I realize I risk a little goblin coming in the night and stealing the essence of my manhood by saying this — but I fucking hate bugs.

I’d have to be more than a bit ignorant to move to a tropical island and not expect to cohabitate with the creepy crawlies, but it doesn’t disturb me any less. For the most part though, Haikou isn’t too bad. I’m sure there is a six-legged sea of ‘sects just waiting for me outside the city, but here among the concrete and tile, it’s relatively calm.

But though we live in a new apartment, and it appears to my untrained eye as well-sealed; drop a piece of food (a 15-month-old does little but), and within seconds a ration line of ants has formed with a tin cup and bowl. Leave some fruit out for more than a few minutes and a squadron of fruit flies gather — their tiny little wings a buzzing cadence that if you listen closely enough sounds like Ride of the Valkyries.

Our nightly R&R in front of the TV is routinely interrupted when a big fat flying beetle dive bombs our thought-to-be-secure position on the sofa.

Twice now I’ve been sitting, again in front of the TV, and felt a tickle on my neck and arm. Absentmindedly scratching while hypnotized by Gordon Ramsey’s red-faced rants on Hell’s Kitchen, I was startled to come away with a hand full of legs from a millipede that had made its way up the back of the couch.

Moths, glowbugs, bright-green clingy beetles and a hodge-podge collection of other insects have also sought refuge in our ground-floor apartment.

Spiders of various sizes and behaviors also are common guests, but you know the old saying — the blood-sucking predator of my enemy is my friend (geckos fit in this category as well — really, the more endoskeleton allies I can amass, the better).

But then there’s the f’ing cockroaches. They’re frequent, they’re resilient and they’re massive. I know they’re relatively harmless, but there’s no quicker way to get my arm hairs on end than to catch one of these little suckers speedily crawling through my peripheral vision.

We’ve had roaches in a couple apartments here in China, and they’ve always been the little 1″ long guys. They don’t much bother me. However, something changes when a bug gets to the size where I can hear it walking across the floor.

It’s funny how quickly my otherwise quite rational mind melts and flushes out of my skull with a chill when I see these 3″ long, winged critters scurry across the kitchen, out of the bathroom, or up the bedroom wardrobe. Somewhat remarkably, all of that I’m learning to handle with a bit of grace and a well-wielded shoe.

This morning, however, brought a new level of violation. As is our a.m. routine, I hang out with Casey and a crinkled collection of flashcards on our bed while Maggie heads to our en suite bathroom to brush her teeth. This morning she was in the bathroom for a minute or two when I heard her startled shout. It’s the same noise she makes when she sees everything from an ant to an elephant, so tough to judge.

“What’s up?” I mutter.

“There’s a cockroach in our toothbrush mug!”

Apparently mid-brushing she noticed the critter hanging out at the bottom of the cup we put our toothbrushes in. We’re not talking about a little bug at the bottom of a cup — the thing nearly filled the mug. As is her way with such things, Maggie calmly left the bathroom as if it had been handled (even returning her toothbrush to the overly-occupied cup) and expressed in no uncertain tones that I would need to man up and take care of it.

Two toothbrushes in the trash, a cockroach in the toilet (two flushes, just to be sure), and a VERY well-scrubbed mug later; I’m now officially at war with the sonsofbitches. Mess with my house, mess with my family, but do not fucking mess with my toothbrush.

I know it’s a battle I can’t win. I know that they gather in the walls, drains and other dark cool corners plotting. I know that it’s only a matter of time before one induces the purchase of plane tickets when it finds its way into the mosquito tent that covers our bed. But I’ll be ready. They may be fast and gross and able to survive a nuclear holocaust — but I have pretty big feet. And while this post may work to disprove the idea that a man with big feet has equally big manhood — he does have big shoes. Bring it, fuckers.

14 Responses

  1. I remember Guangzhou being terrible for those huge cockroaches. I also once saw one sitting on my toothbrush as well. So the next day I went out and bought a capped toothbrush holder as well as a new t’brush. Glad I’ve not seen one for literally four years now I’m in a new building in Suzhou. They make my blood run cold, I’ll admit.

  2. GAH GROSS. haven’t seen big roaches in Beijing yet, though we have those little ones. freaking critters i hate especially when they start flying!!! curiously, more of them are seen back home (MNL). 

    get one of those roach traps http://www.made-in-china.com/showroom/zhangzhiqun/product-detailiMFEuxRJBGpn/China-Lanju-Brand-Cockroach-Pad-and-Bait.html and stick them in corners. not sure if they work, but at least they keep them away. 

  3. @537b58c38b1c9dbd2c9d05e961a1507f:disqus : Yeah, we only ever had cockroaches in one apartment in Suzhou. Our groundfloor apartment in SIP never had them, but it had plenty of other creepy crawlies.

    @ge: I’m pretty sure these roaches are bigger than those traps. The image above (at the size in the post, not the larger size) is pretty much to scale.

    • And I so wanted to go to India… way to kill the dream brother. 🙂 I hear ya though, I’ve already noticed my squeamishness has lessened through exposure. Give me another year or two here and I’m betting I’ll have made pets of them. 

  4. Growing up in dry northern California, cockroaches sightings in the house were causes of alarm, but in Fuzhou I remember seeing them a bit more frequently. The weird thing was watching them fly…they don’t fly that well so much as flutter unnervingly above your head, leading you to wait agonizingly for them to land. I did once catch one in my broom on my balcony only to see it launch in flight over the railing, over the building across the street, and even over a line of trees some distance away. I think the south China roaches are serious forces to be reckoned with

  5. I just moved into an old apartment in China, and I feel your pain. Even with being so careful about avoiding leaving food crumbs about, I still have roaches. I hate roaches.

  6. My wife is not calm at all. .I hear a shriek followed by her shrieking my name to come kill it.  Now I grew up in the country and don’t like to harm any forms of nature. .. but to her it is not acceptable to put the poor critters out the window. . . KILL IT NOW!   So I’ve had to become a cold hearted,  battle weary insect killing machine.  I will tell the Karmic judges after my death “But I was just following orders!!”     Just be glad there are no bedbugs in China (as far as I know).   Yet they are rampant in Canada. . and terribly hard to get rid of.  If only we could use DDT again. .like they do in China.

  7. Your article cracked me up!

    Here in Taiwan I’ve become brave enough to actually get close to, and watch with interest, those huge flying cockroaches scurrying on the street. Occasionally I’ll find the smaller ones in my apartment–no big deal–but if I ever see one of those huge suckers INSIDE my place, I know I’ll be freaked out. 

    Like Daniel above, I try to be all Buddhist and relocate spiders and other insects rather than killing them. However, I have absolutely no qualms about murdering cockroaches and mosquitoes. Nasty beasts.

  8. Last week at about 11:30pm I went to take my dog out for her nightly “business”, and upon opening my front door had a giant cockroach fall on my head, then flutter in my face, briefly cling to my shirt before being swatted across the room.

    I may never heal. 🙂

  9. Pingback: The bugs are back in town - Ryan McLaughlin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *