This is what I’ve learned so far here in Rio: Brazilian moms like things their way, and there’s no arguing with them. Nope. ESPECIALLY not in their own house. I mean, I suppose moms all over the world can be like this..? I’m not sure. Either way. I bring to you today two accounts of my current living situation. One of these accounts involves bugs.
“This Is Not Your House”
Prior to moving into my current apartment, I asked Mrs. Brazilian (no, that’s not really her name) if I would be able to use her kitchen to prepare meals. She hesitated and said, “We’re a family here, so I cook, but certainly you may use the kitchen. I’m sure we can work something out.” I should’ve paid more attention to the hesitation in her voice, but I was so happy that I had finally found an apartment hat I took her answer to be a simple “yes.”
I moved into her apartment in the beginning of April. Everything was hunky dory. She was very sweet, and seemed to really want to make me feel at home. My room was large, with a large window, double bed, sofa, hammock, and tons of closet space. And I’m a block away from the beach — everything seemed awesome.
Of course, I immediately went grocery shopping and, on that first Saturday morning, seeing the kitchen empty, I started to make some food. It was around 12pm. Shortly after I started making food, Mrs. Brazilian came into the kitchen with an unhappy look on her face and said, “You need to start cooking much earlier.”
I didn’t understand what she meant.
“We’re about to start lunch, so you need to start cooking earlier from now on because we need the kitchen.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know you guys had lunch at this time. Do you typically need to use the kitchen around 12pm on weekends?”
“No, the time isn’t always the same.”
“Oh, okay.. so how will I know when you’ll need it in the future?”
“I don’t know, you’ll just need to make your food faster.”
And that was the end of that conversation. This same conversation happened again and we kept butting heads (albeit somewhat politely), until finally, one night, when I was in the kitchen, she exploded.
I’ll keep the details to a minimum, but her explosion went something like this (imagine the voice of your mother yelling at you for spilling something on the floor):
“This is NOT your house. You are renting A ROOM. You are NOT splitting this apartment with me. I am allowing you to use MY kitchen, and MY stove, and you need to ASK MY PERMISSION.”
Of course, ever since then, I’ve avoided using the kitchen at all. Getting yelled at by a small Brazilian woman in what seems like a totally irrational display of control is not something I’d like to experience again. This means that my meals have consisted mostly of fruit, granola bars, and ham and cheese sandwiches that I assemble in my room (yes, in my room). Oh, and sometimes I make ramen.
…I’m still not sure if this makes me a total wuss, or if I’m doing the smart thing by trying to not make her more angry with me.
“My Cat Has a Normal Amount of Fleas”
Another thing that has bothered me since I moved in here: an absurd amount of itchy insect bites.
At first it was clear that there was a mosquito or two in my room. One night, I went to bed wearing nothing (what? totally normal!) as it was almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I decided not to turn on the fan, so as not to waste energy. That.. was a mistake.
Not only did I wake up in the middle of the night scratching the hell out of myself, that asshat mosquito came and buzzed in my ear for hours. It wasn’t until I had entirely cocooned myself into a little ball under the covers (tucked tightly underneath me) that I was able to get some shut-eye.
The next night I decided to turn the fan on high, fuck the electricity bill. I wore long pants and a shirt to bed. The next few days were bite-free.. Yay!
But, about a week later, I started getting bites again. This time they were smaller and didn’t get as large as the mosquito bites I usually get. I also finally noticed that Leo, Mrs. Brazilian’s adorable house cat, had a nice little breeding ground of fleas in his fur. Great, I thought. Flea bites. And now they’re in my room.
After a few more days and nights of getting bit incessantly, even after I wore running tights to bed (hey, it sounded like a good idea!), I decided I should probably bring it up to Mrs. Brazilian. What if it was more than fleas, and it was actually bed bugs? While I had found 2 actual fleas in my room (and had killed them of course), my bites were happening so often that I was starting to think that maybe bed bugs was a possibility.
Last night, before I went to bed, I saw Mrs. Brazilian in the living room and asked her. Our conversation went something like this:
“Hey Mrs. Brazilian, I was just wondering.. Do you know if maybe there might be fleas or bedbugs in this house? I still keep getting bit every night, and I have about a million itchy bites all over my body..”
“Bed bugs? Absolutely not. There’s no way we have bed bugs in this house. My house is VERY clean.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think there would be bed bugs either. No, you’re right, your house is quite clean. It’s just that I noticed that Leo does seem to have fleas, and I’m thinking maybe the fleas are giving me the bites..”
“So what do you want me to do about it? Leo is very clean. He doesn’t go out on the street at all. It’s not him. I think you have an allergy. Nobody else in this house has any bites at all, just you. You’re leaving this apartment soon anyway. Besides, Leo’s already been to the vet, and the vet says he has a perfectly normal amount of fleas, and they don’t leave his fur. He never goes into your room anyway. Has he gone into your room?”
“Not really.. I mean once..”
“Exactly, so it can’t be him. My house is very clean. You must have some kind of allergy.”
“Right.. Okay.. Thanks..”
Ladies and gentleman, I have never felt so unheard in my life. Also, Leo’s fur is TEEMING with fleas. I’m not a vet, but I don’t think that’s normal. And even if it is “normal,” it definitely ain’t cute.
Oh, and just in case you’re curious about my bites…
However much I feel like Mrs. Brazilian is being a little insensitive, I can’t really do anything about it. I’m just going to have to suck it up and keep rubbing bug repellant all over my whole body day and night, and keep using anti-itch cream.
The apartment hunt continues. Le sigh..!