I’m thinking this as I lay on the floor, looking under the bed beside me. I’m sleeping on a mattress on the ground because it seems cleaner than the bed – though I could be mistaken. When I sleep in places like this I always feel like my skin’s sensory perception is heightened, as if little critters are crawling all over my body. Most of the time this isn’t true and it’s all in my head, however the idea lingers after staying for 3 nights in a guesthouse in Cambodia early in my dirty-backpacking days. I thought I had been feasted on by mosquitoes or mini-spiders, counting 120 of the itchiest bites on each of my legs below the shins. It wasn’t until weeks later that someone told me the bites were from bedbugs: tiny, nearly-invisible little thugs that go out of their way to mess you up. Thankfully, the only other time I’m aware of living with bed bugs was in Toronto at Global Backpackers (I’d rented out my flat on Airbnb while out of town but had one night when I was in TO but not yet able to get back in my place). Bar none, that was the worst overnight stay of my life. After traveling several countries with all states and standards of cleanliness, I am embarrassed to say the worst experience was in my own country. The place had bed bugs, an exploding pipe in the hallway, windows that weren’t (…they were filthy and filtered no noise from Queen and Spadina below). I left around 2am, threw everything I owned in ultra-hot wash and spent the night in that restaurant at the bottom of the Thompson Hotel eating breakfast and not really enjoying unlimited coffee refills.
This is just a dead cockroach and a few more bites of unknown origin to add to the collection. Add in two loud Spanish women drinking the cheapest aguardiente you can buy and you have my current reality. However, I must say a dead cockroach beats the living. When I first started with St. Jude I was working in France and was cost-conscious so booked into what looked like a nice hostel in Port Vieux in Marseilles. Before bed I went to close my curtains and was rained upon by about a dozen cockroaches living in the drapes. One dead cockroach on a dirty floor in a dank smelling bed really isn’t so bad by comparison. He won’t come looking for me in the night. Plus, the morning holds promise – arepas, huevos, cafe and hopefully internet connection reliable enough to get me down to San Gil where I can run, learn more Spanish and do some climbing/rafting/caving/paragliding.
But really, I think it’s actually a good question – why and how do cockroaches die on their back? They’ve got no real predators that I’m aware of and due to the curved nature of their backs and bottom-heavy design it’s not like they wheeze, gasp fall to one side and naturally roll onto their shell. Why do you always find dead cockroaches on their back then? Every time I’ve found them post-mortem they’re in this pose. Since they’re virtually un-killable do they finally get tired of the loud Spanish and flowing aguardiente, expose their vulnerable bits to the sky and ask the Virgin from the church across the street for deliverance?