Before coming to Bali, I imagined that it, and that any tropical locale, would be teeming with exotic, and even dangerous critters. I imagined them slithering about beneath every bush, scurrying about in every dark corner.
Turns out, there are really not so many exotic critters in Bali. The most common critter one will see is the Cicak. This is a small lizard, about the size of one’s index finger, and it is your constant housemate, no matter where you live. They don’t bite, and they don’t bother anybody. They just run around on the ceilings and the walls, hunting insects, mostly, or crumbs of food. After a time, one barely notices their presence. One would more likely notice their absence — like, huh, what happened to all the cicaks. They may occasionally startle you, if they happen to have gotten into the bed, for instance; or if their sticky little feet fail for an instant and they happen to fall on your head. But otherwise, they are harmless, and they make a point of staying out of your way.
Less welcome is their larger relative, the Tokek. The Tokek is perhaps a foot long, and less social that the cicak. Though one rarely sees them, he often hears them, for they make a peculiar sound, which itself sounds like their own name. The lizard will draw in a deep breath and then repeat, perhaps four of five times, “Toe-kay” as he expels the breath. They generally stay outdoors; although on one occasion, in the midst of a storm of flying brown beetles, two Tokek’s did pursue the (apparently) tasty flying morsels into the house, scrabbling about on the walls, hiding behind doors, and generally creeping me out until they finally decided to leave, with the help of a broom. I do know of Tokeks who have set up residence in a house, by which the home owners seem unbothered, but, no, that’s not for me. While the Cicaks are kind of cute, the Tokeks are decidedly homely. Nor does one like them muttering “Tokek, Tokek” in the middle of the night.
Larger yet is the buaya — about the size of a small alligator. These guys do bite and are best avoided — and, thankfully, they feel the same about human beings. They stick mostly to the dense bush or to the tall grass of the rice fields. Some folks will hunt buaya and bring their catch home by the tail, to be the subject, later on, of a barbecue.
Many of the insects here seem to be on steroids. The grasshopper, for instance, is still a grasshopper, but perhaps 10 times the size of an Oregon sort of grasshopper. The first time I saw one of these guys on the wall, I was totally freaked. Silly, really, for, of course, they don’t bite, and they have no doubt found themselves inside the house by accident. Still, interacting with this enormous bug filled me with dread. Similar to the grasshopper is the preying mantis, a sinister looking bug to be sure. Additionally, there is also a certain sort of beetle that is about as big as an apple and quite indestructible with its armored shell. Like the grasshopper and the preying mantis, these guys will enter the house by mistake, and wonder only how to get back out again.
Which brings us to the universally hated cockroach. These guys do enter the house for a purpose, and the purpose is to gross you out. They are large and brown and can fly short distances, and they will actually bite if you give them time. One gets into the habit of shaking out a blanket before putting it on the bed, or looking inside a shoe before putting it on, and taking care when moving anything from any corner of the house, for a cockroach may well charge wildly from beneath the basket or the box. Why the Cicak is perfectly acceptable, yet the cockroach is not, I’m not sure. Like the spider, the cockroach inspires fear and disgust, and must be terminated with extreme prejudice.
There are snakes, though I have seen very few. Like the Buaya, they stick for the most part to the rice field and the jungle; although I did once find a long, black snake coiled up in the basin of my kitchen sink. There was also an event, a couple years back, involving a very large boa constrictor on the grounds of a certain resort in Sanur. A security guard picked up this snake in order to remove it, unwisely slung the snake’s body over his shoulder, and within a short time found the thing wrapped round and round his torso. The poor man was suffocated, squeezed to death, although several folks had tried to free him from the snake’s embrace. Other stories have snakes climbing trees and entering a house through a loose tile in the rooftop. Therefore, we avoid allowing trees to grow to roof height. A former maid of ours once cut down a tree with a steak knife, explaining the snake/rooftop issue.
Ultimately, it’s the same everywhere when it comes to critters. In Oregon we have the deadly Brown Recluse spider, the tick that may carry Rocky Mountain fever, and of course the bear and the mountain lion and the rattlesnake. I lived with these critters there, and I lived with other critters here. Each creature has its own place, and probably, as far as they are concerned, we human beings are the intruders.