Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rat Maama

A thin matt covered a raised table, a table whose legs were each balancing on some object so as to produce the illusion of levelness. What must have been a fishing net was draped over that table as a makeshift mosquito net. Its holes were big enough to allow a bat easy clearance. Luckily, mosquitoes were few in this long-ago sprayed village. When I stay with pastors in the village, they inevitably comment on their appreciation for my willingness to stay with them and like them when I come. I don’t expect special treatment and I don’t look for the nearest motel. Undoubtedly they do treat me special by giving me the very best they have to offer (a pillow, a mattress, a net), but I do my very best to accept their accommodation with grace.

As I lay my head down after the very, very long day of travel and quickly drifted off, I heard a rustling that brought all my senses to high alert. In the far corner, yet only about four feet away, stood a shelving structure and somewhere deep within that structure a rustling emerged. “It’s okay, it’s four feet away…as long as it stays there and doesn’t come here…I’ll be okay,” I reasoned. Plus, Pastor’s wife and daughter in law were sleeping on a mat on the floor in the adjoining room and my logic was that any hungry creature would surely eat them first due to ease of access. How nice of me to volunteer their sacrifice before my own. Grace went out the window.

I made it through that first night with about an hour of sleep but the creature also seemed to keep its distance. I said nothing. The second night, though, that creature…most surely a rat…was aggressive. Everyone says they won’t bother you if you don’t bother them. Surely they’ve not seen that one movie where the rat eats the feet of the guy who is sleeping…he’s a Mormon missionary. You know the one? Right, so this rat is most definitely bothering me by climbing the edge of my bed frame every time I doze off. A loud “psst” keeps it away temporarily. No sleep for me. Doesn’t it know there’s a room full of ladies next door just laying on the floor and ready for it? Still, I said nothing.

The third night…about 30 seconds after the flashlight went out that rat was on the move. It was aiming for my head and I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer. I am after all a girl and an American girl at that. I felt horrible…HORRIBLE…for complaining about something that was part of their everyday lives and something they had absolutely no way to control. But I was not going to sleep…ever again.

Pastor Patrick came in with a big stick and made lots of noise, after which I was sure the rat would return. During the process of digging, he came across a box of now shredded theology books and five newborn baby rats. Ahhh – night one maama gave birth. Nights two and three – maama was protecting her babies for the crazy woman shouting “psst” all the time. Out the babies went under the close watch of puss-puss. Surely maama rat would follow…surely. But no, she spent most of the night running all around looking for her babies and very likely blaming me thus plotting to eat the bottoms of my feet at her first chance. I kept quiet.

The last night was more of the same but a far less aggressive rat maama. Luckily we had to be up early to catch the boda to the stage whose taxi never came. Honestly, I do try really hard and I feel like such a failure when I complain. Why should my living conditions be any different than theirs?