Bugger Off, Pests

Gina writes:

A few insignificant events in the past few weeks have caused Corey and I to say more than a few times, "We wouldn't have done that in the U.S.!" I'm talking about our relationship with pests -- cockroaches, mice, ants, and other unwelcome but ever-present mini-beasts. With the hottest months of the year behind us and rainy season just about to rear its ugly head, insects and rodents and pests of pretty much every type are hanging out in our wonderfully ventilated (and not sealed from the outdoors) home.

First, there are the mice and chipmunks. Granted, we haven't seen a mouse in months and the chipmunk is really more cute than pesky, but it's worth it to say that our reaction to their presence is decidedly lackadaisical. "Um...Corey? There's the chipmunk again...yeah, just ran into the kitchen. Sure, we can wait until the Simpsons finishes." When it suits us, chase it out, pack the rags into the hole a little tighter, return to our awesome lives.

The war against the crawlies -- ants and cockroaches -- has pretty much been won. After 20 months of drawing pastel green anti-ant chalk lines (that stuff really works!) in creative patterns wherever we found ant armies boldly marching, being very vigilant about quickly washing dishes that had greasy or sugary residue, and keeping the extra-strength HIT on hand for the surprise two-inch monsters, we don't have much of a problem...for Indian standards. About once a week, we find a two-inch cockroach and we have cockroach babies skittering over our kitchen counters, but their presence is just part of being in India and doesn't seem gross or unclean to us anymore. And this past weekend, the loaf of bread that we had purchased was sold with a complementary colony of ants, which I didn't realize until I was about to make some toast. Instead of throwing out the whole loaf, I toasted the pieces on the skillet and calmly picked the ants off the bread as they crawled to the surface to get away from the heat! The rest of the loaf, however, we did give to the neighborhood dogs.

The war against the flying fiends -- mosquitos and flies -- however, will never be won. Despite mosquito nets covering the windows (and our bed of course), plug-in mosquito repellent, constantly burning mosquito coils, mosquito repellent cream and/or spray for sitting outside or in the SPREAD office after 6 p.m., long sleeves and pants if it's not too hot, and fans (if the power isn't out), the mosquitos still get us. No, we have not "gotten used to" the number of mosquitos in Koraput. The flies are another problem that I never thought about before coming to India. Tiny tiny mango flies plague us from April to June (mango season) by hanging out right in front of our eyes. We try to ignore them, but are forced to constantly wave them away, since the alternative is that they land right on our eyeballs...gross!

When it comes to miscellaneous bugs in dry food -- weevils in the flour, unknowns in dried chickpeas or nuts -- we've reached a truce. Flour bugs aren't really an issue since we decided to buy the prepackaged flour instead of bulk. Almost every time we buy chickpeas, there are bugs lodged inside some of the kernels. Some bugs float to the surface when the peas are soaked; for the others, we pick through the chickpeas handful by handful and toss the ones with a little visible black spot (sometimes moving, sometimes not). They go in the pressure cooker anyway, so who cares, right? (To our six visitors from the U.S., don't worry, we picked out all the bugs before feeding you!)

The last pest seems to be kind of a stretch, but it's one that we deal with every single day -- bacteria! We boil and filter every single drop of water that we drink, to destroy the bacteria; this is something I will definitely not miss after returning to the U.S.! As for milk and yogurt, we consume a lot of each, but have to be careful to smell and/or taste it before consuming it, since there is a good chance that it's spoiled, sometimes even before we open it. Both milk and yogurt are sold in 1/2 litre bags, which is annoying at times, but necessary since a 1/2 litre bag will not last more than 3 days in the winter and 1-2 in the summer. In the U.S., the milk is considered to be either spoiled or not. Here in India, we've learned that there are varying degrees of "spoilage" and that, sometimes, slightly spoiled milk on cereal wins out over no breakfast or running out in the morning to buy more milk! And last weekend, Corey made a delicious fruit salad with pineapple, mango, banana, and yogurt. The next day, it was definitely tangier than it was the first time...we ate it anyway, not wanting to waste the fruit!

As rainy season begins, we have one more "pest" to look forward to -- mold. Soon, our clothes and sheets and mattresses and well...everything...will need to be regularly aired out to avoid white hairy mold like we talked about in this entry last year. Oh well, bring it on, I found bleach in the market!

Now excuse me while I go swat at the mosquitos starting to swarm...