Saturday, November 29, 2014

Ants, termites, and lizards

BEFORE: Swept clean, our first look at the house
= safe and empty
"Ants, termites, and lizards are normal," say expats living in Bandung. "It's you against them. All the time."

Underneath the basic civilizing of spaces, we've been working our way through the house, clearing out the inhabitants and their debris. They had free run of the place since it was unoccupied for nearly a year. In early October, after we'd been here nearly 2 months, the landlord hired a handyman to banish the termites to one side and a wing of the house. The man clambered up to the ceilings and sprayed and replaced the half-eaten panels and plants. Then the landlord took a pause from paying the daily labor fee to the worker ($8.50). The ceilings on the back porch and in one wing, already peeling, continued to warp and shed wood as the rainy season started. The rooms flooded and bugs and detritus began to rain in with the water. We spent a month sending photos and pleas without getting a response from the landlord.

AFTER: a lot more inhabitants sharing our Christmas
than we first thought!
After a week, we were swatting 5-10 flying termites while reading in bed at night. They had begun to migrate back into the "fixed" parts of the house. We started to pay the handyman to fix what was coming apart. Of course, we are keeping track of materials and his salary. We'll deduct that from next year's lease payment since it is making the house initially habitable. (Maintenance is up to the tenant.) We've reclaimed another bedroom and the back porch. A few more rooms and the garage are still uninhabitable for storage or human guests. Onward ho.

The fight for turf goes on.

The ants come in at least 3 sizes. The tiny ones sneak up on the dining table and kitchen counters. One night they infested my computer. As I typed, they would wander between the keys onto my fingers. We spot movement and stoop to check: ah, there's another one or four. Squish. The middle size are similar to those at home. They're industrious, building little mounds anywhere they're allowed to gather. They show up in cabinets, under plants, and along the walls. Squish. The big ones venture in less often, but they fill their mouths and go home to tell their friends about us unless we step on them. Squish.

Inside the ceiling panels last week:
some hard workers found and rousted
An ant swarm invaded the house a month after we moved in. Thousands of ants streamed through the cracks around the window, running up the walls and drapes and across the floors, carrying egg cases from their nest to a new territory. My husband vacuumed them, sprayed them, and swept them up. They've regenerated to a remarkable degree.

We prefer non-poisons so we spread food-grade diatomaceous earth along the walls to dry up the ants, the termites, and the cockroaches. White powder lines the counters, too. But still they bypass and eat and track through the place.

We've seen a lot of baby wall lizards since we screened the open windows. Hopefully they don't find enough food to keep expanding their numbers. I catch and kill or release them when I can.

"They are your friends, eating mosquitos and flies," we're told. Ok, but methinks a dozen in the house is plenty.

...and falling onto the floor below,
the results of their labors
Outside, a barking gecko rouses himself at dusk. He clicks and chirps his way through the yard. "Count yourself lucky that he doesn't live in the house," say our Indonesian friends. "If you scare him and he bites, you have to wait an hour or more for his jaw to relax and let go of your hand." Whaaat? Oh well. Stay outside, buddy.

There's dengue fever up the hill. So we've added a mosquito net around the bed for nighttime protection. Bonus: the net also keeps lizard poop from falling into the bed as they scuttle overhead.

It sounds awful, doesn't it. But it's part of daily life in the tropics. It's mostly more bearable than we thought. Once the initial extermination is complete, we'll hire a company to maintain the place.

We haven't met the snakes we're told live in the neighborhood. When we do, we'll let you know.

We have a decided preference for our human neighbors, who are helpful, kind, and friendly. We love Bandung!

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