Thursday, February 16, 2006

"At last the rain came. It was sudden and tremendous. For two or three moons the sun had been gathering strength till it seemed to breathe of fire on the earth. All the grass had long been scorched brown, and the sand felt like live coals to the feet. The world lay panting under the live, vibrating heat. And then came the clap of thunder. It was an angry, metallic and thirsty clap, unlike the deep and liquid rumbling of the rainy season. A mighty wind rose and filled the air with dust. Palm trees swayed as the wind combed their leaves into flying crests like strange and fantastic coiffure. When the rain finally came, it was in large, solid drops of frozen water. The earth quickly came to life. A vague scent of life and green vegetation was diffused in the air… all were happy, refreshed and thankful."

--from Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

For some reason, I thought we may skip the rainy season this year. Before leaving the states, PC warned us that the weather between the months of October-March is unpredictable. But after two solid months without a drop of rain and only dry, unbelievable temperatures, I was pretty convinced that this whole "rainy season" thing was an exaggeration. Oh, no. The rain here the past few weeks has been torrential. It pours down in buckets and hammers the dirt roads and sidewalks, washing them together to the point where you can't tell one from the other. It pounds holes into the ground and rips the tin and thatched roofs off of houses. If you're brave enough to stand around and watch the storms, you can literally see lightening touch the ground. The lightening is so strong, it will short out anything that is plugged into a wall socket, including computers (actually, I've been told that in the past, lightening has been strong enough to go through the sockets and crash computers even when they weren't plugged in). Last year, a teacher in my town was struck by lightening and killed, so, needless to say, everyone here is terrified of the lightening and goes running like lunatics when it strikes.

The rain brings with it a collection of completely new insects, as well. The bugs in Africa are different to begin with. We don't have your average fly or spider. The flies here are fluorescent green and have wings that are an opaque blackish color, and the spiders have blue and orange streaks on them and are the size of my two palms facing up side-by-side. Somewhere between here and there I sort of got over my fear of most bugs. The only bugs I don't really like now are those with personality; those whose eyes are big enough that they can stare into mine, those that wouldn't really surprise me if they just randomly started talking to me. Those are the ones that are most threatening, but that you almost feel bad killing. For one, stepping on them and killing them would be like stepping on a small animal to kill it. And also, they're sort of like the fish in the movie Big Fish. If they've survived long enough to turn into an insect the size of a large rodent, who am I to end their life? So, as long as they keep their distance, I keep mine.

For one reason or another, the bugs that I'm used to go into hiding during the rain, and out come their nasty friends and cousins. Termites and tiny flying fire ants and black millipedes as long as my forearm… stuff nightmares are made of. One of the first nights it rained was during training. When I got to my room to go to bed, I had to run through a cloud of the tiny flying fire ants that were swarming outside my door. I had slept somewhere else the night before, and had taken my mosquito net along, and since I needed to borrow a ladder, or a very tall person, to rig it back up, I hadn't gotten around to it yet. I shook out my sheets and figured, "Hey, it's one night. You're in Africa. Suck it up." I lied down, put my headphones on, and tried to think good thoughts. After only a few minutes, I felt something hot on my chest. As I reached around to feel for what it could be, my chest started burning. I jumped out of bed and brushed myself off, but my skin still felt like it was on fire. I grabbed my flashlight and ran to the bathroom, and when I looked in the mirror, I saw a handful of tiny fire ants running across my chest and arms. My skin was red and splotchy and covered with tiny little bites. I tried washing the ants off by hand, but the burning continued, so I stripped off my clothes (which I later found were filled with ants), and jumped in the freezing cold shower. Afterwards, I walked back to my room and found my entire bed filled with ants, and the outside of all my roommates' mosquito nets covered with ants. Remembering the "suck it up" philosophy, I quietly (so as to not wake my roommates and incite the hysteria I'm sure would have followed) stripped my bed of my sheets, wrapped myself up in my net like a mummy, and tried to look on the bright side: at least it wasn't the millipedes.


Blogger Brooke said...

I'm reading your blog to prepare for my upcoming service, and this story blew my mind.

9:44 AM  

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