I was trepidatious when I opened my eyes early yesterday morning to see Alex, already in a collared shirt, grabbing his backpack. On the days he teaches at seminary, he’s gone by six. Though it’s only his second week teaching it is already a struggle between “Have a great day, darling” and “Uh-oh,” in terms of my morning greeting. In faith, I opted for “Have a great day, darling.” (And followed it up with “uh-oh” after the door shut.)
After preparing to do this for a decade, there is a tremendous joy in beginning and things in Alex’s classroom seem to be off to a great start. For which we thank God. But my own experiences on the teaching days have been . . . hair-raising. (Better terms eluding me, I looked that up in the thesaurus. It suggests ‘shuddersome’. Yes.)
His first morning teaching I was so nervous I decided to clean out the car. I thought our van was dirty in ‘Merica! You should have seen our car eight days ago. It was full of sand and sweat and dirty streaks on the upholstery from countless children clambering in and out all summer. All of our children are packrats, collecting bits of rubbish and random samples of tropical plant matter for later study that never actually happens. The car is the receptacle for most of these non-rare specimens, since the day I outlawed under-their-pillows as an alternate location. (No doubt further solidifying my credentials as a Mean Mom.) So the car needed the love and hard work is my best panacea for anxiety. I backed it into the courtyard, filled a bucket of sudsy water, and gave Hugh and Wally the job of washing the outside. I geared up and headed for the interior. At the same time, in a city two hours away, Alex was beginning to teach.
I scrubbed all the upholstery, cleaned the windows, washed the mats in the sun, and swept out the sand. All went well until I removed Wally’s chair and tipped his seat up to clean underneath.
When I spotted one.
There was a cockroach the size of a quarter hanging out under there. Believe it or not, in Indonesia this counts as a little one. Nay, an infant. I’ve lived here for a year now. (Also I’m an adult.) I wasn’t going to freak out. I kept an admirable calm while I backed slowly away and went for the chemical bug-killing spray can. You would have thought I was strolling through Target with a Starbucks coffee in one hand. I leveled that baby at the roach and let loose.
And cockroaches by the hundreds came pouring out of the interior of the seat. They spilled down the upholstery, ran in all directions in the interior of the car, spilled out the door, and rushed over the ground. Two ran over my feet and one ran up my leg. There were babies, adults, and granddaddies: ranging from pea-sized hoppers to bigger brown quarter-sized runners. God be praised, there weren’t any of those titanic four-inchers like the one that came running out of my face cloth early yesterday morning.
I have no idea what sound came out of my mouth but I can promise you it was both disturbing and impressive.
I would love to describe the next few minutes to those interested but I am afraid a more precise record of those events will be forever lost to the world. (Unless my helper was watching from the house, which I sincerely hope she was as her job is, at times, too boring.) All I know is that I went beserk with the spray can and the broom. The fumes got so thick my tongue went numb and at one stage I sacrificed my left foot in order to whack to death the cockroach that was on it.
After I finally finished sweeping everything out I sprayed, waited ten minutes, went back and swept out the dead, sprayed again, etc. for an hour. When I finished our car was gleamingly clean, there was no sign of life, and the courtyard was littered with enemy carcasses. I looked at the clock. Alex was wrapping up his first lecture. (How did it go, darling.)
I forgot to tell you, as I backed away for the spray can in the beginning, I startled a seven-inch brown snake lizard, who had apparently been sunning himself behind the car. In his haste to flee the scene he actually touched my foot. I was so focused on slaughter that this event, ordinarily momentous, did not impair my calm.
You ‘ve heard of the classic “fight-or-flight” response to threat? For many months in Indonesia my automatic impulses were all “flight”. Apparently that stage is over. I’m all fight at the minute and the score last Thursday was firmly Me: 1, Enemy 0. So praise God for that.
I need to, because yesterday was another teaching day and I backed into a guy’s motorcycle with the car.