-its (as I typically did first thing every day), and saw some scratch marks towards the bottom. Someone, or something, seemed to have been trying to get into them – this was personal now. I told a friend of mine in village about it, and he quickly figure out the issue – some unwanted houseguests had remained even after the intensive clean up, and were now trying to sabotage the one thing making me happy.

In short, there were rats in my house. Not to worry my friend, Dimanche (Sunday in English, as he was born on a Sunday), told me. It was bound to happen and probably will again, but it’s fairly easy to get rid of them with a little poison and a lot of death.  Given closer inspection around my house, the prevailing notion was that instead of just a single newfound roommate, I had in fact a whole family of squatters. Thus we would need to put out a decent amount of poison, probably for multiple nights in a row, to make sure we got all of them.

While I am not a huge fan of genocide, even for rats, I am a huge fan of Cheez-its. If it came down to them versus my prized care package possession, well that was an easy choice. We went out and acquired the poison, placed it strategically right in front of the increasingly crooked pantry shelves (ironically that Dimanche, a builder by trade, had constructed), and mixed it amongst some food (peanut butter, and I even sacrificed a single Cheez-it in order to save the rest) to fool these silly rats into a delicious death. We left it there, and I went into my mosquito net fortress as usual, but with open ears to hopefully hear a sudden stop of all the shuffling in the middle of the night.

The next morning I awoke and went to check the poison area, but I did not have my glasses on. I didn’t see much and assumed it hadn’t worked. Oh well, I went to take a shower – unlike most volunteer houses in Burkina, I had an indoor shower. There was no running water of course, but it just meant there was a small dark room in my house with a tiny pipe leading outside (the type of pipe that various rodents could conceivably easily crawl the other way back in) where I could take a bucket shower indoors (it was the definition of middle class Sideradougou life).

While showering in this 2×2 closet sized room or sorts, I noticed something large near the pipe. I still didn’t have my glasses on and had already begun showering, so I continued, but attempted to stand near the entrance, and away from whatever that motionless thing was. I finished, got dressed, and put on my glasses. When I returned to inspect the brown blob that I had showered with, I was astonished to see that it was a dead rodent. It had worked! I soon walked around my house and saw another dead rodent in the hallway, and two in the kitchen. Never had I been so happy to see dead animals all over the place, my Cheez-its would be safe now! It may have been a bit weird to accidentally ritually cleanse yourself with the dead body of something you had just killed, but hey I was in Burkina Faso now, and a lot of things were a bit weird.

to be continued . . .

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The not-so straight pantry shelf that housed my prized care package possessions