Rusnati and I have discussed this vacant house problem with regards to Rohemon’s mother’s home in the Kampung, a village near Cirebon.
His mother, Ibu Rohemon, passed away about 4 months ago. (Ibu means lady and mother.) It is common to address a grown woman as “Ibu” followed by her given name, or the name of her child, in this case it means Mother of Rohemon. (A maiden lady, either unmarried or young, is called “Nona.” I want to be called “Nona.”) Ibu Rohemon’s passing left her home, with all her belongings inside, empty and vulnerable. A situation that has caused Rusnati and Rohemon ceaseless worry.
As I mentioned previously, the lease renewal process is complicated. Unlike rentals in the States, before resigning a lease the tenant and landlord negotiate what repairs/changes will be made. Also unlike in the States, often the rental price goes down a little or stays the same—the landlord’s way of saying thank you for not leaving me with a vacant house. The nice part about this lease renewal system is, as a tenant, one has the opportunity to have the house repaired, repainted, and even remodeled. Some Expats, my friend Rena, for instance, love, love, love lease renewal time! She had every bathroom updated, the kitchen completely remodeled, and a covered patio built; another friend, Beverly, had them knock out walls and expand her closet. In comparison, our list is small—painting, refinishing woodwork, oh and to replace a tub in one bath with a shower. (I decided to be nice and leave the pond as is for now. The monster ikan lele are grow fast—bigger and more sinister every day.)
During the negotiation process, I heavily stressed that our house is a showcase, and how several other families have moved into this and other complexes owned by the same family after visiting us. So, when the landlord’s representative, Ibu Adiz Lin (spelled as it sounds), phoned to make an appointment to finalize the repair list with me, we set the stage. Rusnati and I had the house ready: clutter hidden, candles lit, music playing, when she arrived.
Adiz Lin is a delightful Chinese-Indonesian who looks 20, is probably 35, and speaks perfect English (lucky me.) As we walked through the house discussing each item on the list, Adiz Lin commented on how lovely everything was. I thanked her, smugly congratulating myself on being a model tenant and brilliant house manager.
On the way out the kitchen door to the servant’s quarters, I emphasized that item #4 on the list: Paint Outside of House included the servant’s quarters. I spoke in a tone intending to convey “you have seen my home; my servants deserve the best, too.” Everyone was busy busy in the back of the house: Losari, who helps Rusnati with ironing, stood in one bedroom (sweat cell) ironing away; Rohemon sat fiddling with gardening tools; Rusnati hung laundry; Aan sat on his perch in the garage. All was right in our little world.
Rusnati has a list, too,” I told Adiz Lin. On cue, Rusnati ran to get her list. Aan popped his nosy head in from the garage. Instantly an animated discussion began with everyone chiming in with needed repairs. Rohemon wanted branches cut off the mango tree because the leaves blew everywhere—even over the roof to the front of the house, clogging the gutters, making more work; Aan wanted to be sure “his” garage was painted, along with the rest; Rusnati wanted the latched fixed on the kitchen door, etc. etc. When the chatter died, I started on my list:
“Are there were any other repairs needed in the bedrooms?”
“The kitchen area?”
Adiz Lin walked beside me looking in and taking notes as I continued.
“What about the mandi? Adiz Lin started toward the bathroom door.
Rohemon jumped in front of the door, blocking her entry.
“No,” Rusnati called.< Everyone fell silent. They looked at each other.
“What?” I asked.
“Tikus,” Rohemon muttered. A rat was trapped in the mandi. A huge one I surmised from the distance between the hands he held up—they were about 18 inches apart.
“In the mandi?” Adiz Lin repeated. “A rat? Show me.”
Another rapid-fire discussion ensued during which even Losari took part. No one wanted that door open. No one wanted to see the rat.
Adiz Lin did, though.
Rohemon stepped aside. The women-folk (me included) pushed back against the walls to make room for the rat to run unhindered. Aan took a step back and Adiz Lin reached for the handle.
She eased open the door.
We watched, waiting.
Rohemon peeked inside. Rusnati, Aan, and Adiz Lin peeked inside.
She opened it wider. The rock covering the drain hole had been pushed off to the side. The rat was gone. But there were plenty fish oil capsule-sized poo-poos surrounded the drain hole to prove its existence.
Aan and Rohemon continued the “tikus” tour. It seems that there is a hole in the garage, too. Rats come into the garage at night leaving poo-poos behind.
The garage is attached to the house…attached…inches away…could that be what’s making those night noises?
I go from shocked to humiliated, embarrassed, mortified…MAD. There went my House Beautiful/Model Tenant of the Year Award—and my bargaining chips. And after all my bragging about how well we take care of their property…
Why hadn’t anyone told me about the rats? It’s not as if we have never used rat poison before. Like the time I spotted that giant rat drinking from the pond waterfall and after we found the rat’s nest behind the pillows on the Bali bed…and then there was that rat, when Mike and Liz were visiting, the one that ran behind Liz’s chair during dinner and we pretended not to notice so she wouldn’t freak. This is April for crying out loud. It’s not Ramadan, when you’re not supposed to harm anything, that’s months away. Between Aan, Rusnati, and Rohemon, you’d think one of them would have told me we need RAT POISON. (Come to think of it, maybe this is why Losari makes up excuses to leave work early, and why she hides in that sweat cell.)
And here I thought Rusnati told me everything. She certainly tells me plenty; so does Aan. Now, come to find out, a dog-sized rat and its rat family takes full run of the back of the house, eating, chewing, biting whatever they chose and no one, not one of them, says a word to me about it. They simply closed the door.
Ignore it, and it will go away… Seriously?