I grew up in Jefferson City, Missouri, the daughter of two individuals who grew up as farm kids. I was a city kid. I had a nice backyard, but we didn’t grow corn in it, and our biggest animal was Coco, our chocolate lab, or possibly Patches, the blue healer/blue tick mix. I loved our animals, and on two separate occasions we spent a little more than a little money on healing my cat, Tiger (he has even had hip surgery).
When I was in high school, my “boy scout troop,” AKA my Venturing Crew, went hiking in Virginia in Shenandoah National Park. There, I discovered that I thoroughly disliked snakes when the following dialogue occurred:
Me: “Hey, look guys! A snake!”
Everyone else: “Cool beans!”
Snake: slither slightly toward Jacque
Also at Shenandoah, I had an episode with a beetle that I don’t care to relive, but that I will definitely never forget. And that’s enough of that story.
As a counselor, I had to suck it up and be a big girl. As a junior counselor at Little Prairie when I was 17, I stayed in Boys Cabin 1 with a girl in quarantine (she had pink eye) and successfully muffled my hysterics brought on by a persistent cockroach that my beautiful friends rescued me from. Also at LPBC, I abandoned a container of Gobstoppers to a cockroach (as a camper), abandoned my bed to cockroaches (as a JC), and saved my cabin from an infestation of mice (as a counselor). That in itself is a story: I sent my kids outside (as though that would muffle my screams that are just a reflex and I have no control over), and had my fellow brave counselor, Anna, come join me. I eventually just forbade my girls from looking in the rafters for mice because they wouldn’t leave.
At Flaming Pine, there were relatively few bugs, and I developed lightning reflexes to kill the biting bugs- they didn’t scare me, they just angered me.
I scream easily. Bugs and creepy crawlies gross me out, quite easily. I don’t mind if a bug is just hanging out away from me, but even when they’re far away from me, there’s always the knowledge that as a living creature, it might move closer.
For those of you who knew me, those are just a few of the reasons you scoffed when I said I was coming to live in Africa. For those of you who don’t really know me, you now have a picture of my personality that raises your eyebrows when you realize I already live in Africa. Now I will share some specific stories that will make everyone, old and young alike, giggle.
Why You Laughed Story #1:
Ever since I got here, I’ve had a steady stream of ants going from a hole behind my desk to the trash can that is located by the door. I’ve gotten used to them, and only use the giant can of bug spray when they cross the bubble line and swarm my feet/legs (it’s happened twice, and I still shudder when I think about it). The other day, I was amazed by the line of ants- it was three times thicker than it normally was! I had Bethany come and look and we were in awe together. When Nicole came by to bring the girls’ lunches, she came in to help me with my problem. She grabbed the giant green can of bug annihilator and started to spray the hole behind my desk that was a source of the ants.
They swarmed out of that hole. I mean thousands of ants, forming a fan shape coming out of that hole, quicker than I ever want to see ants appear. I kept shuddering and finally moved my class outside, “because of the fumes” and the fact that I was so grossed out about what had just occurred five inches from where I sit every day.
Why You Laughed Story #2:
A couple of weeks ago, I used the dictionary that sits in the corner of the bottom of my shelf. It smelled awful, but I couldn’t figure out why, so I decided it was strange, put it back and did nothing about it. On Tuesday of this week (our first day of the week for school here), Aidan needed the dictionary, so I pulled it out for him. Once again, it smelled really bad, worse even than last time. This time, I decided to see if it was something on the shelf, so I moved the books next to the dictionary space to the ground and looked.
It was a lizard. But not a live one. No, that would have been a normal occurrence. This one was dead, and had been decaying for who knows how long- all I know is that my dictionary has smelled for longer than two weeks. Ew. Ew. EW!!!
I had to have Bethany come in and take care of it for me, because my gag reflex was being quite active, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, it smelled for the rest of that day and all day yesterday, though I’m not sure if that was just my imagination. I put the dictionary and other books outside in the sun yesterday, hoping to get the smell away. I would like to point out that it took me a day to bring myself to touch the books. Ew.
The best part of this story is my kids’ reactions. I didn’t tell them what was there because I couldn’t bring myself to actually talk about it (remember the gag reflex), but they kept saying, “What? What is it?” When I responded, “Nothing,” they said, “Miss Jacque, we know that look.” I have a look, and my kids recognize it! This is enough to send me into fits of giggles upon thought.
Why You Laughed Story #3:
As I’ve already mentioned in passing, we have a lot of lizards and geckos and skinks, both in Kara, but especially in the schoolhouse compound. This makes for entertaining moments when they cross from their acceptable place outside into an unacceptable place: the buildings in which I live. If they stay in their little bubbles, I don’t mind. For example, we have a little “jelly” lizard that sits in our window and waits for us to come home at night. We can always see him because he’s backlit. He doesn’t come out and terrorize us during school, he just waits. He’s my friend.
The gecko that took up residence behind my chalkboard the other day (the day immediately after the decaying lizard was found, mind you), was not where he should have been.
Michal had gone up to the board to do a problem for Math. She was the first one to write on the board for the day, and as she started writing, a gecko about seven inches long emerged from behind, coming toward my desk and bookshelf. I squealed a little bit, then stood up and hopped onto Michal’s chair. None of my beautiful angels knew why I was startled, but I told them and asked Aidan to rescue me from it. He got up and ran his ruler around my bookshelf, making noise to scare it out, but I didn’t see it again that day.
I only hope it doesn’t die back there.
Why You Laughed Short Sundry Stories:
At the beginning of the year, there was a tiny skink on the ground on the other side of a beam from me. I wasn’t panicking, but I wasn’t moving either, because I didn’t want to hurt it. Then, the little bugger ran towards my foot and touched me!!! I proceeded to let out a shriek and hop around like a rabbit. To top it off, all of my kids were in the room as well as some of the parents. It was quite a show.
When Peter Dexter was a part of our lives, he was also a large part of the kids’ lives. Because we moved him around the yard on his leash, the kids explored the ground around the compound often. One day, on a day I was a bit melancholy, the older girls told me they had something to show me outside. As I walk out of Bethany’s room, she tells me in hushed tones, “Jacque, it’s a bug.” I’m thinking, “How bad could it be?” as I walk through my room and out the door that leads outside. Well, it was huge and nasty and disgusting and dead. If it hadn’t been dead, I might have cried. As it was, one of the girls was immediately behind me as I tried to escape from the girls waiting right outside with that nasty bug. I had a bit of a panic attack and asked them where they had found it... “By the goat,” was the answer, and from that time on, I approached the goat very cautiously, scanning the ground for massive insects
The next time you’re around me with my computer, ask to see the cockroach video. In short, sometime during the first month we were here, I was baking bread in our kitchen and it was in the oven. I was going into the kitchen to check on it, and as I walked in the door, I saw a cockroach scurry across the floor to hide under our sink. I lost it. Sarah was out in the Kindergarden room, but Bethany was upstairs in the apartment with me. I came skipping in to the living room, and jumped onto a chair where I couldn’t talk for a few moments because I was so grossed out (remember, please, that this was at the height of adjusting to life here). When I was finally able to communicate what was wrong to Bethany, she yelled for Sarah who came running because she thought we were dying. Don’t worry, Sarah got it, but she tried to give up a few times... Bethany and I would not let her.
There have been a few shower instances with bugs that cause hysterics, and Sarah, the tallest (and therefore the designated bug killer, obviously) always comes to our rescue.
And that, my beautiful friends, is why you laughed.