Friday, December 17, 2010

Well, Rats.

One PCV woke up during her homestay with a cockroach on her face. Another PCV has been bitten 6 times by 6 different molokaus – the highly aggressive centipedes that have a (supposedly) horrendously painful bite. Yet another PCV regularly finds scorpions in his shoes.

Knock on wood, I haven’t had any issues with those pests. For the most part, my house has absurdly large but harmless spiders. Some cockroaches. A bunch of mosquitoes. And the occasional hermit crab. (I found one climbing up my curtain. How on earth did he get there?)

About a month ago, I had a new infestation, rats. I saw them in the evening, crawling on my kitchen shelf and countertop. They would scamper in through the doors and run around, not doing much more than pooping on everything.

A friend who often visits me at night would point them out. “Pele, kuma.” Once, Sila decided to go after them. He pulled out my shelf from the wall and planned to scare them my way so that I could get them. Unfortunately, I didn’t have rat-killing weapons. All I had were hard plastic flippers. It didn’t much matter though, because when he scared out the rats and they ran at me, I threw up my hands, screamed, and jumped around.

For a few weeks they came in and seemed to enjoy hanging out in my kitchen, eating whatever I didn’t happen to wrap up. But then they started getting bold. Late at night, they would bang around in the oven, they would gnaw and scratch through a thick plastic flour container, and they would come into my bedroom and chew holes in any low-hanging clothing. I was getting fed up. From Ha’ano, however, there wasn’t much I could do about it. There aren’t rat traps, rat poison, or sticky traps in the store. So I just got more frustrated and less sleep as they noisily took over my kitchen.

Juleigh brought me rat traps from Pangai. Sila set them up. We set a little peanut butter on them, but the next morning, the traps were unsnapped and peanut butter was gone. For the next few nights, Sila set the traps with different assortments of food – bread, cheese, tomatoes – but every morning the food was gone with no rat body. We were just offering the rats a midnight snack.

One night I woke up to the sound of relentless scratching. It was about 2:30 am, so the electricity was out, and I had to explore with a lantern. All I could do was scare away the rats and go back to bed with ear plugs, but they were so loud that I got up again with more resolve to do something. I tried to move the trap to where the rats were running with the hopes that they would accidentally step on it. Instead, I accidentally snapped my thumb in the trap.

That was a low point. Here I was, on a remote island, alone with the rats. And there was absolutely nothing I could do about them. I couldn’t just go to the store to buy anything to kill the rats. I didn’t get a neighbor’s cat to catch them for fear that a cat trapped in a strange house overnight would do just as much damage as the rats. I had to wait for someone to help me.

For over a week I put up with the incessant scratch-scratching at night a surprise in the morning to see what the rats had destroyed, and then Todd brought leftover rat poison from his own most recent infestation.

Within two days, all was well with the world. The days were sunny again, and, even better, the nights were quiet. I’ve left out the poison since that first infestation. I’ll sometimes see evidence that they visited in the night, and one morning I found a moribund mouse on my kitchen floor. And now, for any future rodent infestations, I’m ready, and I have more in my artillery than snorkel flippers.

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