The next day, I bought Raid.

I’ve been quite lucky on the pest front since I moved to the Philippines. Sure, there was a three month period where I was rinsing tiny ants off of my toothbrush every morning, but I’ve never had to deal with rats chewing on my clothes or cockroaches crawling up the drain during my showers like some of my friends here.

Last week, though, we had an Incident.

It was nearly 10 pm, so getting on towards bedtime for those of us living in the tropics who are expected to get up with the sun. I was casually surfing the web, as is my MO, when I was roused by hysterical shrieks from Roommate. I went to investigate.

Friends, an enormous cockroach had found its way into her bedroom. I mean it was freaking huge.

Now, I like to think of myself as pretty tough. I’m from Colorado, pioneer spirit and all that. Just earlier that night I’d made a joke about saving Roommate–who is sort of a sensitive, feminine type–from bugs. How I ate my words!

It wouldn’t come down to a reasonable height for crushing, that was the problem. It sat up there, seven feet in the air. You guys, cockroaches in the Philippines fly. And they also bite. So neither of us wanted to risk the terrible angle for crushing and suddenly find ourselves with a face full of pure biting buzzing EVIL.

The worst thing was, while it sat, it groomed itself. It would take one of its long, long antennae and run it slowly through its mouth, and then the other. No insect should be capable of such articulated movement.

I did not shriek, but that is about the most I can say about the way I acquitted myself.

Anyway, we stalked it for over an hour, and finally it landed on the floor and Roommate crushed it with a large casserole pan. Well, she half-crushed it. She crushed its back half into a mealy pulp. Its front half remained intact.

To save my sense of self-worth and salvage my pride at not really helping, I swooped in with a broom to clean up. I scraped the back half of the cockroach outside and washed the pan, and then I swept up the front half into a box I had lying around.

It was past our bedtimes at that point. We went to bed, and Roommate slept much sounder for having disposed of the cockroach.

In the morning I woke up with some unrelated–uh, we’ll call it intestinal difficulties and leave it at that–and hauled my ass miserably into the kitchen.

The counter was covered in ants. COVERED.

You know what I forgot to throw away? What I left on the counter overnight?

Did you further know that ants are attracted to protein as well as sugar? And that cockroaches are pretty much composed of protein?

This is me, standing in the middle of the kitchen, pre-coffee, one hand holding a box filled with ants swarming the front half of a cockroach, the other grasping my stomach, wondering what the hell to do with any of this.


Gotta get me some movie star shades

Hello, Blog! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been immersed in the business of living in the Philippines. It’s pretty weird, living here. In some ways, my life is very much the same as it is in the US. I have Internet in my home now, so I’ve resumed Life As Normal, by which I mean I spend most of my free time talking to the People Inside My Computer. I don’t know what made me think I’d magically stop doing that after joining the Peace Corps, but I was wrong!

On the other hand, when I do leave the house, I’m freaking movie star, you guys.

Grocery shopping is like being in the US, only cooler, because when I go into the market, the vendors who sell me my vegetables say things like, “Yes, Sexy? What is it?” Why yes I AM sexy, thanks for noticing!

Once I walked past a house, minding my own business, and heard a, “WOW!” from the darkened interior. In seconds, half a dozen children appear peering through the bars.

You guys. I merited a WOW. It was most definitely in all caps, just like that.

But the best part is the little neighborhood I pass through on my walk to work. Let’s call it Sesame St. The Sesame St. crowd is my FAVORITE. Most houses in the Philippines have high walls and gates, to keep people from stealing the things inside, but the residents of Sesame St. are on the poorer side. Maybe they don’t have anything worth stealing.

Whatever the case, their huts are open right out into a dirt compound, and the street. And that means that instead of being shut up behind gates, the kids play out in the street.

The kids think I’m great.

At first, they mostly wanted to know my name. Since they have various levels of ability in various languages (at least three, I’m guessing, Ilokano, Tagalog, and English), the conversations tended to go like this.

Kid: “Anong pangalan mo?”

Me, grinning: “Ako si Emma.”

Kid, remembering the one phrase he knows in English: “What’s your name?”

Me: “Uh . . . still Emma.”

Oddly enough, my name stays the same no matter what language I’m speaking. WEIRD.

Some of the Sesame St. kids - charmers, right?

We had this exchange twice a day, when I walked to school and when I walked home. Eventually I just started answering, “Alam mo!” You know!

The kids must have spread the word, because now sometimes when I’m walking down Sesame St., people call, “Ate Emma!” (‘Ate’ is like ‘big sister’. You use it for females older than you.)

And that’s the downside of this unexpected stardom. See, I’ve managed to learn the names of two of Sesame St. kids. I still don’t know the names of any of the adults, or the rest of the kids. It feels a little unfair. After all, there’s only one of me, and I did tell them my name four times a day in multiple languages for several weeks.

But I didn’t ask to be a star. All I wanted was to be a neighbor, and neighbors should learn each other’s names.

Maybe I’ll start with the folks at the canteen who are always so curious about what I’m up to. Like the time I was walking home with a gallon of white vinegar in one hand. A GALLON, guys. SO much vinegar, they stopped measuring it in liters.

And if you thought they were curious about that, imagine what they thought about me walking down Sesame St. with my male best friend. But that’s a story for another post.