Sunday, April 21, 2013

Bats, Rats, and a Bed

This boat carried over 25 people and their gear!
My room, the storeroom, and the kitchen.
“All of you will be sleeping here in this building, except for the teacher.  He will be sleeping in a room next to the kitchen,” our host was explaining.

After a two hour boat ride on a vessel I thought might sink, I had arrived on a remote island in Lake Victoria with a group of students from RVA.  We were to be there for a couple of nights doing a service project.

“Sweet,” was my first thought.  On an island with no running water or electricity, a private room next to a kitchen was sounding pretty good.

Little did I know.

The local pastor led me to another building that housed the kitchen, a storeroom, and a room where they had set up a bed for me.  When he opened the door, a wave of heat rolled out of the room.
The heaters (I mean stoves).
“It can get a little hot in here,” he said.  He should know.  He used to live in this room with his family.  The walls didn’t go all the way to the ceiling, so when the cooks have been using the coal burning stove in the kitchen, the heat flows into this room.  It may have been hot, but at least it smelled good, I thought, and I got ready for bed being sure to snugly tuck in the mosquito net.

Swoosh, swoosh, swoosh.

A few of my bat friends.
As I lay there sweating, I heard the swooshing of bats flying around in the room.  They had come out of the rafters above and were flying around having their evening meal.  I felt good about the development because I knew we were in a malaria area and I figured the fewer the mosquitos, the better.

Then came the rats.  They were crawling out of the walls, scurrying around on top of the walls to the storeroom, then dropping down into the storeroom for supper.  I have no idea how many of them there were, but it sure sounded like a lot.  I had my flashlight with me, but I decided it would be better for me not to look.

The rats dinning room.

WOOSH, SQUEAK, Squeak, squeak.

I heard a noise that instantly took me back to my 9th grade science class.  A missionary kid was dangling a frantic rat by his tail with one hand and holding the tail of his pet python with the other.  The python was trying hard to get to the rat but his slithering got him nowhere since he was being held by his tail.  Then the kid let go of the snake’s tail and I heard:

WOOSH, SQUEAK, Squeak, squeak.

Each successive squeak of the rat got softer as the snake squeezed the life out of him.

Lying on the bed that night, I tried to put a positive spin on things.  “At least there is one less rat,” I thought.

The next day I was talking with the pastor and I brought up the rats. 

“Ah, yes.  The rats,” he said.  “They live in the walls.  We were wondering how the teacher would be with the rats.”

“Not a problem,” I said.  I did not want to complain since I knew he used to live in that room with the rats and his family.

Later in the day I overheard the pastor talking to the people in the kitchen.

“The teacher is fine with the rats,” he said proudly.  “He is used to rats.”

I felt no need to correct the misunderstanding.  Their life on the island involved rats and there seemed to be an appreciation that I was OK with that.

I did, however, move my bed over a few feet the next night so that the bat droppings fell onto the floor and not my bed . . .

Bat droppings on my bedroom floor.
It should be noted that when you ask students about the highlight of the trip to Uganda, many of them will say that it was the trip to the island.  It was the highlight of the trip for me as well.  Any discomfort with the sleeping arrangements paled in comparison to the privilege it was to be hosted by the missionaries on the island and to be able to see firsthand the work that is going on there.  The experiences that take me the farthest out of my comfort zone are often the experiences that bring me the most comfort. 


Mama of 5 said...

You are tough! Yikes!! I don't think I would have slept a wink.

Sparrow said...

I have read your blog for a few years now and love all the updates. My only comment...more please! Love hearing about your new digs.

AfriBats said...

Would you add your bat photo as a citizen-science observation to the AfriBats project on iNaturalist?:

AfriBats will use your observations to better understand bat distributions and help protect bats in Africa.

Please locate your picture on the map as precisely as possible to maximise the scientific value of your records.

Many thanks!

CrazyD said...

Hi AfriBats - I just added my bat observation to the site. Happy to help out with the project!

AfriBats said...

Many thanks! On iNat, please click on "Agree" next to my identification if you're happy with it, or add a new identification as "bats".

CrazyD said...

I think I will click "agree" since I don't know much about bats. :-)