Off Again… (and ROACHES!)

Friday morning I’ll be on a plane to Qingdao (青岛). I’ll have just missed the beer festival, but that doesn’t matter. I’m sure Qingdao is not out of beer, and the city’s still there to be seen. I’ll take Monday to do just that.

Tuesday I’ll fly out to Yinchuan (银川), capital of Ningxia (宁夏) Province. I’m told the agent is going to take us sightseeing there. Yinchuan is next to the Gobi Desert and mountains, and there’s supposed to be cool stuff to see which I might know more about if I were a good Lonely Planet-reading tourist (but I’m not). It’s not like I have lots of time or freedom this time anyway, so I’ll just see where they take me.

In unrelated news, my apartment has recently come under assault by massive cockroaches. Three sightings in the past three days. The first two were terminated by good old fashion smashing the hell out of them. The third one escaped. The third one was the most disturbing because I spotted it taking a stroll across the curtain rod over my window in my bedroom while I was on the phone. I got off the phone for a sec to try to destroy it, but it escaped into the folds of a nearby blanket! How nasty is that?! I had to finish the phone call, and when I got off it was long gone.

I went right to the supermarket to get roach spray and hotels, but they didn’t have any roach hotels. The majority of the insecticide they had was for mosquitoes. And almost all of it was Raid brand. Raid seems to have the Chinese insecticide market cornered.

So then I did the intelligent thing and went home and sprayed the hell out of my entire bedroom. (It doesn’t say anything on the bottle about the fumes being poisonous…) Maybe I’m being squeamish, but the roach was big, and I gotta sleep in that room.

I don’t know what’s going on, because I’m very good about keeping food in the kitchen, and my ayi keeps my place pretty clean. I never spotted a single roach before these.

I’m going to bed soon. I’m trying to make myself believe that the roach either escaped my room through some unknown portal or that it was hiding under the couch when I let a fumigation storm loose under there, and it has long since twitched its loathsome little legs for the last time.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I once saw a Hongkong advertisement of insecticide for cockroaches.They are called “Black Tornado” in English(it’s my own translation, literally translated). My computer doesn’t read Chinese, so i couldn’t type it’s name out in Chinese, not that i don’t know how to. I guess the pinyin for the name is “hei shuan fen”. (my Mandarin isn’t that good) I caught sight of 3 flies in my dorm room couple days ago, i smashed with the box of Kleenex!!!Their friends were too afraid to come in. HAHA

  2. When I was in Boy Scouts in middle school we would often go camping, and in Florida in the summer (as you know) the roaches and Palmetto bugs are about as big as small dogs. I remember waking up one morning with my tent-mate screaming that he had woken up with one in his mouth. Makes me a bit sick thinking about it to this day.

    I love Chinese insecticide because it doesn’t have to follow all those crazy American safety laws, so it really works.

    I don’t think I’d live in a room that got sprayed down real well, though. Remember that nerve gas was discovered accidently while trying to make a better insecticide…

  3. I reckon they come on scouting expeditions every now and then – as long as they don’t find any food they’ll go away for another month or so.


  4. Well, I use a BB gun on the ones in the garage. You might try large rubber bands for inside word.

    Another method is to get some boric acid powder from a local pharmacy. Sprinkle the powder where you think the roaches will be roaming: under the ‘fridge, under & over the dishwasher (if you have one of those), & other out of the way places that you think the roaches might frequent. Within a week you’ll be roach-free — and not overcome by toxic fumes.

    Remember: roaches like clean places.

    Safe travels! EGT!

  5. Roaches like clean places???????

  6. John, haven’t had an issue with roaches in China. But, I remember in Japan, they were in my family friends home, which had clean hardwood floors and an aiyi as well. She also provided, each morning, all my laundry, clean and folded, a sandwich breakfast and turned on the A/C. Kobe summers can be HOT!

    In your case, my suggestion is that your building has a roach problem. Your windows are always open, correct? Upstairs or down, peoples homes are not always going to be as clean as yours. Roaches are going to survive where they can and if they get kicked out of one home, they’ll move to the next. Kind of like the problem I’m having at my home right now – PIGEONS have made my lovely roof their home and their droppings are accumulating. I don’t want to, but I might resort to a friendly warning with an Air Gun, complete with assaulting BB’s. Good luck.


  7. Wilson,

    Yeah, I think you’re on to something. I have been keeping the windows open a lot lately because it hasn’t been as hot and I recently bought an electric fan to circulate the air better. I guess if I keep the windows shut again (especially during the night) the problem will go away.

