Friday, November 18, 2011

Ant Absurdity

An ant on the move does more than a dozing ox!

I love old proverbs, and that one is fitting considering ants are my first big challenge as an official Peace Corps Volunteer.  I joined the PC in part, because of my mid-life crisis, and now the crisis, or I should say lull, has not crossed my mind once since coming to Botswana.  Why you ask?  Well, it's because daily things like bucket baths, and now, chasing ants, consume your existence that you don't have time to think about any other reality.  Actually, I don't know what to make of this ant problem, other than I am having recurring nightmares of ants and spiders crawling in and out of my body parts.  Dreaming wouldn't bother me so much if I knew there wasn't a strong possibility of these instances actually occurring.  You have to understand that bugs in Africa are different than anywhere else--they have major personality, thus, I really want to comprehend the purpose of these little annoying insects that are invading my sleep?  It's 11pm, and I have made the epic mistake of opening my windows in 100 degree heat, and having tried everything to get them to take a vacation, I have resorted to chasing creatures on the wall and sweeping ants off the floor with a broom like a lunatic--some of them are even shrieking at me.  Please, I wish they would at least shriek in English, this Setswana thing is becoming too much!  Buddhists never kill bugs, so for the first time since being sent to Africa, I am glad I am not in Asia.  Hmm, did I really just say that?   So with brooms in hand, I now upgrade myself to ninja status in order to tackle these ants, spiders, and other green creatures--but wait, my thoughts stop me and I wonder if this is what the PC meant by us having challenges.  People are easy compared to these bugs--maybe I'll run after the kids with the broomsticks and see what happens.  We want behavior change, yes!

Ants and bugs are annoying, and yeah, we all hate them, but maybe something interesting can come of this--in some cultures ants are used for cuisine, medicine, and certain rituals.  I hear they are social, collectively they work together as a social system, and they have the largest brain proportionate to it's size and are actually quite smart.  Maybe I should study their social behavior and pass it to the kids of Mmathethe to emulate.  We'll start an ant behaving club!  Ants also began farming long before humans thought to raise their own crops, and they possess a secret chemical with antibiotic properties to inhibit mold growth.  Gees, if people knew all this, then why not let the ants invade our lives.  Hey, I may even hire them to help me with my organic garden at my new home.  I'm supposed to be integrating into my community, instead I am making a pathetic attempt to understand the bugs and animals in and around my house.  Did you know that goats discovered the coffee bean?  Seriously, look it up!  I was cooking an equally pathetic dinner last night when I looked out and saw about 5 goats on my land.  I go to chase them away, and can't even figure how on earth they got in, but they ran out through a small whole in the fence.  This is my life now, plugging ant holes, chasing animals off the property, and looking up facts about my new creature friends.  What fun--and really, I have stories to tell about people too, but this is an immediate problem, and I just have to get it out of my system before I can continue on with my mid-life crisis.  I've learned that these ants really do have a purpose--they work really hard at whatever they are doing, and that is what I will think about every time I take out my broom to sweep them away---that I am working really hard!

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