Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Paradise Lost.

So we arrived home. Caught a taxi. This was at 2 a.m. Despite the roads being empty it was STILL a hair raising journey home. The 'taxi' had 3 warning lights for various things permanently on. We stopped for petrol because the gauge was on empty. I noticed after we had set off again it was still on empty, either a faulty petrol gauge or more likely the usual way of putting a few rupees in at a time. Often someone will own a car but not be able to afford petrol or maintaining it. Hence tuk-tuks, which have no petrol gauges at all, run out CONSTANTLY.

I have lost track of the number of times M has phoned to say he would be (even) later because his tuk-tuk ran out of petrol en route home. Oh and he told us for free his brakes had a 'problem'. The problem being they made a lot of noise but didn't slow us down much. We narrowly missed a car and a tuk-tuk, both of which pulled out in front of us to shave seconds off their journey even though the rds were completely empty at 2 a.m. It wasn't so much a question of a gap in the trafiic, we were the traffic....

And now for my rat's tale. I warn you need a strong stomach. This is room 101 stuff. We came home to find one dead rat in trap. so far so good. We also found half a pillow case. Literally only half left. With teeth marks. Also a cotton bag whose handles had been completely gnawed away. slightly more ominous. A bottle of oil had its lid chewed off. Then our house help said everything was fine while we were away, but there were 'so many rats'. (10 inches long)

Wait a minute, we thought we had caught 'it'. It turns out 'it' was 'them'. She encountered rats during the day, one in the children's bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, downstairs loo, etc etc. But we have an Amazon warrior woman for a house help, (M was seriously impressed!) She wacked one on the head and killed it. She discovered they were coming up the drain pipes into 2 bathrooms where there's a drain in the corner with a hinge top. Great design feature. The rats popped their heads up out of the drain in the bathroom and when they saw our house help, disappeared again. So she poured harpic down on them and flushed water down the drainpipe.

I also realised that they must come up AT NIGHT through these entrances. Shudder shudder. M did see, and trap, a rat one night (when I was in England last yr), and we both saw a cane squirrel in our room too once. It's the stuff of horror movies. Rats lurking in your drain pipes and coming up silently invading your house, think I should send a script to Hollywood.

I guess it's just a matter of what you're used to, a colleague of M's at work, had to kill 7 venomous snakes when he cleared his land to build his house. The thing is rats are everywhere in all countries but we are NOT used to living with them. Visibly. We have seen one in our garden at night and another sitting on our doorstep when our visitor opened the door to leave early one morning. And we live in a 'nice' ex pat house, albeit in a jungly area...

And, this is where it gets more ominous, one rat had even chewed thru our phone line so we couldnt call for help. Cunning creatures rats....

The saga continues. The next night I heard something rustling in the corner behind some toy boxes, when opening wardrobe in the spare rm. So after M had a tentative search with a cricket bat, admiration for Maheswary growing by the second, but finding nothing, we put a trap in there and closed the door. Next morning the inside of the door was all chewed and there was a hole above the window where it had chewed through mosquito netting and escaped.

Even our resident geckos have been up to tricks. In our absence they have taught themselves to open tubs. Tupperware tubs with a spring loaded lid. These were all open each morning when the maid let herself in, with a tell tale trail of little gecko poos on the work surface surrounding the tubs. Yeuch.

The roads have got worse in our absence too. The government, in their wisdom, have decided to make loads of streets one way so it's becoming very confusing, and impossible to find our way around. It also keeps changing and they haven't thought about the necessity of leaving viable routes through to places, so there's loads of doubling back, weaving etc. Official explanations include "developed countries have one-way systems so Sri Lanka should have too" and "terrorists can't do U turns if they see a rd block and the street is one way". But they could always turn off down a side street. Another stunningly brilliant war-game strategy. I'm sure that should win them the war. No wonder our friend who works for the Dept of Transport is tearing his hair out as his advice is rejected once more.

The security situation has got a lot worse as well. The LTTE seems to have stepped up a gear. There have been 2 bus bombs, one in the South, one in Kandy in the middle of the country. Neither are in the conflict areas, and both targeting civilians. This is a major departure from how the war has been fought up till now.

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