Don't Mean to Bug You...

Trip Start Jul 25, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Rwanda  ,
Saturday, May 12, 2007

Everyone has a top ten list. You know, top ten places you would like to see. Top ten foods you love. Top ten people you would like to "get with". Whatever. Not many write a top ten list of the least pleasant experiences you would prefer not to have. Let's face it, given a choice between thinking about a lover's scent, or warm spring days as opposed to sliding down razor blades into a wading pool of iodine, or having all your body hair plucked out by an angry chimp covered in industrial adhesive, well, it's not much of a contest.

I have recently experienced an event that I would put on such a list. My new number one (but let's face it, with me, the next contender is just around the corner) unpleasant experience is... having an African cockroach crawl into your ear while you are asleep and getting stuck.

Let me be clear here. Most of you are saying "Oh My GOD!" and feeling slightly queasy, while probably laughing at me. But there are some of you, and you know who you are, who are thinking "Huh, that would actually be kind of a cool travel story." DON'T. Really, do not think about it. Yes, it's funny. Yes, there are now a couple of dozen of Rwandans who have a great crazy muzungu story. But keep this in mind - I HAD A COCKROACH STUCK IN MY EAR!

I've been staying in Kigali with my friend Henriette. She has been an amazing friend, who has graciously allowed me to live in her spare bedroom, saving money and having a wonderful Rwandan experience. I know this is mortifying for her, so I will be clear, her house is spotless, her cleanliness second only to her godliness, but this is Africa - here there be bugs.

I went to sleep that night with no expectations of an animal deciding to live in my head. Around 4:30 am I woke up. At the time I wasn't sure what had woken me. In retrospect, I think it might have been THE COCKROACH STUCK IN MY EAR!!!!

As I rolled over, I felt something...weird. My left ear felt... full. All of a sudden, something... moved. Now, it's a fact that, while fascinating, pregnant women freak me out a little bit. It's the "touch my abnormally tight belly and feel the little thing from Alien moving around inside of me" part that I find a bit off-putting. When my little friend moved around, I did not feel at one with nature. I did not feel the miracle of life inside of me. I did feel pain, lots and lots of pain. Some people might try to tell you that having a cockroach digging in your ear with its sharp legs and appendages doesn't hurt. I don't know why they would ever tell you this, but they are wrong. Do not be misled. There is pain.

Jabbing inside my ear with a cotton bud seemed only to upset the nasty little bugger. Repetitive pounding on the side of my head, while no doubt an entertaining visual image, produced no results. Finally I realized this was beyond both my experience and control, and left my room seeking help. After nearly stepping on Claudine, the housekeeper, who was asleep on a mattress on the floor, I heard Henriette call from her room, asking me if I was all right. I said, "Umm, Henriette, I think I need help. There is something stuck in my ear, and it's moving."

The next hour was a series of comedic mishaps, consisting mostly of Henriette pouring water in my ear to try and drown the thing, jabbing me with cotton buds, and pounding my head. Claudine did her part, standing in the doorway, making various sympathetic African noises. I fluctuated between lying with my head on Henriette's lap and rolling around on the bed in pain. Finally Henriette decided there should be more witnesses to my predicament, and woke her neighbour. She was a nurse and it was decided we should go to her hospital.

On the way, I practiced the conversation I was to have with the doctor.

Doctor: `Bonjour, qu'est-ce c'est la probleme?` (Good day, what seems to be the problem?)

Me: `Bonjour Doctor, j'ai un petit problem. Il y a un petit animaux qui habite dans ma tete.` (Good day doctor. I have a small problem. There is a small animal living in my head.)

As impressive as my linguistic skills were, I would not get to use them, as my doctor was Egyptian and spoke perfect English.

At the hospital, I was whisked past about forty waiting Rwandans. Normally this type of special treatment just because I was white bothered me. However, seeing as I HAD A COCKROACH STUCK IN MY EAR (!!!!), I pushed my conscience aside.

One weird chemical treatment and a massive syringe of water later, and my freeloading friend was out, floating in a little bowl under my ear. And it was FUCKING HUGE! I'm sorry, that is strong language, and I'm sure offensive to some of you reading this. I apologize, but in my defense, I HAD A COCKROACH STUCK IN MY EAR!!

Addendum: I was not able to get my camera to take a photo (and man, did I ever want to), so in an attempt to give you a visual aid to the story, I created the following:

This is my head.

This is a cockroach.

This is my head with a cockroach in it.
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