Sunday, October 08, 2006

When I first moved to Burkina, I expected to be surrounded by bugs: mosquitos, spiders and, above all, huge cockroaches. All of these creatures figured greatly in my short stay in Burkina in 1994, so I was braced for more of the same.
But it turned out that these creatures would be the least of my worries. The houses here are all infested by geckos. Perhaps you know these creatures from the much-admired US insurance company ads? They are pale, gummy-looking things with sticky, splayed feet. They spend all day hiding under picture frames and behind the furniture, defecating on the walls. Then they emerge at night to make bizarre clicking sounds and eat their weight in bugs.
After we’d lived in our house here for a few days, I told JP that we’d have to move. “They can have the house”, I said. “They were here first and are welcome to it.” I was seriously creeped out. Every time I inadvertently disturbed one during the day, I’d do a little hop and shriek dance. I had constant visions of them sneaking under the mosquito net covering the twins’ bed and crawling all over my sweet little babies. Lizards are SO not supposed to live in peoples’ houses.
JP pointed out that ALL the houses here had geckos, making it useless to move. So, I tried to solve the problem. Just so you know, do NOT get an exterminator to come and fumigate your geckos. The beasts will crawl into inaccessible spaces in your home, die and then decompose over the period of about a month (depending if it’s dry or rainy season) This does not smell good. Just telling you.
Gradually, I came to accept the geckos and even appreciate them. This came about due to several factors: 1.Geckos have absolutely no interest in crawling on human babies. Unless the babies are covered in bugs, in which case geckos are probably the least of your problems. 2. I am not in charge of cleaning gecko poo off the walls. Plus, it is rather dry, crumbly stuff that isn’t smelly or all that messy, once you get right down to it. 3. They EAT mosquitos (that give you deadly malaria), flies (that spread filth) and cockroaches (that I hate beyond anything). This is all good! 4. Their little faces are actually kind of cute.
I grew to eventually even LIKE geckos.
Then, one day, Valentine found a little abandoned kitten in a shed behind our house. She bottle fed him and he grew into a big, macho, hunting-oriented cat. The kind of cat that would hang out in the garage with you and drink a can of Budweiser, if you were interested in that sort of thing. Suddenly, after four years in Ouaga, we had hardly any geckos in the house- just a few in the bedrooms where the cat wasn’t allowed. The cat also turned out to be a hunter of cockroaches. Venturing into the kitchen at night, I was always sure to have either a can of Raid or the cat with me as protection. And Gaspar Kitty also rid the yard of the giant rats that roam the neighbourhood at night. He even left a decapitated one in the middle of the garden path one morning, just to show he was on the job.
When a little stray momma cat and her baby showed up here a year ago, I felt so sorry for her. JP wanted none of it-said there were already too many animals around here, what with the turtles and rabbits. But cats are useful! So now we have two patrolling the house and property, keeping us safe from the creepier local fauna.

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