Wednesday, January 18, 2012

THE WAR OF THE ROACHES

Costa Rica is a country without an army, but they are at war.  Every woman in Costa Rica is armed and ready for battle with the enemy…la cucaracha.
The thing about roaches is not their quintessential bugginess, it's their "EEW Factor."  They run around on dead things and other sorts of germ factories, collecting nasty microbes on their little legs, then they run around on your dishes and your food, defecating and peeing and dropping bits from their legs.  EEW. And making you sick. Double EEW.
It gets worse. In CR the plumbing is not all it might be, so all are encouraged to put their used toilet paper not in the toilet for flushing, because that will probably plug up the pipes and then where will you be? No, you are to put your used paper into the waste basket, which is then taken out with the other trash. All trash seems to be in tied up plastic bags. In front of nearly every home you will see a wire basket on a one-legged stand. This is where the trash goes and is theoretically protected from raiding animals before being collected to be taken to the land fill.
But it is not protected from the ever-present roach.  The speedy little demons scurry freely in and out of the trash bags, including the ones containing… unprocessed human waste. And then they leg off into the kitchen and dart all over the dishes, any food left uncovered or unsealed, pooping in the corners, peeing in your cereal.
Now if that doesn't do it for your EEEEEWWW, nothing ever will.
So when I moved into my apartamento in CR, I knew what I needed to do was wash the dishes instantly, keep my garbage in a container with a lid, and never leave food out. That should do 'er, right?
Wrong.
By local standards my efforts were slovenly. The women of Costa Rica are clean freaks. Their EEW factor is very low. They maintain a zero tolerance policy.
All food is washed upon entering the house. Fruit is washed before being refrigerated. Oranges, mangoes, pineapples, cantaloupes, all are scrubbed off and dried. Packages of rice, of crackers and cookies are washed. Yes, the cellophane or plastic wrapping is washed and dried before it is stored, ideally in covered containers. Meat is washed. Bottles of sauces and Fanta and Coke, cans of beer -- EVERYTHING is washed.  What can be kept covered is kept covered. When I split the plastic ring to open a container of cream cheese and found cockroach turds, I immediately adopted the same policy.
Dishes are indeed washed instantly. And then they are washed once more before food is served on them.
Kitchen garbage is removed almost immediately.

Floors are washed with almost religious fervor. One Tico lady I know mops at least twice a day.  Nor is this a simple rinse.  It involves some scary cleaning products.  The stores are filled with bags of things with names like "Terror." 
These women are serious combatants in the war of the roaches. It amazes me that there are still any roaches left. Of course, judging from the size of most of them (less than half an inch at best), they have a short life expectancy.