Living with The Firewalkers of Fiji

When Tropical Bugs Attack

“Oh my God!” My dad was panicked.

I gave him a look. “What’s wrong with you?”

“I— We— We thought something had happened.” He had his ‘worried Dad’ brow. My mom gave a nervous smile.

I bit into my banana, chewing slowly before asking. “Whhhhhyyyy?”

skyping-parents1

“Well, one of the guests from the funeral uploaded photos to Facebook and they were all of people lying on the floor on those woven mats.”

I tried hard not to laugh. “Are you Facebook stalking me?”

He didn’t miss a beat. “Yes.” Then he leaned over into the computer (like I couldn’t hear him) and whispered, “They all looked… dead.”

“Wait- what?” I shrank my Skype call and hopped on Facebook to investigate. When I found the photos he was talking about I laughed. “We were all taking a nap.” He stared at me dubiously. “It’d been a very long day,” I defended.

fiji sleeping

“Why was everyone sleeping on the floor?” His voice went back to a whisper. “It looked like you drank the Cool Aid or something.”

I laughed again. “Nope, no Jim Jonesing it here.” I shrugged, unsure how to explain this Fijian phenomenon. “Sometimes we all just nap in the living room. It’s not like there are enough beds. Plus, everyone was tired from the funeral and from eating.” I pointed my banana at him. “Did I mention we’d been up since 6 AM making sandwiches?”

He was unimpressed with my facts. This made me sad so I ate the rest of my banana to make myself feel better.

After convincing my father that I hadn’t taken part in some sort of weird suicide pact, I said goodnight, thankfully having a late afternoon with no plans (except to catch some much needed rest after previous day). I closed Talei’s laptop and laid it gently on the floor.

I was making my bed when I saw something scurry around the dresser. I sighed. Bugs here were like pigeons: no matter what you did they were everywhere.

I was actually pretty proud of myself. It’d been almost a week since I’d shuddered at the sight of ants crawling along the counters and FOUR whole days since I made a ‘bleh’ noise when I saw roaches crawling around on the buses. I considered this progress.

Then I saw Jo. “Oh,” I said calmly, only glancing at him momentarily before returning to my bed making. “Hey bud.”

Jo skittered around in reply.

I should probably clarify that Jo is the giant cockroach that lives in the guest bedroom. He’s approximately the size of an iPhone and is this hideous red color. I don’t like Jo. But Jo scares the crap out of me, so I tolerate him. Or rather, he does me. Regardless, we had an arrangement.

I promised him the first week I arrived in Fiji (and saw him creepy-crawling his way around my backpack) that if he stayed on his side of the room, I’d stay on mine. And no-one would have to scream or get squished. We shook on it… Figuratively speaking.

I think he agreed, because as far as I know, he hasn’t crossed the line of pencils I put on the floor.

This is probably a good time to mention that I hate cockroaches. Probably more than any other bug. Not only are they ugly, but I feel they are superior creatures to us and that makes me sad. How can something so tiny and hideous be so well equipped for survival? I would much rather be outranked by puppies.

I mean, not only are they armed with a giant shell, can run on two feet, fit under anything, and live in the worst conditions, they can survive a nuclear bomb. We may be larger in size but I’m pretty sure cockroaches have this evolution thing down. They are the birds with the slingshots and we are the green pigs under the blocks of ice… Well, you get the idea.

Luckily, with our arrangement, I felt pretty good sleeping in my bed. As far as I could tell, Jo was overweight and uninterested in climbing up a bed frame. (The illusion of comfort works for me, okay?)

But tonight Jo seemed a little more active than usual, towing that line between trying to freak me out and flat-out challenging me to a duel. I flailed my banana peel at him in warning. “Don’t do it, Jo. You don’t want to go there. Think of the kids…”

He considered, tapping his little ugly legs around in circles. Then he turned to face me and did something I’ve never seen any cockroach do EVER.

That son of a bitch FLEW. He flapped his giant iPod sized wings and floated effortlessly into the air, hovering like an overweight hummingbird and buzzing like the world’s angriest locust. Then he launched an aerial attack at me and my banana peel.

Naturally, I did what any self-respecting twenty-something would do…

I screamed and ran like hell.

Ro Mereani came running out of the kitchen, D’Tui fast on her heels. I jumped and shrieked and jumped and shrieked and pointed at the bedroom door.

“What? What is it?” Mereani looked out of breath and dumbfounded.

Me, of course (not understanding what she didn’t understand about this horrific moment) pointed and shrieked and pointed and shrieked.

Mereani peeked into the room and was greeted by the air assailant himself. She wasn’t fazed by his taunts. She walked to the kitchen to grab a broom. The coconut branches hit the walls with resounding whacks. I waited outside, using D’Tui as a shield until it was finished.

coconut-brooms

Ro Mereani swept out the remains of my friend turned foe. I scowled at him triumphantly down my nose.

Mereani looked at me and raised an eyebrow. “What?” I said, “I didn’t know they could FLY.”

