Yeah, I’ve got them. Yeah, they itch. Let the shaming begin.
I read shaming is what happens to people in New York when they get bed bugs. Didn’t think it would happen in Peace Corps, but apparently it does—yeah, I’m talking to you. You know who you are.
(These former Soviet Republic Peace Corps Volunteers, with their paved roads and running water and electricity 24/7, they’ve got no idea what “real” Peace Corps is like. Note: it’s possible my Peace Corps group might say the same thing about me, living in the city as I did, with my cushy, air-conditioned job at WWF.)
But it was in Suriname, during training, I learned of bed bugs. At first I thought it was just itchiness from mosquito bites. That I understood being from Florida. Although in Suriname I honestly forgot what it was like to not itch and developed a rather delusional relationship with my house mosquitoes.
“Oh, those are my mosquitoes,” I would tell visitors while reaching down to scratch my ankles bloody red and raw. “They don’t bite me. They’ve adapted to my blood. It’s the mosquitoes at your place that bite.”
But night-time itchiness, even under the cloud of my mosquito net, was different. So I asked around. Sure enough the answer was quick and easy. Bed bugs.
I lived with bed bugs for those three months of training since I was living with a host family and didn’t want to complain, especially considering what the majority of volunteers in my group were facing in the interior—sleeping in hammocks, starvation level food, giant attack rats, bathing in stagnant pools of dirty water, etc. etc. I had it relatively cushy in the city. Plus, I didn’t actually know how to get rid of bed bugs at that point.
Once I was on my own, bed bugs remained a part of daily life. It was always hot and humid and there was no air conditioning or screens or any way to keep out the teeming life of the tropics. I lived with it. And got myself a series of cats to kill off the wildlife, good environmentalist that I am. (The use of the word “series” relates to the dogs who kept killing my cats, but that’s a story for another blog.)
And bed bugs seemed minor compared to the piles of ants taking over my kitchen each morning, the bats nestling under my bed, the giant dead lizards my cat left in my shoes. But still, the ever encroaching bed bugs had to be tackled. And I soon learned the simple solution—heat kills. I would set my mattress and sofa cushions outside in the noonday sun nearly every week or so and let the sun bake everything nicely dead.
So I recognized the problem when it cropped up here in Georgia this past week (or two). But still, it’s taken me time to acknowledge it, to deal with it properly. This weekend I washed everything, but still the itching didn’t go away. I knew better, but I procrastinated, lied to myself. And it only got worse.
The past two nights I’ve barely slept from the itching—possibly due to an explosion of little babies feeding through the night. So today I came home from work early, just in time to catch the afternoon sun on my balcony, and set out my mattresses. My couch I’ll have to work on tomorrow as I only have so much space on my balcony. But hopefully I can get some sleep tonight. ‘Cause bed bugs suck.