I often find myself thinking: “Man, if you live here you have to get really comfortable with the bugs.”
When I was young I was afraid of a lot of things and bugs were definitely one of them. My family and I were once at a campground staying in a cabin and I found a live ant in my bed: ONE live ant. I refused to go to sleep. A girl at my school was known for chasing me around with worms. If young Jeff came here, he’d have a very hard time.
I’ve killed around ten toonie-sized hairy spiders in our home to date (often trying to do so without Bethany being aware they were there in the first place). They’re a funny sort of species. If you hit them with a book or shoe, they literally fall apart with legs and body parts flying everywhere. Yet they’re resilient. I have seen, on a number of occasions, spiders with only three legs left trying to crawl away as fast as their eight-legged counterparts.
More than the spiders, it’s the lake flies that have been the real bother though. They are tiny little flying bugs that don’t bite, but do swarm to light in droves (even if the light is your flashlight as you walk up the hill to our home). If the lights are turned on in our living room, our ceiling will inevitably be covered with them within around 30 minutes. And “covered” doesn’t do it justice. The ceiling looks like the reverse of an African sky on the clearest night with black little stars dotting nearly every inch of our white ceiling.
If you have a plate underneath a light, you shouldn’t be surprised to find a few dead critters in your food. Similarly, our bed is under our bedroom light and it became a nightly routine to sweep the deceased insects off our sheets before going to sleep. In the morning, the Mama’s sweep up the dead bugs, which only have a life span of a few hours and litter the floor with their corpses. It’s almost humorous the little drifts they form.
We’ve solved this issue for the most part. Every night, when the sun sets around 8:30, we pretend we’re having a power outage in Canada and light a couple of candles instead of turning on the overhead lights. While some bugs are drawn to them and end up dying in the flame, the light draws far less bugs and makes our home very comfortable. We never turn on our bedroom light anymore and instead use a tall candle sticking out of a small Whiskey bottle. Bethany’s essential oil diffuser also lights our room casting blue, red, and green light. This small change has made a world of difference.
Thus far the mosquitos haven’t been too bad, though Bethany would likely disagree. While I’ve had a few bites over the last few weeks, they typically go away by the next morning. On the other hand, she’s covered in red dots; each marking a place she’s been bitten dating back to the very first night we were here!
Perhaps the biggest adjustment living with the bugs in Tanzania has been sleeping under a mosquito net.
While the netting keeps out certain unwanted Malaria carriers, they also trap in the heat. The first night I tried to imagine this sleep situation was comforting, like returning to sleep in a mother’s womb. But after a few nights, I could only imagine sleeping under the net was more akin to sleeping in a sauna.
On top of the heat, the netting has to be tucked in between the mattress and bed frame and shouldn’t be touched (since the net keeps out mosquitos, but allows their noses through). The result added a coffin-effect to the oven we call our bed.
We were reassured that we’d get used to the situation, but still began to explore ways to improve it.
In one of our spare rooms, we found a hand fan and mister combo that looks like it was ordered off of a television infomercial. However, it was a serious life saver. As we watched movies, we would take turns spraying each other and fanning the fast drying mist like one of Cleopatra’s servants. It worked like very temporary AC!
We also started freezing bottles of water during the day and bringing one to bed when we first went to sleep and another when I would wake up at 2 a.m. (every night for no clear reason). I’d rub the sheets and pillow with the icey bottle and have relief just long enough to fall back asleep.
Now since this rough start, there have been a few considerable improvements.
First, we stopped bringing the laptop under the net with us to watch movies (no kidding, right!) Instead we set it on the coffee table beside our bed and watch it through the thin white mesh. It makes a big difference not having a heat-generator in our bed an hour before sleep-time (other than me that is!)
Second, when we first arrived all of the screens in the windows were broken, so we had to sleep with them closed. But in the last week, they’ve been repaired and the nightly breeze from them has made a huge difference!
Finally, I think we’re actually starting to acclimatize, both to the heat and to the netting. More and more the net feels like a comfort rather than a hindrance. Despite that, the best sleep we get is still in the cool mornings when we wake up after sunrise, take off the netting, and squeeze in an extra 30 minutes of uninhibited snoozing!
We plan to have our own mosquito net made, which will hang to the floor (no tucking), have a door (no tucking, untucking, and re-tucking at 2 a.m.), and will be longer than the bed (meaning our feet can hang off the edge!) This is a luxury that can’t come fast enough!