House sharing can have some consequences.
Unbeknown to us we do share our home here in Tonga with a few locals – some resident geckos have settled nicely into our Pili house. We have christened them George, Georgina, Georgie … etc you get the drift. These little creatures scurry around the walls at all hours but are especially active at night and quite like munching on a banana or ten that Saane our landlady regular sends over.
They are pretty harmless but I must say I have been freaked out more than once when getting up in the middle of the night to grab some water from the fridge to find one abseiling from the sink or rummaging in the garbage. I am not the most alert at that hour and my first thought is always ‘mouse’… But after our early eradication program and our one little mousey fellow’s demise the news has obviously hit the vermin grapevine and we have not had any retribution from angry cousins.
We have learned to like these little geckos especially since we heard they devour cockroaches. One of the redeeming features of living in a cold place such as Orange is the simple fact that it is too cold even for cockroaches. Thankfully our Pili house has not attracted too many of these yukky coastal dwellers so maybe it is true as we do seem to have a rather large extended family of Georges.
Now mosquitoes are another issue. We seem to have lots of them but thankfully they are not malarial carriers but even so they can be a menace. The Tongan mossie is a silent flier who can bite you ten times in quick succession before you even realise and start to itch something terrible. if you can bear that then after about five minutes the attack is forgotten and the little welt and itch does disappears. Being soft ‘palangis’ though we usually paint on a little of the highly effective Amcal bite gel (thanks for the tip brother Adrian… this stuff is A1) and it is happy days until the next onslaught. Mosquito coils do work although it takes a while to get used to the pungent smell. Of course untangling the interlocked coils without breaking them (I am becoming an expert) and finding matches that are not damp and will light can be a challenge when one is in the middle of a major campaign.
Luckily we came armed with very efficient electronic zapper things you plug into a powerpoint and slip a blue disc in. This battle strategy has proved fabulous especially on hot nights when we sleep with no sheets and our white glow in the dark bodies become an easy target for these starved drones searching for fresh fodder.
We also have slinkies (not their biological name but the name certainly suits their movements). These little millipedes can be found creeping up walls, along floors or even on the ceiling. They don’t really hurt you although I have been told they can give a bit of a burn. We have a sophisticated slinkie removal system that involves two postcards (destination not important although we have heaps from Scotland compliments of Gordon’s parents :-). When in contact with the said cardboard the little fellows up feet and become a spiral. We can then scoop them up and send them on a water journey by dropping them down the loo. They have been known to creep up the bowl so it is always important to look before sitting if you come to visit. Our floor is black tiles so some don’t even get to have a trip and when you here a distinct ‘crunch’ underfoot you know that a slinky armour did not withstand the 70kg weight of a strolling palangi.
A close cousin to the slinkie is the mulacow. Now this bug is BIG and is hard to squash or kill with insect spray (yes Kotoni being the brave warrior has a can constantly within reach to exercise a drowning manoeuvre when called upon to protect his wife). It is a centipede with nasty nippers than can bight. We have had two but thanks to Mum being here for our first encounter we have the perfect environmental attack plan in our arsenal. Under her instruction we poured boiling water over the unwanted visitor and he was disarmed and well… dead. So we are no longer leaping on chairs when a rare one makes its way into our house.
Oh and then there are the insider ants. These teeny weeny little beige, nearly transparent critters roam around all over the place and like to crawl into and over everything. We are now used to an added bit of protein in our teacups and have to be extremely vigilant not to leave the sugar container lid off or food uncovered on the benches as they have very efficient surveillance scouts who send for reserves and the surfaces become a seething mass of labourers. I have even been told the can get into computer screens!?
Tonga does not have snakes either. I leapt for joy at that news. The outdoor showers at our paradise retreat of Fafa island are so divine we thought maybe it is something we could replicate in Australia. Ok not Orange where even the idea of stepping outside most mornings can be torturous because of the climate. The primary reason would be that a lovely moist garden outdoor shower environment would be perfect for a red belly or brown snake …so perhaps it wont be an architectural feature of our next abode when we eventually move northwards.
Into Ahopanilolo to see what was happening and did a few jobs in preparation for starting on 20th… or so we thought. The Catholic Education Office announced today that we will not be returning now until the 27th. I suspect this extra weeks holiday may be because of the clean up efforts needing lots of hands on deck in Ha’apai. The images coming across the news continue to show great destruction of homes and public businesses. It is so amazing that there was not more loss of life. we have much to be grateful for.