An Expatriate's Guide to Vermin, or How the Hell to get a Bat out of the Refrigerator

Guayaquil, Ecuador 1989

After three years in Ecuador, I thought I'd seen it all.

  • Hadn't the mice gotten into the closed pantry to nibble on the imported Kraft Macaroni & Cheese on July the Fourth? I'd brought back piles of the treasured treat from the USA, all at my pre-teen's request.
  • Hadn't six-foot plus iguanas repeatedly taken up residence at the bottom of our rental home's leaking swimming pool? With a pile of screaming kids standing nearby, a couple of chauffeurs lassoed, cowboy-style a rope about the iguana to encourage it to leave the pool.
  • As for the lizards who lived inside our hone, we'd made a deal. They could live inside huddling near the lights at night to eat flying bugs and I'd leave left them be. Unfortunately they didn't catch the mosquito that bit and gave me dengue.

So when the time came--and the time always came one day--for us to move, I gathered things to jettison or sell. Opening up an old, now unused Electrolux canister vacuum cleaner in a locked storeroom, I was actually surprised to find the canister had become a hotel.

Completely empty, my observant eye saw clues as to what had become of the missing innards of the vacuum bag and dirt inside it. Tell-tale droppings from the intruder who had sallied down the metal vacuum tube to arrive into the relative safety of the canister said mice. All that remained was the cardboard collar locked unreasonably inside the closed canister lid.

The 24/7 guards confirmed that they'd seen these visitors enter and exit the locked storeroom, a true example that out of sight IS out of mind. And why would they bother to tell the Señora given mice were prolific in Guayaquil?

Mexico City 1999

After the rat come out of the toilet in Guayaquil, Ecuador, I wasn't taken aback by the less threatening mouse sitting on my kitchen counter. Nibbling on a piece of bread, the macho creature didn't move a muscle on seeing me, at least not until I chased him around with the only weapon at hand--a fly swatter.

The next day I called a recommended exterminator. The estimator came to look about the house and then told me, I had mice. Really? To quote Chris Matthews, tell me something I don't know. The estimator then said that they could solve the problem, but I would need to sign a year-long contract that would bring them monthly to the house.

I signed.

The exterminators came monthly to check the always empty traps and replace the bait within them. They'd confidently announce what a wonderful job they were doing, since we didn't have any dead mice in the traps. And this being Mexico and me being an obvious gringa, they'd fudge the time spent on their time sheet. Minor corruption to be sure, but clearly one of the reasons Mexico was no. 58 in honesty and the USA was no.18 according to one Non-Government Organization that ranked corruption around the world.

Happy, lovely, egalitarian Denmark was no. 1, the least corrupt country in the world.

So a few months later when I saw another rat scurrying in our small garden I decided to fire the exterminators after the was done. On duty 24/7, my German Shepherd and Cocker Spaniel did the vermin exterminator job far better. Hadn't the Cocker Spaniel had a Terrier moment days before, catching a mouse outside then shaking it to death right before our eyes?

Posh Esher UK 2015

Visiting family outside of London, I visited the main family bathroom late one night. It was one of those moments you sense movement before you see it, a mouse watching me skeptically. Very English, keeping itself to itself. It had squeezed through the hole where the sink drain exited, given the kindness of the plumber who'd made the hole wider than the drain pipe.

Giving my visitor a wide berth, I slipped out of the bathroom and closed the door behind me. Enlisting my husband, who was snuggled down in bed reading, he came to the family's rescue with a kitchen broom in hand.

Flashbacks to the mid-1960s Batman TV show as swat and bang noises erupted from the bathroom. Thud! Whomp! Gary the hunter soon exited having successfully protected his grandsons and the rest from the intruder.

"Ah, are you guys okay?" called our daughter from her master bedroom next to the family bathroom.

"Oh yes," I said. Tomorrow I'd tell her the rest.

The Bat in the Refrigerator

She noticed the noise one night when her three boys were finally quietly asleep. Living in a modest, 3-bedroom apartment in Guayaquil, Ecuador, they'd all heard the noises emanating from the kitchen. But given the refrigerator was locally built, she shrugged thinking nothing more of it.

Life is busy with three boys zooming about day and night.

But the noises were clearly coming from the refrigerator, so finally she decided to ask her chauffeur for help. Tilting the small, lightweight machine onto its side, they looked up the closed back of the machine to see if there was something to see. She screamed, he seemed merely surprised.

The kids were happily at school.

Jammed up the closed back of the refrigerator, was a small bat. How it had gotten there, no one could imagine. The salient question was how to extricate the intruder. No idea both said to each other. So what now?

They left the bat irretrievably stuck inside the refrigerator. When the noises had stopped for a few days, the creature was left in place.

Accepting the theoretically unacceptable, is something we all lived with abroad.

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    Candace Drimmer

    TIMELINE June 1972 to June 1973---Candace moves to Lima (Peru)----- June 1973 to May 1974---Candace and The Husband live in Glendale AZ----- May 1974 to August 1974---Living in Toronto, Ontario (Canada)----- September 1974 to May 1975---Living in Aberdeen SD----- May 1975 to July 1979---Living in Vancouver, British Columbia (Canada)----- July 1979 to June 1980---Living in Asuncion (Paraguay)----- June 1980 to September 1980---Living in NYC----- September 1980 to November 1982---Living in Connecticut----- November 1982 to January 1983---Living in Ponce, Puerto Rico (USA)----- February 1983 to July 1986---Living in Willemstad, Curacao (Netherlands Antilles)----- July 1986 to July 1989---Living in Guayaquil (Ecuador)----- July 1989 to July 1995---Living in Connecticut (yes, again)----- July 1995 to August 2001---Living in Mexico City (Mexico)----- August 2001---Return to Gringolandia (a.k.a. United States of America)----- I was an accidental expatriate; love and marriage led me to it. One day I was a bandy-legged kid sitting atop my dogwood tree looking out of my small backyard world in 1950s New Jersey, wanting to move somewhere--anywhere, different. Next thing I knew I met a young hirsute anti-war, soon-to-be-Peace Corps volunteer, fell in love and moved to Peru in the 1970s. WHAT an adventure it's been!! NOTE: I gave up Facebook, so apologies that I cannot answer any comments since it is only set up via FB.

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