I have finished the first term. It seemed so long while I was going through it, but now that it is over, I cannot remember any time passing. I feel like I have been in Kenya for a week, not six months. I know that the first term is supposed to be the hardest, and so I really feel like I can make it through the rest. Right now though, I am not thinking about the next 20 months, I am think about the next 2 weeks. Yesterday, I said goodbye to my house and my village. I realized the last day, that I would actually miss the place. I said goodbye to my students, and the Borana women at the bore hole. I cleaned my house as well as I could to avoid ants. And then yesterday I headed to Nairobi. I am in awe of Nairobi but I can’t stop thinking about my house. I am worried that I left something perishable that will grow into something horrible while I am gone. I am worried that the ants will take over or the place will be filled with scorpions. I don’t want to come home to millions of dead moths, or zillions of spider nests. The bugs in my house have been pretty ridiculous lately and I have not yet complained to you about them. I will take that opportunity now.
Everyone knows Africa has bugs. Lots of bugs, all the time. But no one tells you what kinds will be the ones to drive you insane with annoyance. In my house I have the usual number of bugs for a Kenyan household; I estimate that number to be around 20 billion. And they are all so annoying that I sometimes imagine myself burning down my house just to kill them all. Some of the pests are the type you would think would bother me, or scare me, or gross me out, and they don’t. and then there are the type which are innocent, harmless, and tiny. Those are the ones who will make me go insane. The insanity causing ones are flies and ants. I know what you are thinking, “geezus, Ryan, do the dishes, pick up the food off the floor, and take out the trash, you slob”. And you are right, my house is not clean by Kenyan (or American) mama standards, but its not that bad. I do the dishes when I need them, which is every few days, and I take out the garbage when its full. I learned very quickly how bad things start to smell. And even if you could ignore the smell (which you can’t), more than three days and you have a fly nursery (aka maggots). So my house has ants and flies and it is not because I am unclean. There are three types of flies. The really big ones are shiny, iridescent green with big red eyes and the buzzing of their wings sounds like a wasp. These guys live in the choo and gross me out because I just imagine them covered in choo germs. There are medium sized flies that just hang out in my house all day landing on my toes, which tickles, on my food, or on my face. These are the ones that will fly in your mouth if you are panting up a hill. And if you think you can just pant with your mouth closed, nope, they will fly up your nose. Im not kidding, it happens to me almost daily. Then there are the tiny fruit flies. These are newcomers to the party, they just appeared a couple weeks ago. My brain’s store of Useless Knowledge tells me that fruit flies only live for 2 hours. From birth to death in 120 minutes. Well, that is too long for these bastards. They not only attack my trash, but also my fresh fruits and veggies. They get trapped inside my plastic wrapped loaves of bread. They will land on my freshly opened cans of tuna and die in the oil, while I am trying to fish their bodies out. If I take the lid of a pot of spaghetti, they are there before my spoon can serve the food. And if there is no food, they will attack anything moist. Like my face cloths, towels, and clothes that are hanging to dry. All will have a moving, black cloud surrounding them. I hate them.
Flies are bad, but worse are ants. There are lots of types of ants in my house too. And they are also impervious to all my attempts at annihilation. There are the little black ants that belong at picnics. They do not care about my dirty kitchen, they want the crummies on my floor. And if I sweep daily, they will just find corners that I cannot reach or wander around aimlessly until crummies appear. The little kids next door once walked in on me during an ant killing frenzy with a flipflop, and now know to come over every day to smush ants with their hands. I found the anthill outside, and I dump my dirty water on it every day to drown them. Then they made a tunnel in my walls, coming out where the wood of my door meets the cement. So I filled in the gap with hand lotion (that’s the only thing of paste consistency that I had). That stopped them for awhile, but they are still coming. I have taken to dumping water on the floor in front of my door, killing some and creating a temporary barrier for others. But this is a heinous waste of water in a drought ridden country, and while watching ants drown is satisfying, I feel guilty.
Those are the small ants. At night, the big ants come in. These are the half-inch long ones with visible pincers. These are the ones that hurt like a snake bite when you get bitten. The bites burn and make me gasp in pain for almost an hour, then they itch like chicken pox for, literally, weeks. They come in at night to eat the tiny ants. My tiny ant killing spree brings in the big suckers to clean up. I have to keep my feet off the floor in the evening to avoid getting bitten. With the big black ones come the big brown ones. They are a very pale brown, they might even be termites rather than ants, but they come in just to look around. And they are probably eating my doorframes to make new homes for the tiny ants. It’s the ant circle of life.
So ants and flies are the insects that, in my opinion, earn a special place in hell. The other creepy crawlies that I share my home with are the ones that should freak me out, but I welcome them with open arms. Okay, maybe not, but I at least don’t attempt to attack them with flip flops. First one: cockroach. These bad boys live in the choo, and while that is gross indeed, they are frightened away by light and then leave you in piece. Even if they are in my house, they are high in the corners trying to run away from you. No problem; I can handle that. Then there are the big spiders. I was not afraid of spiders in America, and I am not frightened here. But I probably should be. These suckers are huge! And everywhere. I sweep and the next day there are new spider webs in every corner. I do not mind because I get to watch those big green flies get caught in them; its like the Discovery Channel. But the big spiders are very big, over two inches long. They are dark brown with yellow racing stripes and they run like lightening. The other day, I saw a particularly odd spider, he looked like the same type, yellow stripes, but his back looked all fuzzy. It was very strange so I got my camera and scooched in close to him. As my camera zoomed in and focused, I realized what the “fuzzy” was. It was not a ‘he’ spider, it was a ‘she’ and the fuzz was hundreds of baby spiders hitching a ride on mommy’s back! *shudder* That even freaked me out. I took the picture, and then glanced back at ‘mom’, but she was gone. I swear to God, she had disappeared. Obviously, she sprinted to a crack in the wall to save her babies, but it was so quick I did not even see her go. So there is a family of two inch long racing spiders having flocks (what do you call a group of spiders? Herd? Bevy? Pod?) of babies in my house. That’s okay though, maybe they will team up and start a war with the ants.
PS. I decided that if there is not already a name for a group of spiders, we should call it a “charlotte”. After all, Charlotte was the one who had hundreds of babies that flew in the wind to populate the world. And Peacocks get an “ostentation”, Owls get a “parliament”, spiders should have their own. So there is a charlotte of spiders living in my house. And I hope they stay forever. Maybe they will protect the house from the rest of the bugs while I am gone.