Friday, October 25, 2013

Cockroach Karma

Last month I was looking through my large desk calendar, counting down the days until Christmas, making lists of things my siblings should buy me and wondering how I could get Satan* to leave me the Christmas Tree dishes in her will, when I had a rare moment of clarity. Next month is Halloween. Amazon is going to have all sorts of awesomely gross stuff!! 

My joyous, unclouded moment was quickly followed by a fugue state and a lost afternoon that ultimately resulted in multiple packages showing up in the mail room full of face paints, mohawk headbands, doggy costumes, zombie-arm candle holders, and of course, a package of plastic cockroaches... the perfect revenge for my cockroach-hating, mask-scaring husband.
For weeks I carried the package of plastic cockroaches around in my purse, waiting for exactly the right moment to scare Mr. Kate in front of everyone. Several times, I had a cockroach in hand, ready to strike when I would realize-- No, now is not the time. Soon, it will come.

Last night we went to a new restaurant in town. Surrounded by about 15 of our friends, I knew-- this was the moment I had been waiting for. Halfway through dinner a friend called down the table to Mr. Kate. "Bla bla bla, something about work," he said. I didn't really care. All I knew was that in this moment, I had my chance.

I pulled the cockroach out of my back pocket, slipped it over his arm and under the rim of his plate, with just the antennae sticking out.

He saw me leaning over. "What are you doing?" he asked me.

"Just stealing a bite of your food!" I quickly responded as I jumped back, looking away quickly so he wouldn't see the gleeful, evil laugh forming in my throat.

Mr. Kate never noticed the cockroach that hid under his plate during dinner.

After dinner, as soon as his plate was lifted and the cockroach reared it's ugly head, both Mr. Kate and the server jumped and let out small gasps. It was so subtle, no one noticed.

I was devastated.

Worse, the server was mortified. He looked like he was about to cry and quickly scooped up the cockroach. "No!" I called out. "It's just a toy!" I quickly grabbed the cockroach back from him, held it up to my mouth, bit down on it and pretended to gnaw on it's head, to prove my point. "Look!" I exclaimed as I pulled the unharmed plastic cockroach out of my mouth and presented it to him."C'est plastique!"

I realize that while I was trying to assure the staff that the bug was actually a safe, fun non-disease carrying toy, all they saw was a foreigner with a potentially incomprehensible accent ("what is she trying to say?"), eating a cockroach and trying to convince everyone it was delicious.

In retrospect, it might not have been the best way to get my point across. The server turned and ran away, almost taking out one of our friends in the process. He never came back.


That night, as we were sleeping, I was awakened by Mr. Kate. "No. NO. NONONO!" he screamed.

I immediately woke up and panicked. "WHAT!?" I yelled.

"Right there! Get it! Right next to your head!!" He kept yelling over and over again and motioning to the headboard on my side of the bed.

Since it was dark in the room, I clearly thought one of the guards I had victimized by wearing the mask and jumping in front of the peep-holes had finally snapped, or that my neighbor had finally found out who was terrorizing his turkeys by chasing them up and down the street gobbling. I started screaming. "I'M SO SORRY!"

Mr. Kate jumped out of bed, ran to the door, flipped on the lights and then ran back to the bed, pulling all the sheets and covers off the bed, searching frantically for something. "Get it! It was right here, next to you!"

I sat in the middle of the bed, screaming and crying, covers piled around me, still searching the room for my assassin, when Mr. Kate found what he was looking for-- my iPhone. He proceeded to frantically bat at it, sending it flying. Next he chased and, finally, trapped my phone.

As the fluorescent lights in our room became brighter and Mr. Kate became more coherent, I was able to piece together the dream he was currently having-- one in which I had been hiding a giant West African scorpion behind my pillow that I was going to drop on him in the middle of the night.

Sweet dreams are made of these.
Moments later, Mr. Kate was back asleep and I lay awake, wondering if I had won this round of scare-war since I had so obviously gotten into his head with my prank. But as the night drew on and I couldn't sleep for fear of giant insects and retributive neighbors, I began to doubt it. 

*I've assured my mother not to worry and that I'm actually pronouncing it Sah-Tahn. It's a cute nickname that has nothing to do with the fact that she makes babies cry for fun.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

West African Beauty Tips

As a way to keep our spirits up given the uncertainty of our jobs (and paychecks), the men in our embassy have banded together and decided not to shave until the budget has passed. I've affectionately termed the effort "Beards for Budget."

A few times I've joked that I, too, will contribute to the facial hair morale booster, by not waxing my mustache. In response, I received mostly half-hearted laughs and a quick change of subject. After my third offer, when the recipient of the joke squinted his eyes and zoomed in on my upper lip, I realized why people weren't laughing. You can't laugh if it's true.

Living in Africa isn't great for beauty maintenance and let's be honest--it's not like I put much effort into it even before moving to Togo, back when it was easy to go over and see my friend Joni who would wax anything and everything. My God. There's hair there?

After my encounter with a nail salon in Guinea, I decided that while in Africa, it would be better to stick to simple things I was capable of doing, like cutting my toenails and shaving my legs. Everything else could wait until I made it back to the US.

A Guinean Pedicure.
However, after my realization that people were actually considering buying me a mustache grooming kit and a membership to The Handlebar Club for Christmas, I came to the conclusion that maybe I should make an effort. Just this once.

I gathered nail files, nail polish and wax strips. I was ready to have a day full of manicures, pedicures and hair removal. I started with my nails. I cut them down, did the cuticle thing (ouch!) and then rubbed the square-sponge-file thing on them, not because it does anything, but because I've seen them do it before. What is that thing, really?

Next, I went for the wax strips. I warmed one up, shmeared it on my upper lip and asked Mr. Kate to pull it off as fast as possible. After I realized the gross excess of pleasure he derived from ripping hair off my face I decided that even though it would be incredibly difficult and painful, I would bear through the pain and do it my self next time, for my own best interest. I would basically be like that guy who had to cut his arm off to get out from under the rock, except I'd be a chick with a mustache.

Then, since I was at it, I moved on to my eyebrows. I cut the strips so they would fit under my eyebrows. I looked up and used both eyes as I was pasting them on my face to be sure I was doing it correctly-- if you think I'm bad at beauty maintenance, you should see me with make-up. There is no chance at me surviving in a world where I need to draw on eyebrows.

After I was sure the strips were on correctly, I looked in the mirror and braced myself. Ready, set, RIP! I looked down at the wax strip. Wow. I had a lot of straggler hairs floating around under my eyebrows! Where did those come from? My eyebrows don't look that different! I stared at my eyebrows for a moment, trying to understand.

Suddenly, I felt a throbbing on my eye. I shifted my focus downward. Most of the eyelashes on  my right eye were gone. A lone, hairless eyelid remained.

So, here I am, two days later, hoping that eyelashes grow back quickly and that nobody notices my perpetual downward stare, which I hope makes my bald eyelid stand out less.

My West African beauty tips you ask? Simple. Embrace hairiness. Stay away from wax-your-own-anything kits. IT'S NOT WORTH THE RISK.

That Handlebar Club membership is actually starting to sound like a great Christmas present...