Saturday, October 25, 2008

What Goes Around

Hands Down the most terrifying and nauseating experience of my life. Hands Down.

I will preface this tale by saying I am really, truly not afraid of bugs. I’m a hero when it comes to killing cockroaches, trapping spiders and spraying mosquitoes. Last night I killed what appeared to be a scorpion and preserved the carcass for further inspection. I am “girly” about a number of things but with bugs I should earn a Bravery Medal.

That said, it is now 8:46 on Friday night and I am camped out under my mosquito net with all the edges pinned down by books and pillows. Hiding. Literally.

It all began about an hour ago when I was sitting in my living room and heard what sounded like raindrops. Botswana’s rainy season started last night with a thunder and lightning storm so fierce it knocked out my District’s water and electricity for a full 30 hours.

But the noise I hear tonight was not rain.

Insects of a certain size and strength make a “clip” sound when they hit against cement walls-- like someone kissing the air. If that noise happens rapidly it sounds like rain. If that noise happens thousands of times a minute it sounds like a downpour.

By the time I make it to the bathroom the flying termites have encompassed the sink, windows, toilet and all four wall. Each termite is over an inch long and flies with the zest and enthusiasm of an angry dragon fly. I shut the bathroom door and grab my broom. My knuckles turn white around the plastic handle of the improvised weapon.

Now. This is how my thought process goes:

- If I can confine them in the bathroom I’ll be fine for the night
- How can I confine them?
- I’ll seal the cracks in the door with newspaper

After wedging in the newspaper I look out to kitchen window to see a dense cloud of termites swarming and smashing into the glass. The same scene is at my bedroom windows and again in the living room. I can feel a panic rising to my throat.

- Okay, theres one in the kitchen and two in the bedroom
- Got em. got em. guuuu-- got em!
- Shit, there are two more.
- Where are they coming from?

I’m stuffing paper into doorframes and widows but with every second more and more terminates pour into the house. In flustered terror I start hurdling my broom against the bugs who splatter green oil down my walls and over my floors. The ones I miss land on my hair and collect in my hood and I start to sweat and whimper involuntarily. Eventually I’m paralyzed by a lack of strategy and escape options. I stand in the center of the kitchen gripping the broom and my cell phone. I

- Alright, maybe I can call the Peace Corps medical officer and ask for advice
- Or should I call the safety and security officer?
- Should I bolt for the neighbor’s house and risk being engulfed in the swarm?

The cell phone beeps and it’s my landlord writing: “Bontle, turn off the lights, you’re attracting bugs.” I text back “There are hundreds in my house. I’m freaking out.”

The landlord knocks on my door 30 seconds later with two kids, the groundsman and the maid in tow. I am clearly in a state of panic and this is appears to be a source of great amusement for all five of them. They laugh and console me with the following comments:

- Don’t worry, the bugs wont hurt you.
- Look, you can just grab them by their wings like this and they die in your hand
- Yes, we get these after the rains. It’s not uncommon. They’ll be here for months.
- Just put out buckets of water and shut off the lights and they’ll all die eventually
- In Zimbabwe we rip off the wings and make a meal of these

They stay for 20 minutes helping me sweep out carcasses and fill bowls of water. When they head towards the door I swallow a plead for them to stay.

Last week Kris was running around my house smashing cockroaches and squirting Raid with terrified gusto. It’s possible I rolled my eyes at him once or twice. It’s possible I told him I had killed a spider and when he couldn’t find the carcass he scowled at me and knew I had lied. It’s possible I teased him about being more of a girl than me.

Welp. He wins. Kharma levels the playing field.

Still, was it really necessary to blanket my house in wings and corpses and green guts…?
The scope seems slightly excessive.


justin said...

hey jessica,

my name is justin and i'm a pcv in namibia, we're neighbors! my girlfriend (also a namib pcv) and i are travelling through botswana on our way up to livingstone during december. we'll be entering through the gobabis border post and i had a couple of questions i was hoping to ask someone with better knowledge your side. if it's ok with you, let me know via email: thanks!

Aunt Karen said...

reading the way you described these insects swarming and smashing into the glass brought me right back to envisioning scenes from the movie The Birds. I can picture you with your broom trying to swat at them and make a baracade to keep them out just like in The Birds!!
Aunt Karen