Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nice New Family—and Rats?

My new family lived in what could be called a compound. There was a large gate off the street which opened into a courtyard. There were four buildings on the ground floor, all small and one-room—the first was a hamam, with a shower and hot water heater. The second, a toilet (squat) building, also with a water heater, which acted as a furnace for keeping the building warm in the winter. Another was a tailor shop, my new host mother’s business. The fourth was my room.

My room had a sofa which I used as a bed, a dresser, sink, table, chair and for heat, a gas stove plopped along one wall. The family instructed me to turn on one burner when I was cold. There was a window, but the room was dark and very damp. The family lived upstairs in a home that was balanced on top of my building and the tailor shop.

Besides my mother, a widow, the family also had a daughter-in-law, a 3-month-old baby and a son who worked in Baku, about 7 hours by bus, and tried to come home as often as he could. A bonus for me is that the family had a small terrier and four 4-week-old puppies, which lived in the warm hamam. I was to go upstairs for meals and for any other time that I wanted. The host mother was an excellent cook, the baby and puppies were adorable and the daughter-in-law friendly and nice.

The first night after dinner I went to my room to study and heard rustling after awhile. Shortly, a mouse emerged. I went upstairs and the family came downstairs, found a hole, patched it and we all went to bed. I slept all night.

The next night, I heard some loud scratching noises coming from the ceiling. I thought the dog had gotten into the house, and went back to sleep.

The third night I heard the same noises before bedtime and went out to look for the dog. She was outside my door. I was puzzled about the scratching, but went to bed. I was awaked at 3 a.m. by loud scratching in the ceiling coming from several parts of the ceiling. It persisted for several minutes and I could hear different sets of feet that sounded much too large to be mice.

I decided right then that I could not sleep in that room another night. I reached for my phone and began texting the Peace Corps and a friend to I hoped to stay with the next night. The noises became so loud that I felt I would not be able to have a conversation with someone without raising my voice. I use the “record” feature on my phone to record the sounds. In the morning, I wondered if I had been dreaming, but listened to the recording and began looking for another house.

My host family was sad, but understood that I was afraid of rodents. They offered to move the tailor shop into my room and convert the tailor shop into a new place for me. By this time I had found another family.

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