Of Mice and Maria

I had not been in Macondo long before I realized I was not the only one living in my room. In fact, it was my first real day as a PCV at site. It had been about two weeks since site visit and I was cleaning up, unpacking, deciding how to decorate my new space.

I had no furniture in the bedroom, so my things were on the floor. I lifted some folders up and saw something flutter. It looked like the tear away tags on the black plastic bags you find everywhere (and I mean everywhere). I almost ignored it but for the feeling that the movement was too controlled. I peered closer and sure enough, it was a little mouse. I could hear Rauf outside and I called him to help. He went for it with no hesitation. In fact, he accidentally stepped on it, stunning it. He grabbed the tail and gently swung it against the wall. It was enough to kill it. I resolved then and there, I needed a cat.

The mice run along the beams of the ceiling, pooping as they scramble along. Because of that and dust that finds its way in through any cracks and gaps, I installed a canopy to catch the debris and make it easier to clean. I also did not want the stuff falling onto my cooker and food. In the evenings, I would come in, only to startle the mice into exposing themselves on my cooking table. ‘How did they get up there?,’ I wondered. I was cleaning one day and for some delayed reason, only then did I think to lift up the gas stove. Shockingly, I was shocked to find it covered with mouse droppings. To think I had been cooking mere inches above this toilet!

I must confess: in all mouse sightings, I scream stereotypically like the women on TV. It is not something I am proud of. And yes, I have even leaped onto a couch. How come I do not react like this when I see a camel spider?

Iceni leaves very little behind.

I got Iceni, the cat, a few weeks after arrival. It became apparent she was not going to be solely an indoor cat – she would have been miserable. I started to let her out about two weeks later – petrified she would run away. Luckily she came back, knowing there would always be food for her. One evening I was about to start cooking and had seen a mouse run off the cooking table. It hid somewhere in my couch/bed (even though we sealed it off for this exact reason). I knew I would not catch that one. Something told me to check under the cooker and I spotted a pair of beady black eyes staring at me. Cue Iceni. She had just seen me walk inside and wanted in too. I picked her up, lifted off the stove pot holders and placed her on top. She knew immediately there was a treat in there for her. By this point she was an experienced mouse catcher – not her first rodeo at all.

March rolls around and it is too hot to sleep indoors. No wind and the rooms take an entire night to cool of from having the sun pound the zinc roofs and mud walls all day. I actually enjoy sleeping outdoors, of course under my mosquito net; it feels like I am camping. One morning, just before sunrise, Iceni paws at my mosquito net, meowing. I am shooing her away, embarrassed – she’s probably waking up the rest of the house, especially as all of us are sleeping outside. I roll over and feel something soft, yet firm, press against my hip. I am awake enough to think ‘that is odd, how did my blanket ball up like that?’ Feeling like the Princess and the Pea, I bring my hand down to push it out of the way. I brush something distinctly furry. *GASP* I shove up onto my knees, eyes wide. Things are only just becoming visible but still only shadows. I fling up my blanket and a solid mass flops onto the edge of my mosquito net. HOW did it get in?! – I had tucked in all sides of the net! I pull up the net so the mouse falls outside. Iceni appears in a flash, snatching it up. I collapse back onto my mat, too tired to do anything else; the brief commotion having exhausted me and I try to fall back a sleep. However, I cannot. Iceni has taken her prize to the space between the wall and the mosquito net, right by my head and is happily munching away. Each crunch sounding like ‘I tried to warn you mom’

Since then, things have been more peaceful. Every now and then, Iceni darts past me into the room, to privately consume her catch. Or she does uncover a tiny thing that somehow got inside. But it has been a few months now since any incident. The mouse droppings that miss my canopy and under my stove (which I now regularly clean) are the only visible sign they are really still there. I guess they have learned to hide better.

20160708_081202Iceni just had two babies. They will be remaining indoors for a while. Is it hopeful to think all three will scare the mice far away?



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