July 30, 2008

Exodus 8:21

A common trope, I think, among expatriates in Africa is some encounter with larger-than-life bugs. My fellow missionary John had a couple good stories about that. Maybe I’m just imagining this but it was a reassuring thought as I endured a long night recently.

It began on a Tuesday when I was woken-up in the middle of the night by a dive-bombing something or other that I managed to kill without too much fuss. I then tucked myself into my mosquito night, unused since some hot summer nights in February.

Things got out of control on Wednesday night, however, when I returned from dinner to an overwhelming buzzing throughout my rondavel and kitchen. There must have been about three dozen inch-long, flying insects all over the place, on my bed, the curtains, the floor, my desk, and everywhere. They were an interesting creature, with their legs towards the front of their body so they had a big, thick tail that seemed to move in sections, and four small wings. Helpfully, they weren’t all that good at flying and seemed to prefer to crawl mostly, which made them easy to snuff out. I used the sharp edge of a cup and cut a bunch of them in two pieces, after which the head would keep crawling for a little while.

As I was cleaning up carcasses, I noticed what I thought was a brown cloth lying near my surge protector. Not remembering it from earlier, I looked closer and saw it was thousands of ants swarming all over the place. I swept those up and got them outside but not before getting a few on me and finding they were the kind with teeth.

I got myself in bed, hoping for a quiet night but kept being startled by the discovery of more of my flying friends and, quite literally, ants in my pants. I drifted off but was woken only an hour or two later by the buzzing of another two dozen or so critters, this time concentrated on my mosquito net. (I thought I had the kind that was treated with insecticide!) I tried to fall back asleep but they were too loud so I set about offing them as well, noticing another cloth-sized swarm of ants in the corner. This time, I also noticed several carcasses of the flying things in the swarm. Deciding the enemy of my enemy is my friend, I decided to worry about the ants in the morning. The flying guys were persistent and managed to get in my covers and inside my mosquito net in my enthusiasm to get at them. Then I thought one had fallen in my eye and it just kept going downhill from there. It was a long night. I was not in a good mood the next morning.
A flying visitor on my pillow, shortly before his untimely demise

My ally the ants, after my surge protector had been removed to a safe distance

A small portion of my mosquito net around 1:30 in the morning

I stocked up on all those poisonous substances I usually avoid the next day and set about ensuring they’d never return. So far, so good, though at what cost to my brain cells it’s unclear. I showed Jenny the pictures and she thought they were a worm or something hatching into a flying critter, which would explain their aviation ineptitude. I hope this is a one-off thing and once they’re all transformed they’ll fly far, far away.

All of it made me long for Alaska where it was too cold for insects to be much of a problem.