Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Saturday, July 20, 2002

One thing that you never really get over-or that I still haven’t gotten over- when living in Taiwan, is dealing with the pests. There’s certainly an abundance and variety of them… just take your pick- there are the industrious, omnipresent ants, the looming, gigantic-sized cockroaches, annoying blood thirsty mosquitoes, the mysterious appearance of fruit flies, specks of slow moving insects, incessantly buzzing flies, and rats…. have I forgotten any?! The already hot, humid weather of Taiwan escalates in the summer encourages the breeding to these pesky critters.

It’s pretty disgusting to see what happens if you leave “wet” garbage out (i.e. garbage that contains food remains) in this heat… like I said it’s a breeding ground. If fruit rinds or pits left sitting out or discarded in an open trash can, sure enough the fruit flies seem to mystically appear from no where. Where the #*@$% do they come from? Guess I’m no scientist because I can’t figure that one out. Do they swarm over because they’re attracted to the scent of the food or do they breed from the fruit remains. What a disgusting thought. If I think about this anymore, I could come up with some pretty disgusting thoughts. Come to think of it- humans are pretty disgusting animals. Just think about the various types of waste that we produce; if we didn’t “manage” the waste and put it out of our living space just imagine what would fester in our midst.

I thought that I’d reached a state in which I could handle these little buggers, but recently they’ve been aggravating me at every turn. At this time of year they seem to be at their worst or should I say their best? They seem especially robust. I just came back from Taipei a few weekends ago… feeling unsettled because of the ants I discovered in my very hospitable friend’s apartment. I don’t fault her because she does keep a clean apartment- it’s just that once you’ve got an ant problem in Taiwan, it requires some major intervention and persistence to get rid of them. I don’t know what it is, but the ants in Taiwan also seem to be much more intrusive than the ones I’ve encountered in the United States! Once you have them, they just get around and into everything. The ones in the United States seem to stay more localized in one place.

Back to my friend’s apartment in Taipei…

Initially saw them crawling around on the floor, but later they crawled into my suitcase and clothes- not a good feeling! I came home paranoid that I’d brought some of my newly found “roommates” home. So I set to work emptying the contents of my suitcase, wiping the suitcase down inside and out and washing my clothes, etc… I didn’t want to give the little buggers a chance to torment me in Kaohsiung too. I felt so inconvenienced by the whole ordeal and thought boy am I happy to be living in a beautiful clean new apartment that doesn’t have ants...

Boy was that a false sense contentment, as one nuisance was replaced by another- equally irritating insects. In Taiwan, you can always be sure that there’s bound to be some sort of insect or creepy crawly critter hidden somewhere in the apartment. The other day I noticed some speck sized bugs that had mysteriously appeared in some of our drinkware and bowls- eeew! What can you do- but rinse the buggers off and re-clean things? They seemed to have dissipated, but I noticed their reappearance today and I knew this meant war! Time to nip the problem in the bud. I emptied the contents of the cupboard and proceeded to wipe it down and spray it with some heavy duty antibacterial household cleaning agent. Hope that does the trick.

Anyone who has lived in Taiwan has a good story or two to tell about at least one or more of these vermin. No matter how long you live in Taiwan it seems that there are some pests that you never get accustomed to. On occasion you’ll see a huge cockroach crawling on the sidewalks of Taipei (honestly, I’ve never seen cockroaches of this size in Kaohsiung!). Okay, so huge means the size of a small mouse- but I think that’s huge for a cockroach! When I see these cockroaches it always makes me jump a little. You’ll even often see local Taiwanese people startled and stopped dead in their tracks by the sight of them. The presence of these buggers make people scatter and disperse, tip toeing away. It’s a funny sight to see actually. I’ve probably entertained a passerby or two who’s heard my shrieks and seen me hightail it out of there upon such a sighting. Then there are the types who walk by these monstrosities without any qualms and nonchalantly stomp on these >*crunchy*< vermin.

This takes me back one particular evening of conversation at about this time last year, when I had just moved to Taipei for less than a month. Three recent transplants from the U.S., now living in Taipei and three “seasoned” residents of Taipei (originally from the U.S. and Canada)- who had been living in Taipei for the past 3-5 years- out for dinner and drinks in Taipei- the combination made for lively conversation. Topics of conversation included earthquakes, Taiwan’s military security, politics in Taiwan, relationships, marriage and, you guessed it- tales of discovering, uncovering, driving out, disposing of, fighting, preventing, smacking, discarding, exterminating, all those pesky pests. One guy recounted his many stories of cleaning newly moved into apartments where upon he discovered termites, ants, cockroaches underneath the flooring and wall paneling, and hiding within and under a ghastly excuse for an old sofa. These critters are relentless! You’ve gotta drive them out with everything you’ve got- use those industrial insecticides, seal off any possible points of entry with all you’ve got (duct tape, caulking sealant, etc)… seal it up, board it up! It's no wonder that many apartments in Taiwan look like they are fire hazards... Someone else described the distressing experience of feeling a cockroach crawl across her face while sleeping. It’s a very unsettling feeling. Okay, so it’s kind of hard to recapture the grossness of the conversation if you weren’t there, but you get the jist of it.

What an introduction to living in Taiwan- that conversation ever was! One of my freshly “transplanted” friends, who I’ll call “T” was in Taipei to study Chinese that summer. “T” is an absolute sweetheart, very considerate- he’s the sort of guy who called my roommate and I during the typhoon season last year- telling us of the latest typhoon warning and making sure that we were prepared for it. One thing about “T” is that he’s very “sensitive” and just gets creeped out by any of these creepy crawly insects, and he was just not having an easy time of getting adjusted to some of the inconveniences of living in Taiwan. So it was really hilarious to see “T” squirming during above mentioned conversation.

A few days later, I found out that after “T” got home that night, he slept with all the lights on so that he could see those #@$% ants or cockroaches coming for him! LOL!

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