Sandflies, urine and mice. There are plenty of other gross things, and yes, sandflies aren’t really gross so much as annoying, but ‘Kabul Grossness and Annoyingness Part 1’ does not ring as well.
The mice come first. We are house-sitting until our place becomes available, which should be in a week or so [Bring it on! We are done with living out of suitcases]. The place we are staying is actually very nice and has a really cool ‘old Kabul’ feel to it, which is hard to explain, but suffice to say it is a home nothing like the new narco-dollar, concrete mansions being erected all over the place, their style a horrible fusion of Pakistan kitsch, Afghan decay and Hollywood grandeur. But old Kabul also means sort of holey walls with crevices and ill fitting cabinets with good hidey place to store mousey snacks. And the evidence is plentiful. Last night I left out a watermelon by mistake; this morning when I came into the kitchen, the watermelon look ed quite different. Mice, perhaps many mice had burrowed into it, eating the seeds as they went. The bench was splattered with gory red melon flesh and speckles of seed and mouse poo; it looked cheaply disgusting in a B-grade movie kind of way. I had never conceived of mice burrowing into a melon and I don’t want to think too long about it. Julie has now taken to carrying a small children’s toy that play a tune whenever she goes into the kitchen to scare the mice away, but I still hear regular shrieks from her, which are amusing to me and the kids. The mice themselves are quite fearless until I get close to them with a hammer, then they desultorily slide into a crevice. Mouse poo litters the benches after an absence of maybe 20 minutes, like someone has spilt the cumin. I have now set two traps.
Sandflies are next. They are worse than mosquitoes – harder to see and catch, small enough to get through a net, imperceptible until they bite. They leave a welt that last for three days, which itches constantly and demands attention. Oh, you can resist for an hour, but you will give in, and the satisfaction of a few minutes furious itching is deeply joyous. But the price is torn skin and bloody spotches and ill temper. Last night I was wearing thick socks and jeans, and somehow they flew up my trouser leg and bit my buttocks – while I was sitting down. That is unnatural.
Urine. Won’t spend too long on this, only to say that today, when we took our clothes out of the washing machine, they stank of urine. And I mean stank. I called Julie over and for a few minutes, we stood there sniffing clothes and declaiming in a disbelieving voice, then taking another long sniff. It didn’t seem credible. Please explain. Did our son use the wrong bathroom appliance when he did a wee? (‘Oh look, it’s round, got a lid to open, dark inside, this’ll do’) Was the water bad today (if so, what have we been drinking?). Did something fall into the tank in the roof? We have washed the clothes again and now they smell good again. But the whole sniffing thing while we worked out what was going on, that was pretty rank.
Otherwise, all is good. Low flying helicopters this morning made me suspect something, and sure enough, a suicide bomber. But no where near to us.
(Late update: one dead mouse this morning. And he was a big mouse. Julie thoughtfully left him there for me to deal with.)
(Later update: another mouse at lunch time. However it was only injured, and it escaped to slither off under the cupboard….)
(Final update: got a baby one just after lunch…he did not escape)