It happened. I thought they wouldn’t find me. I thought I was safe. Foolish. There is no running, and there is no hiding from them. Who are they? Mosquitoes.
These aren’t just any normal mosquitoes though. Nothing like the fat-cat, capitalist, entrepreneurial mosquitoes that we’re used to back in America. No, these are mother f$%^#@ Russian mosquitoes and they have been plaguing me for the last two nights.
My history with the Russian mosquito is old. We fist did battle in the summer of 2009, when I lived in Kazan for two months. Kazan is in the southern part of Russia, and during the summer, it gets hot. Since AC is non-existent, the only way to combat the heat is by opening windows, but, that’s how they get in. They fly in during the day and wait to strike at night.
I faced my first attack in the middle of July. I had almost fallen asleep when I started to hear a loud buzzing read next to my ear. I shot up quickly and looked around the room. It was only then that I realized how itchy my feet were. Mosquito. I put on some socks and tried to ignore the pest in my room, but it refused to let me sleep. It kept attacking my head; it’s buzzing reaching through to my dreams, denying me sleep. To spare myself from this torture I began hunting the mosquito in my room, carefully scanning the walls and the cabinets for its tiny form. After a few near misses, I finally managed to defeat my prey. Head shot. Kill count: 1.
I slept fitfully for the rest of the night and the next morning over breakfast, I shared my story with the Russian woman whose apartment I was living in. She was a sweet, gentle woman, but when I mentioned the mosquito, her face immediately became hard and distant. She nodded solemnly after I finished my tale and silently walked to the window where she kept an array of potted plants. Reaching behind the plants, she pulled out what would become my first tool in the fight against the mosquitoes. A fly-swatter. Mosquitoes had invaded our home, and we weren’t going to take it lying down. Together, we were declaring war.
That night we waited until after dinner, when the sun had already set. We crept into the kitchen, immediately seeing our target relaxing on one of the room’s windows. My host wielded our only weapon, while I performed the duty of lookout. It was a surprise attack, an ambush. The mosquitoes didn’t stand a chance. When the massacre was over, she’d killed all of the intruders (five in total). Silently, she put the fly-swatter back in it’s resting place and began to leave kitchen. Before she exited the room she turned to me, and with a small grin said, “Sarah, we’re killers.” My only response was to return her smile and simply nod. She was right, after all.
After that first assault, I thought the war had ended. There were no more mosquitoes and my host had constructed a cloth mesh barrier to hang in the windows, which let the air in but would keep the mosquitoes out. Those days were peaceful, but our peace would not last long. They soon returned in even greater numbers, and proceeded to take their revenge on me.
At first I tried putting up a fight, spending hours with the trusty fly-swatter, but I couldn’t kill them all. They enacted psychological warfare on me, by preventing me from sleeping. Even when I buried my head under a pillow, they would crawl underneath to find me, never letting me sleep for more than a few minutes at a time. In an act of desperation, I tried sacrificing parts of my body to keep them away from my head. I purposefully exposed my legs, as if to say ‘have at it boys, just let me get some @#%#$%# sleep.’ Instead of placating them however, this act served only to embolden them further. They attacked my head with renewed vigor, as if they could sense my resolve fading.
For days I survived on little sleep, and then eventually I stopped sleeping at night altogether. This was quickly taking a toll on my body and my mind, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to last much longer. Desperate for any assistance, I sought out a Russian-made plug-in air spray that claimed to protect its owners from mosquitoes. I had asked my host about these devices, suggesting we try and use them in our nightly battles, but she immediately rejected the idea. She claimed the devices were useless and provided no protection. Despite her resistance, I caved and bought one.
The first night I used it, I was incredibly skeptical and almost positive that it wouldn’t work. At that point, I’d resigned myself to not getting a full-night’s sleep until I returned to America. Much to my surprise, however, the plug-in actually worked. The first night I used it was amazing. I managed to sleep through the entire night with no interruptions. When I told my host about this miracle, she remained skeptical, but eventually gave in and bought her own device for her room. We were finally free. I spent my last days in Kazan happily and eventually left the city, feeling triumphant.
Before coming to Kaluga, I briefly wondered if I would face a similar onslaught from mosquitoes as I did in Kazan. As the weather has grown warmer and I’ve been forced to open my windows, that wonder grew into full-fledged fear. I nervously waited for their first strike. It finally came two days ago.
I was completely unprepared for the attack, and my mosquito-killing skills were decidedly rusty since my time in Kazan. That first night I managed to get three hours of sleep, but no kills. During the day, I kept my window shut and prayed that my attacker had disappeared. I was wrong. Last night it struck again, not letting me rest and finally driving me from my bed at 4 AM. I sought sanctuary in the kitchen and eventually fell asleep in one of my armchairs. That night, I managed one full hour of sleep.
At these point, I’m running on four hours sleep total for the last few days. But tonight things will be different. I bought another plug-in spray and now I’m ready. They may have won the past two nights, but that ends now.