Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Mosquitoes and Cockroaches

Many good things have happened during the last three weeks but as good news rarely makes the front pages, this post is dedicated to bad experiences.

Now, I want to talk about mosquitoes. These creatures are the scourge of people all over the world as many of you will know from first hand experience. In certain countries, a bite from these little buggers can result in death but in Dhaka they do not carry malaria or any other major disease. Still, they are annoying and ultimately the damage they inflict is more psychological than physical. I have been bitten probably on average five times a day – my roommate Kevin can boast of double figures and bites twice the size but even he has not succumbed to the madness I experienced last night.

To fully understand this madness I need to talk about another creature which roams these parts at night: cockroaches. I grew up in the countryside, closer to a rather large mountain than a town - I’ve come across the odd rat, worked with farmers, been to slaughter houses, done a bit of boning and served my time in a chicken factory yet nothing I have experienced has enabled me to overcome a fear of large bugs of a black colour. I remember coming home from school once and finding around 8 large beetles barely moving outside the back door to our house; eyes closed I think I jumped over them on fear induced adrenalin. I am therefore fully aware that it is absolutely ridiculous to be afraid of insects which can do absolutely no harm to me. This is why I thought my flatmate Judy was crazy when she moved her entire chest of drawers out of her room because she believed there was a cockroach inside…oh but how wrong I was.

Last night I went to bed feeling pretty damn uncomfortable – it was a really humid evening and a tiring day, i.e. eating too many sugar, banana and nutella pancakes. To drown out the beautiful noises which a dozing Kevin makes with his nostrils, I prepared myself for sleep to the sound of Bon Iver (no not Bon Jovi). Yet I could sense something was wrong. I knew that because I had left my nets up that evening that the mozzies were more than likely inside my now hanging bad-net. So as I dozed I subconsciously slapped any area of my body where I felt a tingle – more often than not I was just slapping at nothing but of course within an hour I could feel at least five new bites; two of which were on my hands. Suddenly however I got one, smack, dead…so that’s it, end of story I can now sleep in peace – I wish!

About two hours later, I was awake again as I could feel a mozzie on my chest, then later again on my leg. As it happened Kevin must have woken himself with his snoring and we exchanged words about how bad the mozzies were…two minutes later I was on my feet going reasonably berserk…the mozzie I was trying to kill was actually an enormous cockroach…a horrible blackey red colour over an inch long, he was clearly lost and in need of directions. After receiving some advice and calming words from the snorer, I went to the kitchen in search of an instrument with which to remove the beast from my mosquito net! On return I came across the deadly creature’s sister but sensing my distress she diplomatically waddled under Judy’s door. Turning on the light in the room, I prepared myself psychologically for what was to come but to my disbelief the cockroach had disappeared….where to I wasn’t sure. Coward like, I nervously pulled off and shook the duvet, sheet, pillow and mozzie net in a frenzy…still nowhere to be seen. About 15 minutes later I was back in bed trying to drown out the sound of my own fear but sadly my MP3player was on strike. Eventually I guess my fear succeeded in tiring me out and I drifted off.

There is no more to add to this story thankfully but I hope that by sharing it with you, you will be able to understand the massive challenges facing volunteers. Do I feel stronger for my experience? No, in fact I know that if the beast returns tonight I will meet him with the same hysteria, once again wake my roommate and, embarrassed, wonder what, if someone so big is shitting it when he meets something so small, must the poor ole cockroach be going through as he realizes I’ve lost it.

Best that we avoid eachother though and tonight would be a good time to start.


  1. Michael,

    Clearly you would have benefited from a summer in New York.
    Last year, I heard some people say that the McManus lad is going to go far...I have to say I completely misunderstood what they meant...I had no idea they were referring to Bangladesh.
    I spoke with the uncle on wednesday, he sends his regards. Of course he has quite a lot of experience in the third world, so you can always rely on him for advice in a pinch.
    Very interesting blog, your excitment is very evident and i look forward to following your adventures. Good Luck!

  2. Hey, Migui! You're funny. BUT! I totally understand where you come from with the roach-induced hysteria. I think they're the most disgusting creatures that roam the earth. My only advice... kill one and leave it on the floor for its mates to see and learn. That normally works with the not-so-humongous Spanish cockroaches. Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading about it. Kisses!

  3. Interesting post indeed. If you can live with mosquitoes and cockroaches in Bangladesh, you can live anywhere in the world! These critters teach you patience and self-reflection. You will definitely learn a lot if you can continue living among them.

  4. Hey,

    thanks for the comments.

    Anthony, great to see you're uptodate with technology; I'm impressed. Not sure about Uncle Joe being particularly computer literate but maybe you'll keep him posted. Thanks for the kind words.

    Hello Janaita! Great to hear from you and I take it from a recent mail that you're language has now gone online?
    I don't think I can follow your advise though- the thought of hearing the shell of a cockroach crush is just unbearable (man, i'm such a wuss!!!)

    Jerome; welcome to the blog. Well I definitely intend to learn a lot but I hope I can avoid as many cockroaches as possible.

  5. Omg what a funny post! Truly captured my attention and held it for the full page! Thanks so much for such an interesting read. =)

  6. Hi, We lived in Dhaka, Bangladesh for nine years.

    To this day when I see something dark on the floor my sensors say roach even though I haven't seen one for eight years.

    We spent the odd night out of Dhaka in small guest houses where the roaches were worse...much worse. One should always turn the mattress over before going to bed.

    Our motto...'the only good cockroach is a dead cockroach'.

    One other thing I observed about them is that they seem to be a bug with ATTITUDE...bad attitude