A Bug’s Life

November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011 treasures.

I walked into the room seeking refuge from the 110 degree heat and instead was accosted by a vicious odor of moth balls, insect repellant, and oozing sewage. The air was warm, thick, and putrid. I noticed multitudes of bug carcasses strewn across the sheets of all three mattresses, and when I plopped my duffel bag on one of the beds, discovered that many were not carcasses at all. When a cloud of gnats rose up, I heard skittering behind the door. Hesitatingly, I eased the door from the wall and found several giant beetles holding court on the tile floor. I gulped (mentally because I was trying really hard to hold my breath to prevent intake of the stench) in fear, and further realized there were actually beetles scuttling all over the room.

Oh god.

We marched right back to the front desk and demanded a cleaning lady or a change of rooms. The attendant dryly informed us that the room was indeed clean and the bugs were just a part of the natural state of the hotel environment (we are no longer in the States, Toto). That really should have been the thousandth warning sign to run straight back to the city, despite having just arrived in the desert via six-hour roadtrip with four young children in the backseat asking “Are we there yet?” over and over and over.

We decided to take a look at the pool and return to address the room issue afterwards. The rectangular hole in the ground that was supposed to be a swimming facility was filled with murky green water and sixteen tons of debris, which included numerous cockroaches of enormous proportions. Naturally, the attendant claimed that the pool was also clean.

Yeah, about as clean as my butt would be if I didn’t wipe for a month.

We called another hotel to inquire about last minute openings of which they had none, so as missionaries on a budget, we had no choice but to stay put in the luxurious Hotel Touring Club. We demanded that personnel come do a sweep of the room, and a chatty maid was sent to amass a sizable pile of dirt and big, black beetles. I asked her if this was normal, and she scoffed, “This? Psh. This is nothing. Just wait until it gets dark. That is when they appear in hoards. I’m not even sure where they come from. It’s like they just come up from the ground.” (This woman does not have a future in PR.)

Could this get any worse?

Why, yes, it could. And it did. After we returned from dinner, more scurrying beetles were awaiting me despite the fact that I had left on every single light fixture in the room. I sprang into action and crunched those suckers with my poor Rainbows like nobody’s business. Just call me a modern-day, female Terminator…minus the massive arms. I requested a broom from the front desk (after we took a gander at a room offered for exchange–it smelled like 100-day-old crap of a diarrheic elephant), and swept another disturbing pile of beetles out the door. I borrowed a can of Raid from the Sc’s and sprayed the perimeter of the room.

Then it happened. The calm before the storm. The skittering ceased and just as I dared release a sigh of relief, a literal wave of beetles started flooding in from all the cracks and crevices in the floor corners. It was straight out a horror film. Y and I ran around panicking and exterminating. Stomp, spray, scream, repeat. And they wouldn’t stop. They poured in from the closet, crawled out from under the beds, and wrangled their way up from the sink drain. I felt like at the very least the Indiana Jones theme song could have been playing. Gosh.

Eventually the droves lessened (but never completely) and we were forced to reconcile how we were going to go about the whole sleep thing. Bugs in the beds and bugs in the bathroom and bugs on the floor presented quite the dilemma. I put on nearly every article of clothing I packed–jeans, a long-t-shirt, a zip-up jacket with a hood, and despite the heat, even socks. I wanted as little skin exposed as possible in case I were to awake in the middle of the night to find my body infested with beetles. Shudder. Additionally, my flat sheet (and the only available “blanket”) was harboring a bundle of other fun critters, so I pulled out my bright blue bath towel I had brought from home and in a fetal position huddled under it for dear life. Monoxide suffocation be damned.

We left all the lights on and the ceiling fan spinning at max wind speed. Not exactly ideal sleeping conditions, but then again the crawlies weren’t the greatest bedfellows either. Y and I joked about taking turns standing watch, and setting our alarms to go off every hour. We took pictures of each other hiding pitifully in our beds and pretended like it was all a funny joke. It wasn’t.

I. was. so. tired. I wanted to sleep so badly, but…BUGS. Just as I finally convinced myself to succumb to slumber, I heard *pak!*…*pak! pak!*…*pak!* Y and I jerked awake and stared at each other wide-eyed, unwilling to process what we knew the source of the noise to be. In a dreadful moment, I looked up and confirmed our fears. Beetles were now dropping from the ceiling too.

Needless to say that was the worst night of sleep I never got. A shower of rancid water the next morning was only appropriate to cap off a Thanksgiving I will never, try as I might, forget.

This year, I’m just thankful that it wasn’t rodents.

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One Response to “A Bug’s Life”


  1. […] that spans Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. The Paraguayan Chaco is where I survived this. Fortunately, my run through the Argentine portion of the Chaco yielded a significantly less crawly […]


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