As much as I adore my cats, there are many instances in which being accustomed to feline friends has gotten me into trouble—exuding poufs of cat fur everywhere I went, regardless of how much I tried to de-fur my clothes, when I was living in the States for instance.
Even now, though I am incredibly far from my furbabies at the moment, my familiarity with kitty companions is getting me into trouble. You see, when you are used to sharing your living space with cats, you take it for granted that they make noise—you don’t even think twice when you hear the sound of something walking around or knocking things over while you are sleeping. It seems only natural, right?
Funny thing about that time when you are almost asleep, or have briefly awakened in the middle of the night: you sometimes forget where you are. For instance, if you spent your first 26 years in America, in houses and apartments with cats, and suddenly find yourself in the middle of Africa, in a cement room with holes in the wall. (I trust that at this point you can see where this story is going, but humor me.)
Last night was my first night in my site, in the house where I will be spending the net two years. I awoke several times to the sound of something scuttling around. Thinking it was my cat, I was actually slightly comforted (I miss my kitties :o), and simply fell back asleep. It was not until the next morning that it occurred to me that seeing as I have no pets here in Botswana, it was, clearly, not my cat. Now, I have no idea what was scurrying about in my room last night, but, I will not mince words: it was either large or noisy enough to give a well-seasoned cat person the impression that it was a cat. Incidentally, I’m writing this in the dark, and just heard the noise again. I could turn on my headlamp to try to see if I could identify the source of this noise, but, you know, I think I’m going to stick to ignorance on this one. Unless I hear a slithering-sort of sound…then I just might emit a shriek loud enough for even y’all in the states to hear… Ga ke rata dinoga!!
In a related note, I have a new favorite thing: my mosquito net. It protects me from the army of mosquitoes (and apparently other creatures) that invade my room through the holes in my cement walls every night. It is covered in some kind of crazy insecticide that creates a toxic shield of doom outside, and a sanctuary of safety and itch-free territory within. I can’t help but feel a pang of irony when I douse the area immediately surrounding the organic bedsheets (which I painstakingly carted here from the States) with bug spray, and admittedly, it is a bit of a pain to have to keep each and every inch of my mosquito net’s perimeter tucked between my mattress and box spring and slide in and out of my bed through a small opening which much be immediately sealed. But words cannot express the joy that lies within my slightly toxic, yet totally bug-free enclave. Plus, the one downside to being in the Delta is that malaria is fairly prevalent here, and even though the Peace Corps requires us to take malaria prophalaxys, the medication does not prevent malaria; it only minimize the symptoms. And I’ve been in the hospital once already. I have no intention of returning. Or of being eaten by bugs or a mysterious creature. So, toxic mosquito net, welcome to my life…I think we will be very happy together.