30 March 2014


While my friends and family in the U.S.’s Midwest struggle to tell the difference between winter and spring, my days in PNG have been filled with hot temperatures, glorious sunlight and some minor breezes. It feels like summer.

What reminds you of summer? The blue satin skies accessorized with a few puffy white clouds opposite the brilliant green blazes that rise from the ground beneath you as you lie on a smooth blanket, feet bare, and breathe in the wonder that is nature perhaps? For a few minutes you stay there, back against the ground, completely relaxed, eyes closed just embracing the natural world, forgetting all about life’s distractions, social media updates, news crises, family demands, work encumbrances, just breathing. And then, you feel a little something on your appendages.

Is the wind rustling your arm hair? Is that perhaps a bit of dust that just plopped on your leg? Intrigued but not yet annoyed, telling yourself it’s nothing, you stay turned off from the other world and continue engaging in the present. Until the present bites you.

Suddenly aroused, you find yourself among natures beasts – ants, gnats, flying bugs that want nothing but to come as close as possible to your face. Bugs have suddenly reminded you that you cannot be alone in nature. Neither can we be alone in our house.

When Paul returned to PNG in January, he told me about a few buggy annoyances he experienced before I made my way back to our foreign home. He returned to find tiny bugs in our dry goods. My fault – I completely forgot to toss or freeze the flours and grains we had in our cupboards. The greater of the weevils had taken over our kitchen. In one swift effort, Paul threw away our contaminated goods and cleaned the cupboards.

He also told me about some special visitors he received at 7 p.m. every evening – some sort of light-colored flying bugs that made their way in from who knew where and just swarmed the inside of the apartment. He figured out that they were coming in from behind our living room’s wall-mounted air conditioning unit and had maintenance spray the problem away.

The extermination worked for a while and I returned in early February to a standard tiny, white apartment with a red leather loveseat. Things were fine until a few weeks ago when those buggy buggers came back.

At 7 p.m., we started to notice a few little guys flying around our faces. Paul grabbed a towel and started swatting. He figured out that if he hit them once, he either killed them or knocked off their wings and left them stunned on the floor. We also quickly discovered their attraction to lights so we cleverly switched off the main lights, drawing them into one target battle zone.

Sometimes I helped; other times I felt I was doing absolutely no good. They would come one night, skip the following night, and then come back the third. We had an ant/mosquito Raid-type spray can under the sink, so Paul sprayed around the only exterior door, not sure if that was where they were making their entry.

Once the swatting and spraying was complete, our janitor’s broom, which is actually a cotton dust mop, came out and cleaned up the mess. We kept the door closed after sunset and turned off our outside light at night, hoping that would remedy the issue. The bugs stopped for a week, maybe a little longer.

The day we got back from Brisbane, I arrived before Paul. I had been in the apartment for a while, walking around in my bare feet and doing whatever it was I needed to do. At one point I sat on one of our too-tall kitchen stools and then hopped off. I don’t know how I missed stepping on the dead cockroach in between the two stools but when I saw it I had a brief, OMG! moment, jumped back and assessed the situation.

God has been working with me on my fear of bugs. Slowly, very slowly, I have become less freaked out. My peace is in the Lord; my trust is in the Lord. Whom then shall I fear? Greater is He that is in me than the bugs that are in this world. This is what I keep telling myself. It’s working.

I was only freaked out for a second or two and while I thought about how much better it would have been to have Paul do something with the carcass, I realized he wasn’t there. Secondly, the thing was dead so obviously our preventative measures are still working though where this guy came from I had no idea. Third, he was dead so he wasn’t moving so why did I need to be freaked out? I just needed to get him out of my sight. So I did.

I grabbed the janitor’s broom/dust mop with it’s half-meter width and fluffy cloth head on a swivel, plopped it on top of the guy and chucked him out the front door into the bush. I was then on live-cockroach alert for days – the kind where any shadow appears to be the bad guy and then I realize there is nothing actually moving and that my house is in fact very clean. There have been no sightings – dead or alive – since.

Ants are few and far between but they like to come in from the door that is not properly sealed and from the windows which apparently are the same. We sometimes find them crawling toward or around our kitchen cabinet that acts as the dry-goods pantry and we use our ant killer and our fingers to destroy them.

Last week I decided to face off with a spider. It was not bugging me so I decided that I might let it live. If I let it live, it would continue living in my house. It could eat the annoying bugs but it could also drive me crazy knowing that there is a beastly spider living next to my microwave. Paper towel in hand, I decided to make my move. I was not intent on killing, just moving my prey to the garbage can and then to the outside world.

With one weak effort, I gracefully pushed my hand toward the wall. The thing jumped at the site of the large white object coming toward it and then moved higher onto the wall. “O.K. You want to play it that way?” Yes, I spoke to him. “Alright, you win. You can stay.”

