Nothing says you’re in china like a cockroach in your refrigerator.
So I sublet an apartment in Kunming from a young Canadian with slightly bad hygiene. (The locals really didn’t notice. All westerners stink to them). But this guy looked like he needed a shower right after he toweled off, the smell of BO reminiscent of a high school locker room.
When I viewed his apartment I was floored by the view. WOWZA! Twenty seventh floor, a bright warm view –which I crave– overlooking Kunming. It was a blend of old temples, mountains, colorful sunsets and new sky scrapers touching the heavens with elaborate light shows at night. And one more thing: TV! Chinese cable was included in the rent. The down side was that the toilet was a traditional squatty. I’d didn’t care. I spend more time watching TV than I do cutting turds.
I went into the kitchen and saw his sink full of dishes and a cockroach or in Chinese, zhang lang, which is pronounced joan-lone-gah. No big deal, I thought. That single bug was probably snooping around because the guy didn’t do his dishes. Nothing a quick spritz of Chinese Raid couldn’t conquer.
Or so I thought.
So I signed the lease, taking over his apartment in August. I flew to the states, filled up with pizza with friends, day dreaming of how I’d decorate my new place when I’d return.
Two months later…
I open the door to my new abode only to discover the previous tenant never cleaned up, leaving me dirty dishes, cupboards full of condiments. And one more thing. No, make that a million more things.
Dang Zhang Lang.
I was mortified.
So I called in the swat team. A Chinese cleaning lady. And nobody cleans better than a Chinese cleaning lady. She scrubbed, while I screamed and bombed the place twice for bugs.
The next day, I walked into the apartment to find the floors a cockroach cemetery. I thought the battle was over as there were hundreds of dead carcasses on the floor.
These little pissers were still coming out of the woodwork—literally. From the fan in the bathroom, to the plaster I was patching up on the wall. Even the closet. These dang zhang lang had taken over my home!
So I bombed the place again, with a special poison snuck in from America. Boric acid mixed with the equivalent of Agent Orange for bugs.
Little did I know that some of these suckers have life spans of six months. And that those dang zhang lang are a booming business in China. They are used for medicine and makeup, probably being the secret ingredient in blue eye shadow that gives it a shimmer. Maybe there was a farmer next to me.
The next day, I returned to my new apartment to find a few cocky casualties on the tile.
I finally won the battle. So I opened the fridge to reward myself with a cold one. And I sure found one. A shivering zhang lang, scurrying across the bottom of the vegetable drawer.
I left the apartment knowing I could never ever live there.
So I am breaking my lease. Even if the poison kills all of the bugs, it can’t kill the pictures I have in my mind. I would never be able to use that kitchen or open a cupboard or drawer without holding my breath.
So goodbye good view. Goodbye bugs. I’m temporarily homeless in China—couch surfing—but am looking at a few new digs this week. And I’ll be damn sure to check for bugs. Not just German cockroaches, but American. Brown-band. Oriental. Asian. And the dreaded flying.
The story has a happy ending. I found a small cool place with a beautiful kitchen, toilet with a seat and a crappy view but who cares.
There ain’t no dang zhang lang.