  8. Good choice, ,Qingdao!!!
    I’ve just come back from there.
    I won’t spoil the fun now, dig it yourself.

  9. The roaches in my old pad were fully acclimatized to RAID. I’d spray a little around and they’d scurry out to take a hit.

    A couple of days without the stuff and they’d drop dead of withdrawal.

  10. Now that I’m in Qingdao I can actually access my site! Amazing!

    Spam has finally been deleted… The weird thing is that I can’t load MT Blacklist’s master list. It starts to load, and I see the beginning of the list, but then I get a “page not found” error, proxy or no. I wonder if it’s because it contains certain words that trigger filters? Not sure…

  11. Da Xiangchang Says: August 28, 2004 at 7:07 am

    Forget about frigging roaches. I just witnessed two of the greatest miracles: a Chinese guy and a Chinese broad outran a bunch of black people! Tell me if the sun’s coming up in the West tomorrow, I still can’t believe the spectacle.

  12. Da Xiangchang Says: August 28, 2004 at 7:09 am

    As to why I capitalized “west” in the preceding message, attribute it to my dazed state . . .

  13. Does this mean I need to pack some roach motels (i guess it should be “hotels” since they don’t drive) for my trip to Shanghai? China needs to revisit its gun laws if the roaches are as big as you say they are…

  14. Qingdao today, Yinchuan tomorrow. Damn you really do get around with your job.

  15. at least you don’t have mosquitos, those are far far far worse than roaches. I laugh at roaches and welcome them, they’re not dirty, only their uhh appendages are…

  16. Ahhh roaches, the ever foe of mankind. I once had a problem with roaches, or perhaps it was Palmetto bugs. Actually it was in the singular tense. I had a big cockroach, approximately 2 inches, fall from the ceiling and land with a loud clunk into an open shipping box in my bedroom. I had no idea where it came from as I had never had a problem with roaches before then or since then. Fortunately a maid lady comes by every week to keep my apartment tidy and the exterminators also make regular monthly checkups, I don’t know what I’d do without them ^___^.

  17. ah, yeah.
    everyone loves a good roach story.
    hell, everyone has a good roach story.
    do you remember the roach story you told me from the time you went to mexico?
    and when, in reaching the climax of your tale, you shared how a roach crawled on your… was it arm? hand? i dunno. the roach was crawling on you, and i reacted with horror! and you were like:
    “what, illy? you never had a roach crawl on you? you haven’t lived until a roach has crawled on you!”
    since you have such a poor memory, i just thought that i would remind you of that little roach episode.
    thinking about your roach-contact=life-lived-to-the-fullest equation sends me into a tickle fit, even after all this time.

  18. I had the same problem, they are freaken gigantic. The local Lianhua doesn¡¯t have the roach motels, you have to go over to Carrefour to find them. After about a week my place was roach-free. Good luck

  19. John,
    A technical suggestion: If the Great Firewall is killing your MTblacklist you might consider finding (or setting up) a proxy to administer your site through (and for general surfing if you want access to blocked information). For example I use squid proxy and an SSH tunnel.

    I don’t think i’ve introduced myself before, but I also work in China and read your site often.

  20. Do what I did. First flood your apartment (I do this automatically every time I use the washing machine). Seal the rooms. Then light one of those cockroach-repelling Raid-style coils. The roachs will get dizzy on the fumes, then fall into the water where they drown. They can then be picked up with disposable chopsticks and placed in a rubbish receptacle. I got 10 in one day like this, though the biggest is still roaming free. I’m hoping the mice will eat it.

  21. Ugh, roaches !!! We have geckos !!! Geckos the size of my boyfriends size 12 feet. (Maybe not quite that big .. but pretty darn big for geckos )

    We live in Mianyang in the Sichuan province and our apartment is located in the jungle. We get all the “pretty” creepy crawly things. Outside there are tons of butterflies and God only knows what else fluttering around in the trees.

    The other night though, I walked in the bedroom and found my boyfriend laying on the bed reading and a gecko crawling accross my pillow. Ew !! Thankfully we managed to catch it and transplant the little fellow outside three stories below us where I’m sure he found pleanty of bugs to much on.

    Good luck with the roaches.. I’m sure we’ll see them here too 🙂

  22. I love geckos. Geckos eat mosquitos and other insects. As for roaches, they are fascinating animals to study but not to live with. Here in California, even meticulously kept houses get roaches. How? They are carried in by visitors who bring their suitcases or full laundry baskets with them. After a visitor from Havana brought me one (or more?) and, within a week, it produced three thousand descendants, I have been rather rude in quizzing my guests about their hygiene.

  23. hi john, do u know how to say boric acid in chinese??

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