Mereani shook her head. “This is the tropics, you know.” She put her broom away and went back to the kitchen.

D’Tui studied the dead bug and then turned to look at me. “Is Auntie afraid of cock-o-roach?”

I put my hand on my hip and tried to think of some great defense to using a three-year old as a human shield. I had squat.

D’Tui shook her head and walked away. “Auntie shouldn’t be afraid of bug. It’s just cock-o-roach.”

Minutes later, long after D’tui and Mereani had left, I shouted out to no-one in particular. “But I didn’t know they could FLY.”

banana-peel

36 Comments

  • Reply

    Kristine

    December 5, 2012

    Hahaha! Fly? Me either! My cockroach education was in Arizona at a motel with those open concrete stairs. There was this cousin cockroach (Jo’s cousin) just hanging out on one stair halfway up the flight to my room. I thought I would be brave and just skirt around him since he was on one side of the the stair tread. But noooooooo, as soon as I intended to place my foot on the right side he came scurrying towards my foot. Yikes! Okay now he is on the right side, I will try the left. Yikes again! He is actually coming after me! Maybe I can skip the stair…YIKES again. I swear this bug is guarding the landing. After about a 5 minute standoff a local man came along to use the stairs and looked at me like I was a little weird standing there. I pointed and said something brave like ” big bug”. He never broke stride…stepped right on that cockroach. UGH, squish. Ok, more like “crunch”. The man looked back at me as he ascended the stairway and smiled.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 5, 2012

      See?! I’m saying… they’re organizing. We need to be wary. It’s like Men in Black is coming true…

      Glad you survived, though. You made me all panicky when I was reading this. We can’t let them wiiiinnnn!

      Thanks for sharing. =)

  • Reply

    Ed

    December 6, 2012

    One of the best things about living in Paris (no joke) is that I have yet to see a cockroach, even during the warmer summer months. I know they must exist in such an urban jungle, but it sounds like mice are more of a problem here. I’ll take mice any day over nasty cockroaches, and my French friends are rightly terrified when I tell them that the cockroaches (tree roaches) in Texas are the size of mice.

    When you described Jo as the size of an iPhone, I knew you weren’t kidding. Supposedly, our roaches can fly, too, but fortunately, I have never witnessed such a horror. It’s bad enough when you come into your room late at night and you see one just sitting in the corner between the wall and the ceiling, lurking and waiting for you. Then, if you’re brave enough, you have to knock it off the wall, and God knows where it will land. By that point, all is chaos, and they tend to vanish, so THEN you’re paranoid and can’t even sleep in your room because you know that it’s waiting for you.

    I’ll admit that I’m a total pansy when it comes to roaches. I have a couple kills under my belt, but usually, I have to work myself into a rage at having my space invaded to overcome my revulsion. And I don’t wanna hear anything about “irrational fears;” when one of those bastards starts flying at you, there’s nothing irrational about freaking out.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 6, 2012

      Thank you for rationalizing my hysterics, Ed! This comment had be cracking up!

      I remember France being relatively roach free… those Parisians have all the luck! I actually think mice are kind of cute (let’s blame Ratatouille).

      But yeah… those suckers are HUGE. And they are lurkers. We should start a support group. =)

  • Reply

    Hailey

    December 6, 2012

    Hahaha! That’s awesome! I totally would have done the same thing! :)

  • Reply

    Ingrid

    December 6, 2012

    I’m with ya….I hate those guys. They’re huge here in Phx/Scottsdale and common…yuk. Great story telling as always!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      Ugh, I’m glad I’m not alone. I remember having seen giant ones in Phx as well. I thought the ones we had in Vegas were creepy! Thanks for commenting =). Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Reply

    Thomas Baxter

    December 6, 2012

    One thing about living in the tropics, American bugs seem small and gentle. Pretty soon you’ll be smashing bugs with your flip-flop with the best of them!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      Haha, yeah there’s something about them that makes them ballsy.

      You know, I’ve never squished a bug with my shoe. I feel like that’s so mean… stomping on things so tiny. But apparently I can talk them to death, so I may have to develop a new skills set. =)

  • Reply

    BWAHAHAHAHA… in Colombia, they had this cartoon where these guys we all trying to be manly around this giant cockroach, cause, you know, they ARE MEN.

    Then the cockroach takes off.

    and THE MEN all freak the hell hell out, screaming and flailing like little girls.

    I think flying cockroaches are awesome. Do not want them flying at my face though.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      That sounds like a hilarious cartoon! I’d love to see that. For some reason the them of “Men in tights” comes to mind. ;) Thanks so much for sharing!

      I’m glad someone loves them. I feel bad that I’m not more of a fan, but it’s good to know the creatures aren’t despised by everyone. But seriously… they can FLY. =/

  • Reply

    A Gracious Life

    December 6, 2012

    Wow, that Jo is big!! I have the same thoughts with you when it comes to the roaches…I can imagine how plenty they are underneath…they can probably take down the human race if they come together. Creepy.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      I KNOW! We must engage in cold war negotiations before they discover nuclear weapons.

