9D-No Mahram….

It was now April, humidity was high in Al-Khobar and temperatures rose to 100 degrees. The compound home had central air keeping it at a constant and cool temperature. The upcoming move to Riyadh was exciting but a feeling of worry circled overhead. I didn’t know if the experience at the two previous schools had just been coincidence or if this was what we had to look forward to.  Our amazing newborn girl was healthy and sweet, the little ones watched her sleep and argued over whose baby she truly was, giggling and laughing as she grasped their fingers within her delicate hand. He made his trip home on the weekends to Al-Khobar and then back to Riyadh for the week, where he lived temporarily in “single” housing.  Life continued and my routine remained unchanged.

I had a cleaning schedule and followed it each day, running up and down the three flights of stairs from the kitchen to the bedrooms and up to the laundry room on the roof. I picked up toys, emptied garbage cans, made beds and did general daily clean up. As I made my way through the bedrooms taking sheets off for their weekly wash I spotted an unfamiliar sight. A dead bug covered in blood lay on the sheets underneath a blanket. Of course this made me shudder but I wiped it away and took the bed sheets and blanket to the roof to be washed.  A few days later when picking up baby Soos from her chair I saw another bug, a replica of the first one. I had become accustomed to cockroaches and made a quick run for my shoe when I spotted one, even lizards didn’t make me shriek at this point. But this was something entirely new and I had no idea what was to come. My first error was made after spotting the second bug, when I moved blankets, pillows and clothing into a different bedroom. I decided that we would sleep there for the time being while I sorted out this small issue. I sprayed the bed we had left behind and the surrounding area thoroughly assuming this would eradicate any bugs that remained. I was glad to have this behind us and I considered it a little inconvenience at best. We all piled into the second bedroom and settled in for the coming weeks.  We spent two weeks bug free until one night when my son jumped out of bed, frantically looking through the blankets. He said he had seen another bug, the same kind that had been spotted before. At this point I had no idea what was happening and so I made my second mistake and packed up our things, moving to the last bedroom. As we carried  blankets and pillows down the hall, I stopped in my tracks and remembered a story he had relayed to me. He had been staying at an older compound in an area designated for bachelor men in Riyadh when he woke in the middle of the night to find bugs on his bed and pillow. He got up and left the single’s housing and they put him in a hotel until they could find suitable accommodations. I stood for a moment horrified and frozen, dropping pillows and clothing. Surely these bugs could not have come along with him and planted themselves in our lovely home. I had never heard of such a thing and so I continued to the third and final room.

The next day I called the compound management and they sent a worker to collect a bug, which they easily found among the sheets. They called that evening giving a long and complicated name but in the end said that we had an infestation of” bed bugs”. The manager of the compound told me to exit the house for the day while they sprayed every fiber in our home including, couches, carpeting and of course the beds.  I packed up the kids and spent the day visiting friends on the compound, sitting at the park and restaurant.

It had been several weeks since they came to spray for bugs and we had put this behind us.  As I made my way down the stairs to bring another box of clothes for packing, I noticed a small dot stuck to the carpet. I leaned over and saw a tiny bug, a bed bug!  As I took notice it seemed there were now bugs on the couches, beds and carpeting.  I called the compound management but they said there was nothing more they could do and gave me the number for the company that had sprayed the house. I called and spoke to a very helpful Australian man who explained that bed bugs have a cycle much like lice and fleas so catching them in between that cycle is the only way to rid your house of them. He informed me that it was imperative  to spray the entire house every 7 days  for the coming month in order to stop the cycle. He also suggested hanging blankets, sheets and clothing on the roof in the unrelenting heat. And the last warning, bed bugs stick to material and transfer with you on clothing, bags and anything made of cloth or fiber.  I didn’t want to pack anything that would transfer these bugs to our new home in Riyadh. I ran furiously up and down the stairs, washing the blankets and bedding, hanging everything on the roof and then bringing it into the only untainted room on the top floor. Washing, drying and not touching anything in the lower floors was the new routine!  I called the compound manager explaining what I had learned and the procedure that was needed to get rid of the bed bugs. He had little interest in my plight but said the company would put us in a hotel for the day of the spraying and the day after. He assured me he would make a hotel reservation and things would be taken care of.  The phone rang minutes later and he announced in his aloof manner, that there was nothing more he could do, as a woman in the kingdom I could not legally check into a hotel without a Mahram (male guardian) .  I sat on a kitchen chair, not wanting to sit on a couch, the carpeted stairs or a bed, and tears streamed down my face. Taking care of a newborn, 5  small children, packing for the big move to Riyadh and now washing, drying, running away from bed bugs had finally caught up with me!