In the early 1970s, I was employed as a civil engineer with a consulting firm in Lima, Peru. My job would usually take me on field assignments throughout the country, typically for a few days at a time.

Once assignment took me to Pucallpa, a relatively large city in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. I had planned to look for a suitable hotel, but a relative convinced me to stay at his house instead. The house, like many others in Pucallpa, was built on stilts, literally on top of the rainforest, presumably for flood protection.

The first night after work, I settled down for a well deserved rest. Suddenly, I noticed that I was not alone in the room. There was a big cockroach at a corner, apparently staring at me, so I decided to kill the intruder. And so I did.

As I turned off the lights, the dim clarity of the new moon came in through the open window. A few minutes later, I again had the strange feeling of not being alone, so I turned on the lights, this time only to see many of the despicable bugs, certainly too many to kill. Belatedly, I realized it was their house and that I was just a guest that night, so I decided to make peace with them. I turned off the lights and went back to sleep.


Giant water lilies (Vitora amazonica) in the Amazon rainforest.

Giant water lilies (Vitora amazonica) in the Amazon rainforest.