      I’m guessing your bugs are pretty similar in size in the Philippines? How are you doing, by the way? Was just thinking of you today (I was out rock climbing with some girls from your homeland today :). Lots of good vibes your way!

      • Reply

        A Gracious Life

        December 11, 2012

        Hi hilary! Haven’t seen that big a bug out here! …doin fine. Wrapped up in Christmas preparations. Are you spending the holidays in Fiji?

        • Reply

          Hilary Billings

          December 11, 2012

          It’s so good to hear from you! And I’m sure. I will actually be back in the states over the holidays. It’ll be nice to be home for Christmas. =)

          I should get your personal e-mail. I’m hoping to arrange a trip to your part of the world middle of next year and would love to meet up!

  • Reply

    housewifedownunder

    December 6, 2012

    Ew, cockroach!!!! I had one fall on me (probably from the ceiling) while I was taking a shower the other day. It was a giant, Australian sized one and I screamed like a little girl. Then I rinsed it down the drain and scrubbed off the part of me where it touched me on my bare skin really good and rinsed the suds down the drain and hoped that the cockroach choked to death on the suds. I waited to see if he would crawl back out of the drain, but he didn’t, so I think I got him. Gives me the willies just thinking about cockroaches, though. Yuck, yuck, yuck!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      EWWWWW! No. EWWW! Ugh, I’m so sorry! I’m wiggling in my seat just imagining the scenario. I’m glad you made it through though. I hope he washed far far away.

      Thanks so much for commenting! I appreciate you reading and taking the time to share. =)

  • Reply

    My dad stalks me on FB too! Anyhoo… In the Philippines we say (translated to English), “There’s no brave man who can stand against a flying roach!”. Hahaha.

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      Haha! At least I’m not the only one with an over protective father. We should start a support group ;)

      And I LOVE that! I’m going to have to remember that one. =) Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Reply

    Britt Skrabanek

    December 7, 2012

    LOL! I totally had this experience while living in Texas!

    I’m one of those people who tries to live harmoniously with bugs…if possible I even try to help them back outside. Anywho, I was in my loft some years ago, and had a similar face-off with whatever kind of roach species they have in Texas. I thought I could handle the situation, but like you, I screamed and ran like hell. Didn’t know the bastards could fly!

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      I feel like we as a species are not prepared for creatures of nature to attack us by air. I’ve only had one bird attack me in my life (I was walking too close to her nest), but anytime a situation like this happens, I feel like our bodies don’t know what to do.

      I applaud your desire to live as one with nature; I like to pretend I can do the same thing, but I have a lot of imaginary rules with myself about how far I’ll take it… like I’ll put spiders in a cup and take them outside… unless they’re on me. Or my bed. Then that’s a death sentence.

      Thanks so much for sharing! I feel less pansy-ish hearing everyone else’s stories. =)

      • Reply

        Britt Skrabanek

        December 8, 2012

        You are definitely not pansy-ish…LOL!

        I agree with the flying thing. It’s like: “Shoot, I can’t do that! What do I do, what do I do?”

        Scream like a girl and bolt…THAT’S what you do.

  • Reply

    Browsing the Atlas

    December 7, 2012

    I’m not sure anyone *likes* cockroaches, but sometimes you just have to deal with them, right? I try to mentally block these things out, otherwise, I’d never travel to tropical climates. Worse than bugs are snakes. I have to seriously pretend that they don’t exist. Obviously, I travel in a dream world…

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 7, 2012

      Haha! Precisely! Like we’re living on two different planes… in the same room.

      But I’m with you. So far I haven’t been anywhere with super poisonous spiders or snakes, but it’s only a matter of time. =/

      Too bad you can’t put up like an invisible fence for bugs around your bed like you do for dogs. Maybe that invention will be my claim to fame. ;)

  • Reply

    Say Gudday

    December 7, 2012

    Reblogged this on Say Gudday and commented:
    You must read this.

  • Reply

    Brittany

    December 8, 2012

    I remember when I was little when I went to the Boys and Girls Club and every time I wanted to kill a bug this dorky blonde haired boy would always rush up to it and be like “Don’t kill it you they’re creatures too you must save it” -_- ugh!!! hahaha

    • Reply

      Hilary Billings

      December 8, 2012

      Haha! That’s funny… I wonder what that poor boy is up to now. =)

      • Reply

        Felix Colatanavanua

        December 15, 2012

        He is an Entomologist……. LOL

  • Reply

    Erica

    December 21, 2012

    I’ve been known to be a pretty good squisher of roaches, but I don’t know if I could handle a red one…

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About Me

About Me

Hey fellow adventurers, my name is Hilary! After being rejected from grad school, I took off on a solo journey around the world. Now I constantly challenge myself to take on new experiences. This blog documents my journeys from Europe to Fiji, swimming with sharks and living with tribes, to becoming an accidental beauty queen and working for one of the top national media outlets. If you like what you're reading, please subscribe! Here's to the next great adventure!

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