Week Three: It is not a Goodnight when the Bed Bugs Bite

I’ve dealt with a lot of pests in my life, including both humans and insects—and I have never been a fan of either.

As I kid I hated June bugs. If you aren’t familiar with them, they are beetles that like to congregate in well-lit areas at night, having social hour at the most inconvenient places, such as your front porch or swimming pool.

At the time, there was nothing scarier than having a twitching beetle stuck to your hair in the hot tub—and nothing more uncool than being the girl at an eighth-grade pool party truth or dare session, frantically splashing the bugs away. 

I thought I experienced the fruition of my worst bug-related fears two summer ago when I was living alone in Phoenix, Arizona for an internship.

My (overpriced) vacation rental had not only a problem with cockroaches (I’m cringing just typing the word), but with scorpions—yes you read that right—and crickets! who chirped in the ceiling before mysteriously appearing in corners of the house. 

And let me inform you of the scariest moment of my meager 21-year existence: 

My second week in the apartment I was about to disrobe and jump into the shower when I noticed a four-inch cockroach, antennas dancing about, perfectly blending in with a brown stripe on the shower curtain. 

Pushing my pride aside, I’ll admit to you that I had to facetime my parents for forty-five minutes to get the courage to attempt to kill it. 

After covering every inch of my body during a time it was 120 degrees Fahrenheit outside, I took a Swiffer mop and heavy pair of timberland boots to go to battle.

To further emphasize my bug phobia, at one point I even considered inviting over a tinder stranger (sorry mom and dad) to avoid facing the bug by myself.

By the end of the summer my fears evolved into anger, and I became quite the bug assassin.

Pictures of my creative roach motels. I unfortunately learned that roaches can’t read, and they just walked right past all of the enticing offers.

Pictures of my creative roach motels. I unfortunately learned that roaches can’t read, and they just walked right past all of the enticing offers.

One would think I knew my way around the raid aisle, but scorpion-killing aside, I wasn’t prepared for what would be my biggest bug battle yet.

Something I thought only existed in bed time sayings…

Bed Bugs.

Now to say that my apartment in Madrid has been lovely from the beginning would be an extreme overstatement.

I don’t even think I can be politically correct in calling my landlord a landlord. He’s more of a crypt keeper, guarding the chamber of secrets of how awful the apartment really is. Think of it as a Russian-nesting doll but with each layer you uncover worse and worse surprises.

Everything started this past Monday, when I woke to what I hoped were not two huge red pimples on the side of my face.

Looking back, I really wish it would have been a bad breakout.

It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon, and several bites later, that I lifted up my fitted sheet to find a cluster of bed bugs partying directly below where my pillow had normally been. 

They had even surfaced above a mattress protector I had bought for myself, on which I also horrifyingly discovered a small worm-like creature wiggling about. 

Instantly I took back everything I said about cockroaches.

Cockroaches are disgusting, but they can be managed much more easily.

My local apartment crypt keeper refuses to fumigate our whole apartment and will only treat three out of seven of the bedrooms—which any google search will quickly tell you is no Bueno. He wouldn’t even tell me what was going to happen with my infected mattress—only sending me an angry WhatsApp voice message instructing me to ask my roommates.

I have spent the past two days taking trash bags of all of my clothes, shoes, and bags to laundromats to dry out any lingering bed bugs or eggs. 

The worst part of it all?

It’s now almost October, and every reasonable and safe apartment in Madrid is completely booked. I am essentially left out of options except to keep all of my safe clothes in tightly sealed trash bags, and pray I can find a new place to live before the remaining eggs (fumigation doesn’t kill them apparently) hatch in two weeks.

It’s also frustrating, because I absolutely love all of my flatmates, and the idea of moving to a different location, with new roommates just doesn’t seem fair. Why should I have to leave the new friends I’ve made, because of a negligent property manager?

Over the past few days before the fumigation, I have been staying with a local family in Madrid. The father is a diplomat who used to live next to my grandparents in D.C, and even spent one hectic Thanksgiving dinner with my family.

While I am eternally grateful for a bugless bed to lay my head at night and more food offered to me than I could have ever imagined, I have to be so careful to avoid transferring the creatures outside of the apartment.

The more I panic research this week, the more I learn about the seemingly inescapable nature of bed bugs,

which causes me to cringe brushing shoulders with people on the metro, or sitting on the carpeted bus seats on my commute to work.

I should probably mention that the bubonic plague of bed bugs began the very same day I began work.

I’ll make a separate post very soon about all the events of my first week as a language assistant abroad.

It has been quite an academic culture shock, and I’ll leave you with two previews:

1. Teenagers in Spain are moody pains to deal with and

2. Some toddlers have a better grasp of English than the fifteen-year-olds I am supposed to create activities for. They are more fluent in eyerolling than any other language.

It looks like I have my work cut out for me over the next few weeks, so any positive vibes you can direct my way will be greatly appreciated.

Despite all of the pests, I have had some great things happen this week. I will have to wait for my next post to give all the details, because it’s time for me to return to my apartment following the fumigation. 

I’ve been lugging trash bags of my belongings around the city all week, and I have been starting to feel a bit homeless—a bit like the knock-off, environmentally-unconscious Santa Claus. 

Here is to a lot more trash bags and hoping. 

I’m especially hoping the fumigation chemicals did not permeate my trash bag encased stack of every original painting I made over the past year. I don’t even know what I would do if that happened.


Hasta Luego!