Sunday, 3 June 2012

The Creatures of the Castle

This blog is intended to be a place where I share about my thoughts and the everyday happenings of my life in Honduras. Because of this, I have decided to share something with you that haunts my thoughts and has a very real impact on my everyday life. I am going to introduce you to:

The Creatures of the Castle.

Let me clarify - I am not referring to my human housemates, the wonderful Gisselle, Duane and Jason. No, I am referring to housemates of a non-human variety, those lovely little friends that bring constant surprises and excitement to the daily happenings of life in Copan Ruinas. This list was inspired by two events of this weekend: the surprise in the pila and the unexpected house guest. These tales - and many more - will be told in the list that follows.

Let the joyous list begin.

(1) I am going to begin with the lowly cockroach because it has a special place in my heart. The cockroach has invaded my daily life in a significant way. This is evident given the fact that the vast majority of conversations with my co-workers end on the topic of our deep and enduring love for cockroaches, and that with ever-increasing frequency cockroaches inhabit the content of my dreams. This means that cockroaches are invading not only the corners and crevices of my bedroom, but also the innermost workings of my unconscious. This is a terrifying thought. Let me tell you of the content of my dreams. In my dreams cockroaches can grow and shrink at will. This means they can hide in the smallest of cracks, and then EXPLODE in your face as soon as you get close. The other theme in my dreams is that counter to what I have been told, cockroaches are not as good as dead when they lie on their backs, legs futilely squirming in the air. Not, in my dreams cockroaches have an uncanny ability to bounce up like a bouncy ball, landing securely on all six legs. The castle really does not have to many cockroaches. But what frightens me is that even if I don't see them, they are still there...

(2) The gato. The only reason I have to dislike the humble gato is that I am incredibly jealous of its existence.   Check out this photo and BE jealous:

I want that life.

(3) And now: the chucho de la calle. Translation: street dog. There is a certain group of dogs that loves my house. There are two things they love to do. Number one: they love to hang out in our yard barking. Late into the night. On the nights I have a headache. Number two: they think that when we accidentally leave a bag of garbage outside for a couple of hours, we really meant to give them a big present. They like to open their "present" all over the grass, leaving little bits of eggshell and coffee grounds in their wake.

(4) The termites. The termite might just be the messiest inhabitant of the castillo. As we are getting into rainy season, the termites have acquired faint, translucent wings. They like to fly around and around and around while I sit outside. I think they might be blind, as they have managed on more than one occasion to crawl into my clothing. And then, they shed their little wings everything throughout the castle, which is truly a joy to clean up. Likewise, they enjoy eating our ceiling, leaving mounds of wood chips scattered throughout the house - including my shower.

(5) The spider. I think this picture speaks for itself:

Thankfully, no tarantulas yet!

(6) The frogs. I have nothing negative to say about the frogs. In fact, I would like to have a frog as a pet and let it live in my sink, if I didn't think that would be a little inhumane. I am also not sure if Gisselle would love this idea.

(7) Turkeys. Yes, we have turkeys, and I have proof:

(8) The surprise in the pila. This delight warrants a story. This morning I woke up bright and early ready to lavar some ropa (Spanglish for "wash my mountain of dirty clothes") in the pila. A pila is basically a giant outdoor sink that is used to wash clothing. And inside the basin inside the pila, was a decomposing drowned mouse. The expression in its eyes haunts me to this moment. I am also still haunted by the fact that I still do not have clean clothes.

(I am sorry if this is too much information. This post is part blog, part therapy session.)

(9) The unexpected house guest. On Friday I was just entering the kitchen to prepare something for dinner when all of a sudden a black flapping shape hurled itself towards me in a flurry, continuing to fly in circles around the kitchen. It was - can you guess it? - a bat.

My first thought was of a certain Office episode in which a bat is on the loose in the office. It is eventually captured in a bag - on top of Meredith's head. Meredith ended up in the hospital. And so, I ran to Jason's room to get help. The next few minutes consisted in Jason standing in the kitchen waving a broom around in the air while humming. He was humming in an attempt to communicate with the bat though echolocation, knowing that they can't see very while. I meanwhile, was hiding outside, still thinking about what I would do if the bat got stuck in my hair.

Eventually, in spite of Jason's attempts at echolocation, the bat flew away in the opposite direction of the open door, and managed to hide itself inside a reclining chair. After several joint attempts to gently sweep the bat out from under the chair, Jason and I moved the chair to the open doorway, and encouraged the bat to leave the dark and dismal recesses of a recliner and embrace a life of freedom, soaring in the open skies. After finally emerging from the gloom, and then creeping along the concrete and grass for a couple of minutes (have you ever seen a bat creep along the ground? It looks like a cross between a frog that thinks that it is a snake, and a piece of black kleenex that has come to life), the bat found an edge, pushed off, and soared into the sky. Jason and I proudly watched it go off on its merry way, thinking to ourselves: we have done a good deed today.

I do not want this list to read like a pity session. While these unexpected house guests and surprises can be an inconvenience, they are also add adventure and teach me lessons of patience and flexibility everyday. And while I do not embrace my non-human housemates and welcome them in, what I do welcome is the fact that they bring interest, excitement and humor into everyday life in Honduras.


  1. I shuddered at least 4 times while reading this post. TERMITES WITH WINGS????? no thank you. And a bat in the face, super no thank you. Also-I hope to never encounter a spider that big EVER in my life. I can't even handle the 'flutta's' (moths) we have here in Canada. There was one in my car, fluttering on the dashboard, and I pulled over and waited until my husband had gotten it out before continuing on. *shudder*
    However-it is fun to read about your adventuresome friends!

  2. I've had my share of creatures here in Santa Rosa de Copán. There was the iguana (a 10 inch one)in the pila. I helped it escape twice, but then found it dead in the pila.
    There are also the hornets that set up their nest - thankfully outside.
    But the killer ;) was the large dead dog in the back patio of the house. I have no idea how it got there since there are eight fool walls all around. But it was DEAD and beginning to bloat. It had blood at the mouth and it might have been poisoned but when I first saw it lying on its side it looked asleep. But no. Anyway, a friend helped me to bury the creature on a nearby lot.
    Ants, flying termites, tiny snakes, mosquitoes, spiders (of all shapes and colors) are par for the course. No poisonous snakes or tarantulas yet, and hopefully no chagas bearing bugs or dengue mosquitoes.

    Living in nature - in the city.

  3. How well I identify. This is my first "visit" to your post, Kristen, and I'm delighted by your writing and along with your other readers, shudder at the accuracy. My experience with cockroaches in Fresno's inner city was very parallel. I remember having a constant contract with the exterminating company - but the cockroaches would merely pack up their suitcases, move to the house nextdoor until ours was duly aerated, and then move back in.
    And yes, dogs, cats, roosters, termites, spiders....many many encounters with the natural but "surreal" creatures.
    Janet E. Boldt