As the rainy season approaches here in Oaxaca, I've been comparing my apartment (pictured above -- isn't the garden pretty?) to Noah's Arc.
There are lots of, um, species, aboard.
They come inside to escape the torrential rains outside.
And they travel in pairs.
But let me make some clarifications. The aforementioned species aren't the of the cute, cuddly, illustrated Bible variety -- they're mostly larger-than-life cockroaches, nightmare-inducing spiders and large quantities of ants. And they're not just in my apartment to escape the rain. They've been kicking it there for the past 10 months -- for as long as I've been there (I've blogged on their presence before. Their numbers seem to be increasing with the rain factor). And while the cockroaches and spiders seem to travel in pairs, the ants -- oh, those damn ants -- like to hang out in the hundreds.
Hundreds. No lie. But I'll get to that in a minute.
That pretty little garden in front of my apartment (again, see the picture) is a breeding ground for all things creepy crawly. The problem is that the insects don't actually stay there --they make their way into my apartment via the doors and windows on the first floor. And they usually stay on the first floor. This is a double-edged sword because it means that there have been several, um, surprise encounters with insects in my ground-level kitchen and bathroom. But the good news is that my second-level bedroom is usually bug-free.
So I proceed with caution when I'm downstairs. I'm afraid of a run-in with the seven-legged spider that taunts me from my ceiling, or with the cockroaches that like to hang out behind my bathroom door. Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. (This, from a girl who enthusiastically hunted bugs n' butterflies during her youth. A girl who proudly co-won The Biggest Bug in Riverton Contest at age seven. What have I become?)
I'm cockier when I'm upstairs. There's never any bugs. I prance around like I own the place (I may pay the rent, but I certainly don't "own" my apartment -- the wildlife calls all the shots).
This was my mindset when I opened the bottom drawer of the dresser in my usually-bug-free bedroom a couple of days ago. I wanted to pull out a pair of sweatpants to go for a jog. I've painted my dresser a cheery yellow. (I like the color. It goes well with the lime green of my interior walls and the very subdued peach of the exterior. Read: sarcasm). But that day, that yellow hue contrasted eerily with what was inside the drawer...
...a seething black mass of ants. Hundreds and hundreds of ants. Crawling all over my pants.
I literally had ants in my pants. (My grandmother pointed this out when I was recounting this disturbing story to her on the phone over the weekend.)
I didn't know how to react. I was too shocked to scream. So I pulled out the entire drawer and threw it out on the balcony outside my bedroom. Pants and shorts and neighbors be damned. I then ran down the stairs and out of my apartment.
OK. I overreacted a little bit.
I steered clear of my apartment for several hours. With a clearer mind, I thought through what would have been smarter reaction scenarios, like calmly carrying the drawer downstairs to the garden, away from my bedroom, and letting the critters crawl out freely. But I didn't do that. And, because I'd overreacted, I'd likely return home to a bedroom full of ants. D'oh!
When I finally did make it back to my apartment, I crept up the stairs to my bedroom. I gingerly flicked on the lights, expecting to see my walls teeming with tiny black ants. But my bedroom was empty.
I carefully opened the door to my balcony, again, expecting to find dark masses crawling all over the floor. No ants.
I hesitantly stepped out on the balcony, reached down to pick up one of the many pairs of pants scattered all over the floor, and shook them. No ants.
I picked up the discarded drawer. No ants.
So I stuffed ALL of my pants into three big plastic bags and dropped them off at the laundry mat the next morning. Eight kilos of clothes. Quite the laundry bill. The clerk looked at the pile of pants with a raised eyebrow. I tried to explain myself, but somehow, the "ants in my pants" idiom kind of got lost in translation...