Moving to a new house or accomodations is stressful even if the move isn’t “permanent” or long-lasting. Yesterday we moved from our uncomfortable house with the hard furniture in Alajuela to a new, much cheaper house in Atenas with soft, but smelly furniture. Settling in is always an ordeal and this is especially true for places in the world where there is no winter. No winter means that there are lots of insects of all different varieties and this can make it hard to sleep or relax, especially the first night. No winter means humidity and heat, which causes soft things like furniture or pillows to take on an odor. And no winter usually means malaria and things like dengue fever as well.
Places that are warm all year are wonderful, but making peace with the insects inhabiting the different homes here has been a challenge. In our last house, John fought a mighty battle against tiny ants that seemed harmless, but took up residency even in my computer keyboard (they’d start to scurry when I began typing). In this house, there is a new variety of insects that coexist with us. We can try to get rid of them, but apparently it’s a losing battle, in some cases more than others.
John told me this morning, for example, that if a troop of army ants invade your home in Costa Rica that you’re supposed to just leave for the day and let them have their way with the place. We were jogging up a hill that was nearly vertical when he shared this with me. We were about mid-hill and both of us wear nearly out of breath so there was a profound 2 to 3 minute silence that followed wherein I was able to really contemplate army ants and let that whole idea sink in. A part of me disbelieved what he was saying and wanted to protest…that’s total bullshit, I would have said, but I was too winded.
When the ground leveled out, he told me that the army ants come into your house and eat all the other insects and then just leave. They’re considered a helpful pest, apparently. I am in denial that an encounter with army ants could happen to me. Wouldn’t someone warn us about this? I also thought that I would never experience a 7.9 earthquake and live to tell the tale. Army ants are a possibility. Last night John and I fought off about 100 half inch ants that were trying to make a path through our new bedroom. Maybe 100,000 army ants and a day out of the house are just what we need.
There was also some kind of insect in our soft furnishings. I could feel them crawling on me. I couldn’t see them. But every
now and then, one of them would bite me. John had a similar experience. This gave me the heebie-jeebies right before bedtime and I had to really wrestle with my emotions when it was time to go for it and actually fall asleep. I DEETed myself and Lydian heavily and hoped for the best. John had even deeper emotional turmoil. He stayed up until 2:00 AM researching Costa Rican bugs and insects after discovering a wealth of very small larval bugs that were connected to tiny cocoons on our wall. He captured one and saved it in a jar for me to look at in the morning. He held it up and pointed at it. A tiny white and orange worm pushed out of a cocoon in one direction and then another. His phobia regarding insects in the home drove him to do research in the wee hours of the morning which was how he found the information about the army ants.
Until I have slept in my new bed and sat in my new chairs and showered in the new shower, my new home is not all that homey. Unless the bedding and the furnishings are absolutely pristine I cannot will myself to believe that no one has ever vomited or had sex on my mattress. Last night, I fancied that my new pillow smelled like B.O. I imagined some big fat dude who hadn’t showered in two days sleeping in the bed with my pillow tucked deep inside his sweaty hairy arm pit.
I imagined waking in the night covered head to toe in the half inch ants, or perhaps with a giant Costa Rican spider on my face. You don’t know what’s going to happen in a new house in the middle of the night. I know that the ceiling over my bed leaks when it rains really hard here (every day?). But last night, I made it through the darkness without a single living nightmare. Today, I am calmer about the new surroundings. Though I may need to throw plastic and a large blanket over the smelly couch and do extermination on the soft chair, I think I’ll be able to cope. Indeed, in a few days, I’ll probably start to feel like this new place is Home, despite the other things living (besides John and Lydian) inside the house with me.
A person has to choose their battles and apparently, humans who try to fight won’t win against army ants, but army ants can win against other insects that will only recede very reluctantly for humans under threat of bug spray. Making peace or coming to some sort of truce with the creatures that can burrow into my skin or bite me here in Costa Rica is not coming easily to me, but it is the first and most important task at hand. Then I can deodorize soft smelly things and feel like I have symbolically achieved control over my small portion of the planet.
Until the neighbor’s dog starts barking…