Monday, January 31, 2011
Sugar ants, geckos, frogs
Nairobi is dry, dry, dry at the moment. Red dust, the grass is yellow and crispy to walk on. While the daily sunshine is nice, what I do object to are the tiny ants all over the kitchen and the breakfast table in the morning. If you put anything down for more than three minutes, they're on it. They seem to be particularly partial to the butter dish. Whenever I put an ant trap or some poison down, thus cutting off one route of entry, they'll quickly find another. This pains me since it seems a waste of the Ant-Rid that, with some foresight, I bought in England. Seeing food blackened and pulsatingly alive with ants reminds me of our years spent living in Dar. I should be grateful for small mercies. At least in Nairobi (unlike Dar) there are one or two ant-proof places where food is safe because the ants have not yet discovered them. For instance, on top of the microwave.
My mother-in-law says words to the affect of; 'first year in Africa when you find an ant in the sugar, you throw the pot of sugar away. In the second year when you see an ant in the sugar, you carefully remove the ant with a teaspoon. Third year, you mix it in.'
This is certainly true for me - I've almost got used to them but my eldest daughter still cries out shrilly at 6.30am on sight of an ant when she's having her pre-school breakfast. It's most irritating so early in the morning and I'm not a mornings person. My tactic is to take the offending ant ridden article out into the garden and bang it violently until all the ants scurry away - though this method is time consuming and there are generally a few stubborn stragglers who refuse to budge, making the butter impossible to save. I found it disheartening yesterday, to see the clean washing up (that somehow I'd persuaded my husband to do!)standing in the rack covered in ants but hey ho, such is life in Africa.
My husband's London boss came to stay with us (regularly) when we were living in Dar. On one occasion, at breakfast he shuddered, swiped at his arm and said,
'I just feel like I have tiny ants crawling all over me the whole time.'
Admittedly, the ants particularly liked his downstairs guest bathroom, but I thought this was rather tactless so felt like saying, 'so why not try a hotel then?!' No sympathy. (I can say that because this boss has since retired).
While I'm relatively cool with ants; geckos get me down. I cannot fathom how some people regard them as sweet and adorable. Testament to this fact are the endless gecko images on gift items everywhere. These people obviously don't have to live with the wretches.
The problem with geckos is that they like to hide behind picture frames, curtain rails, toilet cisterns and give you a hell of a fright by dashing out when you unwittingly disturb them. They lay their little spherical eggs in amongst the children's soft toys and poo indescriminately; on bedcovers, pillows, towels, books and magazines. When my eldest daughter was a crawling baby, someone in my babygroup told me that part of their poo constituted a lethal poison (the white dot) - so you can imagine - that got me wound up into a right old a state. Needless to say, even though my daughter was partial to picking up the odd dried up gecko poo with some curiosity, she somehow miraculously survived the ordeal.
Geckos not only have bulging eyes but a livid sort of translucent, anaemic look which makes me shiver. Lizards (who respectfully prefer to live outside) are so much more palatable don't you think? Talking of palatable, I think that my gecko dislike was accelerated into a phobia when, while living in Dar a gecko fell into my mug cup of coffee. I had no idea. I'd drunk half then the cup of coffee then left it standing around for a while. When I took a sip and found the second half was cold I decided to throw the dregs into our stainless steel kitchen sink. Imagine my surprise when a decidedly blanched gecko with white, milky eyes flopped out into the sink with the coffee. Yuk!! Had I actually drunk a gecko infused hot water based beverage? Undoubtedly I had!
While living in the same house in Dar, my father-in-law took it upon himself to construct a pond in the garden, right underneath our bedroom window. He argued that a pond would attract the prettiest of tropical birds. What he didn't know was that in Dar all the pretty birds had already been eaten by Indian House Crows, so his mission was hopeless from the outset.
What the pond did end up attracting was bullfrogs. Sociable bullfrogs who croaked loudly to one another all night long. Even the old fashioned boxy air-conditioning unit in our bedroom failed to drown them out. It was deafening. Things reached breaking point when, utterly exasperated from sleep deprivation, my husband stormed out into the garden during the early hours of the morning with a tennis racket in hand and started dispatching the offending amphibians over the fence into the neighbour's garden. I think my husband figured the neighbours wouldn't mind since they kept cows and goats in their garden anyhow.
Since this method of dealing with the noisy frogs was somewhat unsustainable, we came up with the idea of giving our night watchman a plastic bucket. During the night, helped by our Alsatian, he put the noisiest frogs into the bucket and once inside they miraculously quieted down (no doubt the poor things were in shock). Next morning my husband would regularly take the frog filled bucket to work with him, then he would empty it on Kenyatta Drive just before Salandar Bridge, right outside the British High Commissioner's house. This system worked admirably until we found an opportunity to move house.... Funny that it never occured to us to fill in the pond. I wonder if it's still there today?
Add cockroaches, rats, scorpions and the odd snake to the mix of sugar ants, geckos and frogs and you've got the whole picture.