Strangers in the night
Trip Start Jul 15, 2007
197Trip End Jul 16, 2008
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Where I stayed
When we first arrived at our two-story Gardenia Suite at Alam Indah, we noticed a card on the upstairs desk. It noted that we might share our room with an occasional gecko. Geckos, we were told, are considered good luck. They are also useful animals, eating insects that might otherwise bother us. So when we saw small lizards running about we thought nothing of it.
After a few weeks, Amy noticed that she would find little grains of what looked like black rice on her bedside table. We finally figured out that this was gecko poop. Still, it turned out geckos were the least of our worries, in terms of sharing our living space.
One night I wandered into the bathroom, turned on the light, and froze. There was a cockroach the size of George Foreman standing motionless on the sink. Maybe not quite the size of Big George, but easily four inches long, maybe five. That may not sound big, but measure it out and think, "cockroach". Usually roaches react to light by skittering away. Not this guy. He just stood there on the vanity, watching me with his beady insect eyes. While I object in principle to harming innocent life, and have been known to trap a spider and escort him unharmed to the back deck, I have never been averse to stepping on roaches. Roaches are evil incarnate. But this guy was way too big to step on. Too big to whack with a tennis racket, even if I had one. If I'd missed, he might have come after me. How to kill the nasty bugger?
I briefly thought of the promised role of the local geckos in keeping insects in check, but this was clearly an insect beyond the capability of any of the cute little geckos we'd seen. This would need a decent-sized Komodo dragon at a minimum. Frankly, at this point in the wee hours of the morning, I was thinking air strike.
I stood in the doorway, waiting to see who blinked first. It was me. I shut the door and went downstairs to pee.
A few nights later I was sleeping out on the upstairs deck. For Katharine and me, and briefly for Jack, the sleeping porch was one of the best features of our suite. The sleeping porch was a nice large deck, looking out over the pool and open to the air, complete with ceiling fan, reading lamp and table. On the porch was a day bed with a mosquito net, nicely furnished with pillow, sheets and comfortable mattress. I loved sleeping out there, feeling the fresh breezes and listening to the night sounds. I would always wake with the early morning sunshine, enjoy the peace and quiet for an interval, then fall more deeply asleep and wake for breakfast.
Neither Alec nor Amy were willing to consider sleeping outside for a minute.
One night I was on the sleeping porch, almost asleep, when I heard the sound of a large creature of some sort skittering about above my head, then scrambling into the bathroom. (The bathroom was separated from the porch by a sort of open-bar lattice at the top of the wall.) Next I heard things crashing over in the bathroom. I got up and slid back the door to the bedroom. Amy was in bed with Katharine. "Jim, what is it? Do you hear it?" asked Amy.
I told her I'd heard the whatever-it-was scrambling about the porch before entering the bathroom, and went to open the door. "Don't!" yelled Amy. We finally compromised on me knocking loudly on the bathroom door, slamming the door open and shut a few times, then slipping in and pulling the door shut behind me. At that point, Amy made clear, I was on my own.
When I finally surveyed the bathroom, I saw plastic bottles knocked over and toothbrushes scattered about, but no inhabitant. In the end, I slept downstairs that night.
The next morning we reported our nighttime visitor, who we suspected was a monkey. The staff were skeptical. Monkeys are not nocturnal. They sometimes cause mischief at first light, but not in the wee hours. The staff's guest was that it was a bat.
We got our answer the week before we left. I was upstairs when Amy yelled up. Katharine had seen a mouse in the downstairs bathroom. I went and looked, saw nothing. But later that night I woke up (I am a light sleeper) and heard rustling downstairs. I located the flashlight and crept down the stairs.
Something was rustling around in the box of crackers between the kids beds. I shone a light and the sound stopped. Turned all lights on and saw crackers scattered and box on the floor, then a glimpse of a brown furry body.
This was no mouse. This was a rat. By now everyone was up and asking what was up. Hearing of a rat, Katharine wanted to come pet it. I had trouble convincing her this was not Ratatouille. Bubonic plague, Black Death, that kind of rat, not a cute Pixar-generated rat gourmet. I went looking for it in the bathroom, and found on closer examination that our rustic semi-outside downstairs shower had a previously unsuspected feature -- a four-inch wide gap between inside wall and outside wall, extending all the way to the outside. Shining a flashlight into the gap, I saw a rat silhouette strolling calmly along a pipe toward reception.
All of our various crackers and peanut butter containers got placed into a large plastic bag and hung from the end of a curtain rod, out of reach of the most ambitious rodent. And we all slept upstairs.
Postscript: When we got to China and really went through our luggage, I found the top off my Centrum Silver and a bunch of half-chewed vitamins in the bottom of my suitcase. At least I can take some comfort knowing that an aging Balinese rat was able to keep up his Vitamin C intake.