I left it alone, continued on eating my lunch and casually keeping an eye on the continually moving spider that made its way from the side of my microwave, up the wall, over the laundry area, eventually hovering over the kitchen sink. Paul saw the spider and I explained my failed attempt. I didn’t have enough will to kill the thing just because I didn’t exactly like the sight of him in my house so I told Paul I decided he could stay. Paul was fine on my humaneness but he wasn’t so keen on the spider-in-the-house plan so he grabbed a glass and trapped the spider against the wall.

“Uh huh,” I said. “Now what are you going to do?” The glass was against the wall high enough that Paul was on his toes, reaching over the sink, and he had nothing to put flush against the rim. I handed him a towel and as he moved the glass, the spider inside jumped. Paul was able to successfully trap and release said spider and gave him a new home in the bush outside.

Last week we were once again met by our now arch enemies, the flying nighttime bandits. Paul and I were in bed at 11 p.m. reading our tablets and we thought we caught a glimpse of something. I was on the phone at the time and needed to explain the sound of a whipping towel and clapping sounds when the towel hit the ceiling or the floor.

Paul locked me in the bedroom as he assumed battle mode in the living room. I heard him banging for 20 minutes. “Are you O.K. in there?”

“Yeah, they are just everywhere. There are probably a hundred of them!”

An hour after he began, Paul was declared victorious and had successfully killed his bounty. This was what a portion of the battlefield looked like when he finished:

That photo was immediately sent to the head of maintenance and the compound’s second-in-command. Read that as: Paul meant business.

Paul sent a kinder version of this message: Listen, we have had ants, cockroaches, spiders and countless flying bugs that swarm our home nearly every evening. The maintenance team has been great at spraying when we ask but obviously what they’re doing isn’t working so please let me know when an exterminator will be here. And he attached the photo.

The next day a maintenance tech came in to spray around the air conditioner. “No,” Paul tried to explain to a man whose first language is not English. “You need to take the unit off the wall. There is a hole in the wall behind. Must spray behind.”

It took a little while but the guy got the gist and did as Paul asked. Paul was pleased with the turnout, the guy finished and we were happy. Until those damn bugs came back. Paul said that time they were coming from our kitchen island that is really a peninsula because it sticks out of one wall. Again, the area is neither sealed properly nor installed flush because standards are different in the third world so we have some holes.

Again Paul asked for the exterminator. Late last week, three amazing men in masks arrived at our apartment, spraying inside and out. We were instructed to remove every item from every cabinet and Paul showed them the areas requiring specific attention: the exterior door, the two windows, the island, the area behind the air con unit and the cabinets. These guys sprayed everywhere.

Noticing the masks dangling from the men’s necks, we knew we needed to vacate so we headed down the hill for a little more than an hour. When we returned, it was almost like we were moving out of our apartment.

Did I mention I had recently gone to the store? We had quite a bit of stuff.

I promise our house doesn't usually look like this.

Our previously-concealed kitchen items were strewn all over the living room and kitchen area on four separate desk or countertops. The floors, cabinets and baseboards were covered in bug spray residue. If ever there was an evening for spring cleaning, that was the evening.

Paul started to dial housekeeping at 4:30 so that someone could come up and mop the floors but I immediately pressed my finger to the hook and halted the call. While my husband will have the housekeeper do anything and everything for him, even at the end of the work day, I am not a fan of having people do for me what I am quite capable of doing myself.

Having someone do deep or non-traditional cleaning once a week is fine by me – especially when I do not have the tools or the time to do so (obviously I have the time now), but I am not about to call someone who has just completed a day’s work – one of six in the week – to mop my floor while I sit by and watch.

When Paul and I got back to the apartment, we began wiping down the cupboards and putting away the goods. I continued cleaning organizing the reachable surfaces while Paul filled the bucket and mopped the floor. We finished in roughly the same time, finishing a bigger task than we both originally conceptualized.

I enjoyed the opportunity to scrub down and re-reorganize my kitchen. I had just reorganized one area a week before but that method did not solve all of my issues so I was definitely ready to give it another go. Oh, and those annoying flying bugs that Paul thought were living in our walls? They were. Flying termites. Yes, flying termites. They are a big problem around these parts. Good riddance.

UPDATE: We do not have air-tight plastic, glass or stainless containers for our dry goods. I did not want to buy any since we have some in storage. I do keep all of the dry goods in ziplock bags and place grains, flours and rice in the freezer for a bit before putting them on the shelves. This is something I have done in the past and it has worked very well. I knew to throw away the cupboard goods before we left for 2+ months but I forgot. No issues since. 

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