Goddess mug shot The Goddess Speaks

By Michelle Ramos

Geckos, bufos
and snails, oh my!

Isn't house-sitting supposed to be as easy as sitting in a house? When a friend asked me to watch her house while she took a summer trip, I agreed to help. I'd volunteered to house-sit for relatives in the past just for a change of scenery, and it was no different this time. No pets were involved, so I didn't anticipate any problems.

Boy, was I wrong.

It started with her plants. All these need to be watered every six days. Again, it sounded easy.

But before my friend left for her month-long trip, she went over her watering routine, showing me which plants were "really" fragile.

"Make sure the water doesn't break the leaves," she warned me. Then she watched closely as I practiced by carefully parting the lush green petals and letting the water drip slowly onto the soil.

This wasn't so bad, but I swear she has at least 50 pots hidden between the trees and shrubbery fronting just the right side of the house, each with its specific care instructions. There are more plants in her carport, on her front lawn, plus the semijungle in back of her house and other greenery in her house. There are also some trees in the yard and about a half-dozen shrubs growing between her yard and the street.

As I continued practicing, we came across a couple of African snails. An apartment dweller since birth, I'd never seen snails that big! And I certainly didn't realize what a jungle a yard can be. My friend instructed me to pick up the snails and move them to the back yard.

"I have to touch them!?"

She looked at me coldly. "You just pick them up by the shell like this," she said as she picks up one in each hand. "They won't hurt you.

"There's a lot of foliage for them to eat in the back. I'll take these to the back while you continue to water the plants."

Snails? I have to touch snails? I think to myself.

A few plants later, she told me to stop watering.

"Bufos love these plants," she says. "We have to be extra careful for the bufos. Let me show you."

Snails? I have to touch snails? keeps running through my mind.

BY THIS TIME I'm hardly listening to my friend's words. I just watch her as she slowly parts the leaves of the plants, looks for bufos, then gently runs the water into the pot.

After a couple of pots, she says, "Hi, bufo!" and tells me to look.

I didn't know what I thought she meant by "bufo," but I know I didn't expect a TOAD!

She proceeded to run water into the pot, being very careful not to disturb the slimy creature, while telling me that the bufos don't mind humans watering the plants as long as we don't hit them directly with the water. She tells me to make sure to look in the plants first because she doesn't want me to startle the bufo.

She doesn't want ME to STARTLE IT?! Will my shriek startle it?

She continues talking sweetly to the bufo, then tells me how important they are.

I'm only half listening because the rest of my brain is willing me to resist the urge to scream when I see the bufos and also resist the urge to spray them directly with a steady stream of water in hope of encouraging them to find another home down the street. Plus, that droning voice in my head was now saying ...

Snails? I have to touch snails. Bufos are toads. Snails and toads. Snails and toads. Snails and toads. ...

"... they're good because they eat the bugs and ...," my friend continues her ecology lesson.

Snails and toads. I have to touch the snails. Don't scare the bufos. Snails and toads. Snails and toads.

"... and if it starts crawling up the wall, just gently pull it off," she says.

Huh? Did she just say they were going to crawl up the wall of the house? Are they going to get into the house?

"The snails?!" I ask, trying to sound calm. "The snails climb up the walls?"

"What?" she replies. "No."

"The toads?!" I freak. Oh my God, the toads are going to get into the house, and I'll be living with toads and snails.

"What are you talking about?" she says. "This plant. If the vine starts crawling up the wall ... You've seen these before, right?"

"Oh. The plant," I say.

My friend looks at me strangely, then continues on about her plants.

Several toads later, I still find myself jumping every time I see one, but in addition to that, I find myself apologizing to the toad for disturbing it. I can't believe I'm talking to a toad.

Snails and toads. Don't scare the bufos. Snails and toads. Don't scare the bufos.

Three hours later we're in the house taking a break. We didn't even get to the back yard.

Snails and toads. Don't scare the bufos. Snails and toads. Don't scare the bufos.

"Oh, I also need to tell you about the stray cats that have appeared, the birds I feed and the dog across the street," my friend says. "And, also, at night you'll see my gecko friends ..."

Oh no.

Michelle Ramos is a page designer for the Star-Bulletin.

The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and
about women. If you have something to say, write
"The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, Honolulu 96813;
or e-mail


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