I might be going crazy.
Eleven wonderful members of Peru 17 are currently in Ancash on Field Based Training. In case you don't remember, FBT is the wonderful week during training when the Peace Corps releases all of the Trainees from the Training Center and sends them to visit Peace Corps volunteers in the field. I went to Piura for FBT and had a great time and hoped to help the 17ers have a great time in Ancash.
I’m pretty sure they're just going to remember me as “that crazy volunteer with the rat”.
Let me back up. Last week Wednesday, I was in the grips of insomnia and heard the sound of something scurrying across my floor and chewing on something. I grabbed my phone and shined light in the direction of the noise but didn't see anything. Every time the light went on, the noise stopped but as soon as it was dark again, I could hear something moving about again. But I was in bed and it was cold outside of bed so I decided not to investigate. I think my blasé nature of realizing a rat was in my room is best summed up in this text message to my friend, Patrick: “In bed. Can't sleep. Bored. Pretty sure a small animal is running around in my room...” Then I accidentally sent Patrick six blank text messages as I repeatedly and accidentally hit reply/send trying to shine light towards the noise.
I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen the rat. I thought I caught a glimpse of it one evening while lying in bed but, again, I was already in bed and decided to let him be. Plus, what am I going to do with a rat? Seriously? Other then scream like a little girl, of course. So my already high levels of avoidance have been able to grow exponentially this past week – it's been surprisingly easy to ignore the fact that there's a rat living in my room; he doesn't bother me during the day, I ignore him at night. It's been a good arrangement.
Yesterday, Thursday, over a week after the first night I heard him, I finally named my room mate... Charlie. Charlie the Rat. Within hours I was talking to him. “Hey Charlie.” I would say when I walked in my room. “Good night, Charlie.” I said when I went to bed. I realized that I was starting to crack and some sort of strange Stockholm Syndrome was taking place. This rodent was taking me hostage in my own room and I was starting to sympathize with him. Something needed to be done.
Today the 17ers came to visit my site. Officially, they were there to hang out with my youth group but I really had one goal in mind... we were going to find Charlie and get him out of my room. I recruited the help of a few brave souls and then sat on top of my desk, feet off the ground, in case my new friend came running across the floor. Those braver than I tore apart my room but found no signs of a rat. They did discover a hole in the wall, which they boarded up, requesting an update the following day.
So now I’m laying on my bed, and my hyper attentive ears are hearing everything. And I mean, everything. A few minutes ago, I glanced over at my food shelves and I would swear that I saw something move. I would put my hand on a Bible and go under oath that I saw a tail wagging about. So I did the only reasonable thing... I opened the door to the main house and called up to my host sister, you know the one who just had a baby, that there was a rat in my room.
My host mom, a wonderful, weathered, take no prisoners Quechua woman, came charging in my room, grabbed a broom, and prepared herself to kill Charlie. But when she examined the shelf I thought I had seen him on, there was nothing there. Nothing! My auditory delusions have progressed to visual ones. My host mom asked me to keep my ears open (no problems there) and let her know if I saw anything else.
And, as I write this, I know that I hear something moving around my room. It's just me and Charlie tonight... again. Whether or not Charlie is an actual animal or just a figment of my imagination is yet to be determined.
Updates in Action: So I finished writing this blog entry and had, more or less, convinced myself that I was hearing and seeing things. Amelia, my host sister, and Narcizio, the baby daddy, stopped in my room to talk and we were just chatting about this and that. Amelia and Narcizio were standing in the doorway facing into the room and I was standing in my room facing them. Suddenly, Narcizio exclaimed that he saw Charlie. Okay, he didn't actually say Charlie but he said that he saw the rat. Vindication! We all stood and stared at each other for a second before Amelia ordered him into the room. I handed him my broom but by the time he and Amelia reached the shelves (I'll admit I was hanging back, preparing to scream like a little girl, if necessary), Charlie had disappeared. Narcizio identified another hole that Charlie might be using to enter my room and I grabbed some cardboard and duct tape to try to block both holes.
On the way out, Narcizio assured me that I didn't need to worry – he was just a little rat. A “chiquito”. A baby. No reason to be alarmed. So Mom, if I haven't taken care of the Charlie problem by the time you come to visit in a few weeks, don't worry. If we hear something running around my room at night, it's really no big deal. It's just Charlie, my little rat friend.