Saturday, September 7, 2013

Ants and vaccinations

Have I already written about our ants?  Our house seems to be built on top of an anthill.  Or several anthills.  Sometimes they come out in the evening, tiny black ants in little columns across the kitchen walls and windowsill.  Sometimes they wait until night.  I always wonder, as I flip on the kitchen light at 4:45 a.m., what it is that will be swarming with ants this time.  Sometimes we're lucky...sometimes the ants are. Even if we've cleaned up every last crumb, sometimes they will swarm over a cup or bowl with just a few drops of water left inside.  Who knew ants get thirsty?

 Once they discovered that our sugar box was not ant-proof...that was memorable.  And a couple weeks ago, dozens of them found that the new peanut butter jar had a defective lid and didn't seal right.  That day Eric decided that he was eating peanut butter for the protein anyway, and he didn't have the time to pick them all out, and he kind of missed crunchy peanut butter anyway...  They're actually too tiny to provide much crunch but they are a nuisance.  However, after this week I don't think I'll complain about tiny kitchen ants any more.

Last Sunday night Eric got up in the middle of the night to use the toilet, and came back to report that there were a lot of ants in the shower and breezeway.  I went to look.  A LOT of ants.  Swarms of ants.  Platoons of ants.  Army ants, in fact, that were marching through and killing any crawly critters they could find.  

 We saw army ants a couple times in Honduras, but that was in the daytime.   At first I tried to sweep them out of the kitchen back into the breezeway, but then decided that was a losing battle.  I retreated to the living room with the determination to keep them from leaving the kitchen. 

I was feeling fairly pleased at how things were going until both Emma and Eric were bitten in their beds - each only once, thank goodness, but that was enough to make us realize that they were also up in the ceiling and coming down the walls.  We had been thinking of the bed nets as protection against mosquitoes only, but now we belatedly realized we should tuck the edges up all around so nothing can climb up them either.  A huge cockroach was flushed out by the ants and ended up scampering around inside our bed net, so then Eric and I scampered around for a while too until it was out and squished.  Everyone else went back to bed but I stayed up to make sure the kids' room wasn't swarmed too badly.  The next morning there were columns and impressive mounds of ants in the yard.   

On Moses' advice, I bought a can of Doom (like Raid) to spray around the base of the house to discourage future invasions.  There were a few the next night but not too many.  On the whole not fun, but good for perspective: it made the tiny kitchen ants look downright harmless.

In other news, the kids and I all got our yellow fever vaccinations this past week.  Well, sort of.  We are planning to do a little safari trip to Zambia next weekend, and will need proof of yellow fever vaccination to re-enter Malawi from there.  The catch is that yellow fever vaccine is highly perishable and very difficult to transport and store, so it's never available in Malawi.  The obvious solution to this conundrum is to issue vaccination cards without having administered the actual vaccine, which is why I was able to single-handedly receive "vaccinations" for all three of us.  It cost 4500 MK, or about $13. They even threw cholera vaccinations in for free.  I came away with three vaccination cards bearing official stamps and dates - but no names or passport numbers, which I was left to fill in myself.  So I guess if any of you want a yellow fever vaccination, I could get one for you too!  (No worries though.  The health office at the embassy assures us that there is actually very little yellow fever in Zambia, and none at all in the southern part of the country where we're going.)

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