The Roach

The following post is not for those with an extreme fear of insects, extreme love for insects, the faint of heart, or the lilly-livered. It is all just part of cross-cultural living.  You’ve been warned.

One of the things we anticipated coming to Nepal was encountering alot of insects. We have actually been pleasantly surprised here in Kathmandu with how few bugs we have found. We have run into several spiders, but no centipedes, millipedes, or any number of pedes. It is actually quite nice since there are no mosquitoes here, which I wished away innumerable times in NY. Despite the decreased quantity of insects there is one insect we encounter enough to be disturbing, the cockroach.

Cockroaches are an insect of folklore in my mind. I have heard many urban legends about roaches. They can live 40 years. They can survive a nuclear bomb explosion. They can live for 2 weeks without a head. So when we saw our first roach here, I was a bit intimidated. This is a little bit embarrassing since the roaches we have in our house only measure about 2 centimeters. But all the same, with their feely antennas and purposeful skitter-stop, skitter-stop movements, I was a bit freaked out. Then there is the tricky issues of removing and disposing of these herculean insects. Sometimes they make it easy, like hanging out on the rim of the toilet in the middle of the night. Flick, flush and the job is done. However, other times they require a bit more “interaction.” If there is one thing that I hate, it is the “crunch” of an insect. I will avoid it at all costs. In NY I was known to go outside in 20 degree weather in my skivies just to release a spider. I knew it was going to die out there, but at least it wasn’t me directly killing it, and above all, I didn’t have to feel its exoskeleton break apart between my fingers.

The other night I was doing dishes, and one of the feared critters scampered across the counter. It was a little guy, maybe 1.5cm, but a roach, none the less. I was in a conundrum. My hands were soapy, and he was moving fast. I had to think quick. I looked around for something to catch him with, like a tissue or large cups to flip over on him. Anything to squish with? Nothing convenient, and I wasn’t about to do this bare handed. Then my eyes fell on the butcher knife. Without much thought I picked it up and chopped. It was a well aimed blow, and he sat still just long enough that the blade fell right in the middle of his thorax. His back end, the end closest to me, immediately stopped all movement. Nice. But then I picked up the knife, and saw the front end. It was frantic. What remained on that end were the head, antennas, and front two legs. They were going wild. This guy knew he just got his butt chopped off. It was flipping this way and that, grabbing at anything around, which was mostly just a soapy counter. I was freaked out. I was hoping for a chop and done scenario. But there was this nasty bug writhing with its feelers and legs all over the place. If I had more compassion, or if I were brave, I would have put the front end out of its misery. Mind you the back end was still just laying there completely still in total contrast to the writhing front end, which only added to the freakiness of the situation. So what did I do? Probably the most cowardly thing I could have in the situation: nothing. I just went back to washing dishes and pretended there was not a horror scene that would have made any of the Friday the 13th movies look like children’s cartoons going on on the counter next to me. I thought I would just let “nature” take its course. This is a silly notion since there is nothing “natural” about me slicing a bug in half. But then I started thinking, “how long will this take.” If a roach can live for 2 weeks without a head, how long can just the head live? I’m not going to be able to hide this from Hannah for 2 weeks! Maybe I will have to do something sooner than I hoped. So I looked over, and there the back end was, but where was the front end. Perhaps just behind this cup. Nope. Under the knife. No. By the cutting board. NOT THERE. The head, 2 antennas, and 2 legs were gone! They had somehow figured out how to walk without the butt end and scampered away! OH NO!

The only thing worse than knowing there is a roach in your house, is knowing there is a freaky half roach in your house that desires to exact revenge on you. What was he going to do? Would he jump on my children, be waiting for me on my pillow tonight, or wait for me to fall asleep and crawl on my face? I suddenly remembered hearing the urban legend that, in their lifetime, the average person eats twenty spiders in their sleep? WHY DIDN’T I SQUISH HIM!

Well, the bodiless bug has yet to show his face again. I like to think that he crawled off into some tiny crevice and died there. But perhaps he he is still alive and waiting. Or perhaps he found all his roach buddies, and gave a description of who did this to him.

So if I disappear while I’m here in Nepal, check with my barber first, and then think about the roaches.