I had invited the Principal of St Bakhita High School over to “my place” in South Sudan (a corrugated iron shipping container long since converted into a guest dwelling). There I was, sitting casually on a flimsy plastic chair across the small round table from him, chatting about the challenges of running a boarding school where there are never enough trained teachers. Beyond the meshed wire windows I could hear birds trilling and see the garden thick with trees growing ‘round the bomb shelter. Then I heard a scampering. Tiny feet skittering across mesh. An unmistakable sound. And a long naked tail trailing behind. Hard to ignore.
Yes, a sizeable rat was dashing along the mesh several inches behind the head of my guest. Dashing, that is, until our eyes met: then Mr. Rat froze in place, pretending to blend into the general scenery. Ha! If it could have grinned at me, it probably would have: “This is my house, too, you know!” I conceded the point: I am only a visitor here for a few weeks. We wordlessly agreed to share the space: “I’ll take the ground floor, please; you can have the rafters.”
Postscript: two days after writing the above paragraph, I cornered a large plump rat in the shower stall. Again, a brave MBB colleague dispatched it to the netherworld. But all night long we heard the running of many, many tiny feet in the rafters. Perhaps they were gathering for the funeral?