Life in Kinshasa is settling into a bit of a routine. We got into our “permanent” (in the FS this means 2 years) house last Sunday and we’ve unpacked our suitcases and the 16 boxes I sent myself from the U.S. before we left. We’ve received one Amazon Prime Pantry box of goodies and we’ve got another on the way, so the knowledge that we are only an online order and two weeks from more mac & cheese singles (C’s favorite) or dog food, is comforting.
The house also has two major advantages. First, it has a lovely pool that not only provides endless hours of entertainment, but also makes the view from the living room that much nicer. The walls of our living/dining room are entirely windows across two full sides and look out to the pool area and the backyard. Ironically, the water is a bit cold for too much swimming, though we understand that once the wet season starts in about a month and the weather gets hotter the cold pool temperature will be a welcome relief.
The second advantage, at least from my perspective, is the proximity to Shoprite, a South African grocery store chain. The strip mall where it is located also has a clothing/fabric store that I can’t wait to explore and an ice cream store called Nice Cream that will also be a welcome spot during hot days. As was probably clear from my earlier post, the ability to get out and MOVE is important to me… For some reason we run out of things to drink way faster than things to eat, so the ability to trot the 500 ft. over to Shoprite and pick up juice, soda and beer, makes life just that much easier. And this is my kind of place as far as beer. The most popular local beer is a lager called Primus. After enduring the last 11 months in Arlington where asking for a lager a restaurant seemed akin to asking for Spam for dinner, I am a happy lager-drinking girl.
C might disagree on the second advantage to our house. For her it is that there are about 14 other children living in this compound of 8 homes. Four of them are teenagers and might as well be adults from C’s perspective, but the rest range in age from 2 ½ to 9. On most afternoons (and many mornings) the whole lot of them can be found in the compound courtyard riding bikes in circles (thank heavens for the folks who’ve been here a while and have extra bikes), drawing with chalk or playing. During the day, at least right now when school is not in session, they rotate between houses and pools. Usually, there are also a number of additional children from other U.S.G. housing nearby.
The only thing the children share the courtyard with are the lizards – a wide variety of green, black and orange lizards sunning themselves and doing “push-ups” if any of the kids (or adults) get too close to them. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a place where there were no lizards, but I find them fascinating. B couldn’t care less about them and I chalk that up to growing up in Florida where they are not exactly a novelty.
The only other creatures we’ve come in contact with are birds, most with beautiful songs, and one very large spider.
So here’s the deal about me: I don’t kill things (except cockroaches) unless they are a threat to my child, my husband, my dog, or me, or they are known to be dangerous. Therefore, when I walked into the bathroom yesterday and found this spider staring at me, my first instinct was not to stomp on it.
My first instinct was to say, “Huh. That is one BIG spider. Wonder if it is dangerous?” I had my phone in my hand, so I took a picture (it had, by that time scooted over to the side of the toilet bowl) and emailed it to B with a message saying “Can you ask around and see if anyone knows whether this is dangerous?”
In my defense, I wasn’t wearing shoes (and was, in fact, still in my PJs) so it’s not like I could have stomped on it anyway, but once I’d sent along the email I backed out of the bathroom to find some shoes and wait for B’s response. B called me almost immediately.
“Kill it,” he said.
“Why?” I countered. “Is it dangerous?”
“I have no idea, but it is huge. Just kill it. I don’t want it crawling on me at night.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said. “It won’t crawl on you at night – our bed is covered in mosquito netting. It won’t be able to get in there.”
B was having none of it.
“Says you,” he said. “Just put on your big girl panties and go and kill it.” (as if my reluctance to kill it was because I was afraid of it rather than because I don’t think it is my place to randomly kill other creatures).
Unfortunately for B, the spider was nowhere to be seen when I returned to the bathroom. I did keep my eye out for it all day, but I (turns out wrongly) assumed that once it had met Miller it would leave the house of its own accord, just as it had unilaterally come in.
I did do some due diligence and asked the nannies in the compound whether it was dangerous – to which they said no. One of our neighbors identified it as a “huntsman” or “hunting” spider and said it killed roaches. This further justified my feeling that not killing it at first sight was the right move – anything that kills roaches so I don’t have to is a good thing in my book.
As we got ready for bed B repeated his concern that the spider might join us under the mosquito net and I poo-poo’d his worries. The netting goes all the way to the floor – surely it could not get in there (setting aside the question of why it would want to get in there in the first place). We settled down, turned off the lights and started to drift into sleep…then I happened to look up. Almost directly above my head, on the netting, I saw a long leg move. I slipped under the net and turned on my bedside light.
The spider was inside the netting.
“Um, B,” I said. “You need to slowly get out of bed on your side of the bed.”
He was clearly almost asleep by that point and he slurred, “Why?”
“Uh, well, turns out you were right,” I replied. “The spider is on the netting. On the inside.”
He moved pretty quickly at that point, spluttering “arrrrgh, I hate you!” as he scrambled out, and we ended up both standing outside our bed, looking at the spider inside.
Needless to say the spider did not get another chance. He was summarily squished with B’s shoe. Sheets were changed and, somewhat surprisingly, we both got a really good night’s sleep. So while in Africa at least, it appears I will have to abandon my moratorium on killing first and asking questions later, and, for the rest of my life, B will never let me forget that he was right and I was wrong about spiders and mosquito netting.