When I was preparing for Peace Corps, one of the things I read over and over were about problems with rats. It freaked me out a little. I packed cat treats and hoped for the best. I’ve lived at site now for 18 months, listening with a sympathetic ear to my fellow volunteers who struggle with rats. I thought I lucked out.
Then, after returning from a two-week trip, I had a suspicion something wasn’t right. At night, when I turned out the lights, I heard a scratching, chewing noise. The back of my mind said rats, while the rest insisted it was nothing.
Two nights later, I awoke to a crash. I thought maybe it was my neighbors, but the back of my mind told me again that it was rats. That morning, I found my candle stick laying on the floor. Coincidence? Maybe it just fell.
Then I found hard evidence. A piece of fruit was sitting on my counter with its flesh half-exposed. Little pieces of the skin were laying all around it, and there were trails of dust bunnies on the counter. Closer inspection of the fruit revealed flat-edged teeth marks. The optimistic side of me said it could have been a mouse. The back of my mind said rats. I searched around for more evidence, but found nothing. I tried to forget the incident, hoping that the critter had moved on.
Just around dusk, when it was time to close the doors and windows, I saw a grey body with a distinct snake-like tail float across my floor. No more lies, no more guessing. It was definately a rat. I got the broom and thought perhaps I could chase it out. Instead, it disappeared thorugh the narrow space between my bed and the floor.
All I could think to do was call my landlord, who lives next door. He came right over with a stick and moved my bed. The rat came scurrying out and headed straight toward my feet. I screamed. Then it darted under another door. Unfortunately it was a locked door to which we didn’t have the key.
The next step, my landlord brought over a trap. He toasted some bread to create an alluring scent. We set up a table and some boxes around to help guide it toward the trap. And I waited. By 7:30 it was dark and I was losing hope. I closed my door and resigned myself to the idea that I’d be spending the night with a rat.
Around 8:30, a friend called. I was just about to lament my troubles to her, when I heard a loud snap. I hung up the phone and called my landlord. I listened to the painful sounds of struggle, and then silence. My landlord showed up within minutes and inspected. Sure enough, the rat was caught. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief and thanked him about a hundred times.
This whole fiasco was over so quickly. I have many Peace Corps friends who have ongoing struggles with rats. They find rat-torn packages, chewed up plastic and entrails everywhere. To them, I salute. Peace Corps is not easy.