Battling Monsters in Mozambique
Moving to Mozambique, Africa, with three children was difficult for many reasons, not the least of which was that the insects in Mozambique seemed prehistoric in size and structure. As if to confirm that impression, when I looked up “chongololo,” the name for the millipedes in Mozambique, the article said, “The giant African millipede can grow up to 15 inches in length.”*
Of course! Just my luck. Mozambique would be the home of the “giant” millipede. We saw dung beetles the size of a young child’s fist, crickets that looked like a prehistoric armored version that could carry off a young child—okay, not quite. But the worst were the baboon spiders that looked every bit like huge tarantulas! Big brown furry creatures that hung out, literally, on the ceiling of our porch just outside the door. They were terrifying. I do not care if they were said to be harmless; those hairy monsters were nightmare fodder. Having so many oversized insects in Mozambique, which were impossible to keep out of the house, was the bane of my existence, not to mention the mosquitos that carried deadly malaria.
We moved to Maputo, Mozambique in August of 1996 to do mission work. I taught at an international school, and my husband helped start a pastoral leadership training program. Living in our newly built house was described by one of our American friends as “like living in a bath house.” We did have screens on the doors and windows, but we had no ceilings and only a concrete floor. Picture a bath house at a campground having three bedrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. The roof leaked whenever it rained, and we placed buckets under all of the leaks, not knowing how to fix the type of roofing that was used. Though we had screens, there was no keeping the insects out of that house, nor the geckos for that matter.
One time I was sitting in the bathroom taking care of business, when something came crashing down from the ceiling toward me. I screamed and jumped up, not able to flee because of my state of undress, but it was just a gecko. Geckos were crawling on our walls and ceilings constantly, but since they ate malaria-carrying mosquitos, we learned to consider them our buddies. The insects, on the other hand, I could not stomach.
In my fervor to keep bugs out of our food, I would look for any container that might be airtight. Containers were important. Sometimes we would buy cookies that were sealed in a metal can that had a tight fitting top, similar to the tins we sometimes use in the states to give homemade Christmas cookies as gifts. If I found cookies in a tin, that meant maybe they were fresh and not bug infested, and then I would save the container to use for storage after the cookies were gone.
One day I could not find my cookie tin where it was supposed to be in the kitchen. I had looked everywhere. I went looking around the house, and I found it on my oldest son’s shelf in his room.
“What is Kirk doing with my cookie tin?” I thought.
Nonchalantly, I opened the top. As soon as I opened the tin, big hairy spider legs crawled over the edge, and I lost it. I screamed bloody murder and flung the tin away! Out came one of those furry, tarantula-looking baboon spiders, followed by a huge prehistoric cricket, and who knows what else was in there, as it went flying out of my hands, clanging upon the concrete floors.
Hearing my scream, my husband came running. He had a split second to decide whether to smash the big baboon spider all over the bottom of his boot or let it escape under the water bed where our son slept. He smashed it, fearing none of us would ever sleep again knowing that it had escaped under the waterbed.
After the screaming and the slaughter of the monster, we laughed hysterically. I learned a lesson: never open a container on a boy’s shelf without first inquiring about the contents!
* from https://www.animalstown.com/animals/m/millipede/millipede.php