Now, when I come home at the end of the day, I always worry that I'm going to interrupt a robbery. Not because it would be scary, but because I think it would be really awkward--like walking into a hotel room while the maid is still cleaning. "Oh, sorry! I thought you were done here." Of course, it's Japan, so the likelihood of someone ransacking my house is about as low as someone stealing my cherry-red Ford Thunderbird. Still, the worry is there, and I can't possibly be the only one who mentally prepares themselves for things that will almost certainly never happen.
One thing I never thought to anticipate? Larvae.
You heard me right. Larvae. Fruit fly larvae, to be specific, which are tiny little translucent worms that grew up behind my trash can and planned a mass exodus into my kitchen on the afternoon of July 7th, 2014.
At first, because it never occured to me that I might have been invaded, I thought they were a bunch of lavender petals that had fallen from some lavender I had in a vase on my counter. I didn't think much of it. I had a party to get ready for, so I figured I could sweep them up after I finished getting ready. Then I turned on the kitchen light and realized just how wrong I was. The things crawling all over my kitchen were far from harmless little flower petals.
If you don't understand how horrible it is to have your home invaded by something you don't want there--bed bugs, wasps, toddlers--I envy you. You've obviously never had to experience it. It's the feeling in your gut that your safe-haven isn't safe anymore, the understanding that whatever control you thought you had over your home environment was a lie as thin as paper.
As I looked down at the kitchen floor covered in hundreds of wiggling larvae, it occurred to me that I wouldn't have been able to make this up. If someone had said "Allison, think of the most disgusting thing that could realistically happen in your apartment." I wouldn't have been able to come up with something this gross.
Because there was nothing else I could do, I got down to business. I contemplated my measly selection of home cleaning products (some Scrubbing Bubbles for my bathroom and a bottle of floor cleaner from the drug store) and couldn't help thinking: "Shit." I, of course, had been young and naive in college and had passed up the opportunity to take "Insect Eradication 1001" for my science credit, so I really didn't have the faintest idea what I was doing.
Almost an hour later, I'd wiped up, squished, and drowned what seemed like hundreds of baby fruit flies. At the time, I didn't know what insect they were, but it became obvious a few days later when the cocoons I didn't manage to extinguish hatched into annoying adults (which I proceeded to drown in apple cider vinegar). I had a bucket full of soapy water and larvae carcasses, a five-seconds-from-fruition panic attack brewing in my chest, and a going-away party to attend in less than an hour.
The larvae had sprouted from the molding on my floor behind my trash cans, so they'd gotten all over the bins, as well as all over a storage unit I used to keep my trash bags and kitchen sponges. By this point, I was sweating buckets and in no condition to attend a chat with my mailman, let alone a party. So, I bundled the trash cans into my shower and alternated scrubbing them and scrubbing myself until I was decently satisfied that there were no bugs on any of us. It was the best I could do. I couldn't miss the going-away party, and I couldn't leave the trash cans dirty and crawling in larvae while I went out to dinner. I would have obsessed over my apartment every second I was gone.
I threw on some clothes and bundled up my hair as quickly as I could. Before I left, I inspected the floor for any stragglers and then hurried out the door, just in time to catch the carpool to the party. When I got home, there was still no sign of them. I foolishly thought I'd won.
As it turns out, I didn't. I won the battle, but I didn't win the war. Several more waves of larvae have hatched in my kitchen throughout the summer, the latest of which was only yesterday. After the first time, I'd gotten some bleach from the drug store, which I used to clean the molding when the larvae returned. It didn't seem to do anything, but I have faith that if I pay attention to the area by my trash cans, I can take care of it. I'm certainly not planning on fumigating my house any time soon.
When I moved to Japan, I knew I was going to have to get used to bugs. Growing up in Colorado, the worst bug problem we had tended to be ants poking around for crumbs in the kitchen. Japan's humid climate is the perfect breeding ground for truly horrendous bugs, like the suzumebachi (a giant hornet that kills 30 to 40 people in Japan every year) and the mukade (a venomous centipede that can grow to be over eight inches long). Thankfully the fruit fly larvae is the worst I've ever had to deal with, though some of the other ALTs found a mukade in their bedroom at Kurobe's English summer camp a few weeks ago.
At this point, I'm used to the flies. Which is sad. There are certain things (cleaning hair out of the drain) that have never gotten less disgusting no matter how many times I've had to do it, but I've gotten used to looking down and seeing larvae on my kitchen floor. Thankfully, I've never had another wave as strong as that first one. Hopefully they will, one day, peter out entirely and I'll never have to look at another fruit fly again. I know it's a long-shot, but hey. A girl can dream.
I guess the silver lining to all of this is that it's no longer a robbery I worry about when I open the door after school!