After the 2014 World Cup, I scrambed for a place to stay and found myself volunteering at a holistic retreat in coastal Arambepe, Brasil, where I worked twenty-five hours a week in exchange for breakfast, lunch, and a hammock.
The hut I stayed at in Arambepe was amazing. For the most part. I slept in a hammock, often had hot water, and had the hut to myself. Life was good. I even had enough room for light exercise, something I would only have a few more times over the next two years. The only negative part was rodents. My hut had no glass or screen over the openings and the area between the ceiling and the roof was open. The result was mosquitoes. Lots and lots of mosquitoes. I was given a mosquito net, but they are made for rectangular beds more than hammocks so I usually just pulled a sheet over my face at night and hoped for the best. The mosquitoes never bothered me
Unfortunately, I shared the hut with more than mosquitoes. At night I heard an erratic scratching so I jumped out of the hammock and reached for the light. As I got out of the hammock—a bit more complicated than rolling out of bed—I heard the scratching race up the wall. I never saw what was scratching what and couldn’t see anything that was disturbed so I went back to sleep. I figured out what it was after the next morning. My soap sat on top of my backpack with small scratchmarks on it. I washed through a couple layers of the soap until the scratch marks were gone then pretended nothing happened.
A week later, the same thing happened but with much louder scratching. This time I looked immediately for the soap and found it under the table, with deep, long scratch marks. The scratches came from teeth, and the scratching going up the wall was from a rodent. There was no denying it this time: The soap thief was a rat. Rats are gross but don’t scare me. A rat eating my soap though, the same soap I washed my face with, scares me. How long had the rat been doing this before I detected it? How many times did I wash my face with that soap after the rat started? Is nothing sacred? I never used the soap again, but since there was no trashcan in my room I left it on a bag in the corner.
Two nights later he returned. I turned on the lights and looked for the soap but found nothing. I set a rat trap that day; I never saw the rat again, but the rat trap was always empty.
As I was leaving Arambepe two weeks later and triple checking to make sure I hadn’t left anything in the hut, I saw the soap where the straw side of the loft met the straw from the roof. The rat had been hiding in the ceiling eating my soap while I slept. He was the second worst room mate I’ve ever had.
Geckos, who eat bugs, make no noise, and clean up after themselves, are my preferred intruders.