One common nuisance that comes along with living in Tanzania are the presence of rats. Most families have this problem at some point throughout the year. For instance, my host family had to buy poison to get rid of a rat problem they had while we were there. There are several strategies to try to prevent this problem, one being simply not leaving any food laying around. We definitely know that that volunteer in our house previous to us had rat problems. When we rearranged furniture in our house, we discovered hundreds of rat pellet poop. However, we had not seen any in our home….until two nights ago.
I was having one of my insomniac nights, I was just teetering on the brink of falling asleep without actually sleeping. I was laying in bed and I heard a noise that seemed to be coming from within our bedroom. I figured it’s probably nothing because there are a lot of noises in the night. But, then I heard something that sounded to be coming from within our clothing cabinet. After ten minutes of making sure it sounded like it was inside the house, I finally woke Jon up. It took about five minutes of convincing him that it was not “a bird on the roof at 3:00am”. We lit a candle and searched our room, but found nothing. Jon went into the kitchen and there it was, our first rat scurrying across the table in which we prepare all of our food. It jumped off the table, ran behind our buckets of water, and scurried into our spare room where we have a bookshelf.
So, at 3:00am, we put all of our food underneath pots and set up rat traps. We took buckets, put some peas and powdered milk underneath it and then propped it up with a nail. We set one up in the kitchen and one up in the spare room where we thought it was hiding. After hoping that it either gets caught or leaves, we went back into bed. It wasn’t even five minutes where we heard it scurrying around in our room. We got a flashlight and caught it staring back at us! It must have come into our bedroom while we were trying to set up traps. We chased it out of the room and fell asleep.
The next morning, we woke up feeling hopeful that the rat fell for one of our traps. Sadly, it had not gotten caught underneath the one in the kitchen. Jon went into our spare room to check on that trap and he came running back out screaming. The rat was on top of our bookshelf and when Jon walked into the room, they were eye to eye. We shut the door to that room and went right over to our neighbor to borrow their cat named Miss.
Miss (who by the way is a male cat) was placed into the spare room to catch the rat. After about thirty minutes of the cat trying to get the rat who was hiding underneath the bookshelf, we decided to try to to help Miss out by shaking the rat out of the bookshelf. Jon went into the room to shake the bookshelf. But, nothing came out. Miss was scared of the commotion and left his resting place on our bag of charcoal. As it turned out, Miss was sitting on top of the rat on the charcoal bag! We didn’t know if the rat was dead or not.
Our neighbor came to see if she could help the situation. She is a 25 year old Swahili teacher at our school. So, her and Jon went back into the rat room and I stayed outside peering into the room through the window. The rat was not dead. Our neighbor went to check on the bag of charcoal and the rat came running out, scaring our neighbor who jumped up and nearly landed on the rat as she came back down. Miss was excited now. I could see the whole room, so I was screaming at them where the rat was at all points. This rat can jump! It climbed up the bookshelf, jumped down, scaled all corners of the room, jumped two feet into the air to climb up our bicycle, hopped over onto my hanging laundry until Maida whacked it with a fly swatter back to the ground. Finally, Miss caught the rat and enjoyed a rat snack. The whole process took hours to finally get that rat defeated!
If we get another rat, we are going to get a cat. Our neighbor told us with Miss around they have not seen any rats in their home at all. Rats eat everything: they chew holes in your furniture, clothes, shoes, eat your food, and are just disgusting to begin with. So, that was the beginning of our week!