Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fire Ants

I sat up in the dark and looked around and the lumpy outlines of sleeping children surrounding me. Half standing, I stepped over several sleeping forms before bumping my head on the roof as I made my way to the side of the hut where I’d left my shoes (cleats used by missionaries for navigating the almost impossibly slippery trails during the rainy season).

Slipping my feet into their cold and clammy depth (they rarely dry out in the damp weather), I stumbled a short distance from the hut and crouched next to a banana tree to answer the call of nature. As I proceeded with business, I began almost imperceptibly at first, to notice a strange crawling sensation on my legs. Almost at the same instant that I recognized what the crawling sensation was, they bit me in one accord: hundreds of karamiring (a sort of red fire-ant)!

I let out a squeak of pain into the darkness and frantically brushed my legs to try and rid myself of the clinging insects. Finishing what I was doing in great haste, I trotted back to the hut and quickly took off my shoes and began to rub my feet vigorously to remove the clinging ants. After several minutes of rubbing, I felt that they must be gone and settled down on my mat on the floor, wedge between two girls. Sleep wouldn’t come for several minutes as the few ants that I had missed made their presence known at various intervals!

After about the millionth time I rolled over trying to get comfortable, I opened my eyes and to my delight discovered it was morning! Enough of writhing on the floor in the dark pulling of biting ants! Thanking my hosts for the ‘lovely’ night on the floor of their hut, I prepared to leave. Gathering my things, I prepared to put on my shoes for my early morning hike home.

As I peered in the early morning light at my shoes, I noticed that the left one seemed to be moving – heaving and writhing. Grabbing my flashlight, I pointed it into the depths of the shoe and peered in after the flickering beam. Yikes! I yanked my foot back from the edge of the shoe and huddled on the edge of the hut. The shoe was full of fire ants – busy building a nest in the sole of my shoe!

Every moment of my night in the village had been eventful, I reflected as I hiked down the trail, holding one shoe at arm’s length and stepping precariously through the mud and rivulets of water with my unshod foot. Since it was impossible to wear that shoe until the ants were removed, it would have to wait for a bleach-water soak down at our house.

At the request of many of my small friends, I slept in their house in a village about 20 minutes away from ours by foot. Because they loved to sing, I took my guitar and we sang hymns in the darkness and smoke of their hut before settling down for the night. They excitedly lay down next to me, seeing who could sleep the closest to me…..I lay flat on my back, feeling like a hotdog in a bun. How claustrophobic those poor hotdogs must feel!

I thank the Lord for the chance to be able to experience the lives of these people and to be continually made more aware of the different lives we lead and the unity we can experience in Christ.