The word of the day is ants.
Ants biting your toes when you’re barefoot in the kitchen. Large wood ants walking industriously by with their very large bits of leaves or feathers or wood. Ants swarming the purple-frosted cupcakes I bought for my friend to welcome her to town. Ants crawling on my arm as I try in vain to practice yoga at home. Ants following me when I leave my home, each itch I feel invariably being a small black ant inching its slow way across my shoulder, neck, back.
Rainy season is in full force here in Granada, as well it should be. It comes with many benefits. The landscape is verdant and lush, with flowers of every color you can imagine, and many you can’t, popping out of trees and bushes and between tiles and cracks in cement. Tambien, the fruit and vegetables available in the market and restaurants seems endless, and contains a variety I still have not found time to completely sample. Steaming hot days are broken by strong rainstorms. I count myself lucky when I see lightning flashing in a dark sky and hear a distant rumble of thunder. That usually means rain will come and cool my night, drumming on the tile roofs and the clay tile floors, bringing breezes so cool I need to pull an extra sheet up to snuggle under to stay sufficiently warm through the night. Que rico aire!
Please keep all these amazing benefits of rainy season in mind as I complain, just a moment, about the bugs. The first sign of extra rainy season bugs came in clouds of choulas that swarm from about 3pm to dusk. Big clouds of light brown bugs that do no harm per se, but are annoying when they float up my nostrils or into my food. The mosquitoes – zancudos – don’t bother me much but hunt my sister down as if her blood were an expensive glass of champagne. The roaches are hardly worth mentioning for this Florida girl. Really, they’re very comperable in size to those living in Florida, and I’d even say I see less of them here than I did in Tampa.
But oh, the ants. I’ve spent weeks now being tormented by them. They’ve only increased in number, and my sister swears that they have a nest that extends the entire length of our kitchen. She’s worked herself crazy attempting to keep every hint of food off the counters in the kitchen. A challenge when you have a refrigador the size of one found in a college dorm. I had succumbed. How do you keep insects out when one wall of your kitchen isn’t there?
“This,” I thought to myself, “is just one of the ways one must change their standards when living in a different country.” In this same line of thought, I’d decided to live peacefully with el ratton who regularly scurries along a beam on the garden side of the kitchen, to accept the translucent geckos running along the walls and dropping their poop onto my head, down my shirt, or in welcoming piles in front of my sister’s bedroom door, and to not freak out when I encountered a small, grey scorpion in the shower one morning.
Those ants, though, have tested my equanimity. It was impossible to spend any length of time in the kitchen. They had completely taken over the guest bed in the front room, as two unlucky guests pointed out to us. (Attracted, one guest informed us, by the feathers in the old feather pillow. How nice for them, to be able to feather their small ant pillows and beds?) We had almost completely stopped cooking at home, as it was impossible to stand at the kitchen counter without ones hands or feet being swarmed. Becoming a meal while creating one.
We had tried the recommended local strategies for dealing with this problem. Number one was kerosina, which was strangley unavailable at the time. I’ve learned to accept that what one wants is not instantly available here. Gasolina must be the same, no? We poured this liberally into the holes with the most ants pouring out them. Ants erupting like a volcano, one friend pointed out. The gasoline had no effect. Or perhaps was welcomed, to fuel the ant city that was apparently only growing beneath my home. Gasoline was followed by agua caliente – twice. This seemed to somewhat decrease the number of ants running wild, but in no way that made life in the kitchen more comfortable. On complaining about the problem to an American friend, I learned that fumigacion was not only possible, but would even be financed by the owner of the home. Joy of joys! A quick call to the local hombre who helps with any number of home issues, and he was there the next morning with his mix of magic chemicals to kill the hormigas.
Of course, they’re still there. Marching in a crowded line along the back of the counter as if nothing has happened, parading around the trash can in the bathroom, and walking back and forth with their bits of leaf and flower and food. The volcanoes seem to have been tamed, though, and I sat in the kitchen this morning with my friend and my sister. All of us barefoot, slapping only at mosquitoes.