Saturday, June 14, 2008

An Exciting Night

A funny thing happened to me the other night. I'd been enjoying a nice conversation and meal with Rev. Patrick and his family at his house, just stone's throw from mine. Usually one of us has an excuse for me to stop by, food is brought out, and I'm happy to be eating dinner around a table with a family. The news was on, the kids were catching bugs by the flourescent light. Good times. I remembered from before there was a pretty big heifer with horns tied up somewhere near my path, and I was pretty relieved when I made out his glowing eyes and resting frame as I passed him. I must've let my guard down a bit, because I ran into the pitch black 3-year-old like someone had moved the couch around while I was out. "Oh! Sorry, sorry!", I said, as he/she stumbled humbly out of my way. "mmMMMPh" he/she responded.

Now, I can rarely pass towards home without stopping by the house of the archdeacon Rev. James Okoyo. Most nights you can find he, his wife, and some of the nieces and nephews he's taking care of, sitting outside taking supper or evening tea. And despite adamantly protesting that I had just left Patrick's having eaten my fill, I can't leave without doing some damage to a bowl of beans and millet bread. One of those nephews, David, recently got some school fees assistance from my good friend Elizabeth Duncan in Charlotte. That night we were doing some picking on the guitar, which David's become particularly keen on. While David and I are playing and eating, mom is lying by the candle light grabbing the slow trickle of white ants - insects with large white wings that come out of the ground searching for light after a big rains - settling near her light. Two households collecting insects, but this was small scale compared to what I'd find at home.

Just around the bend I enter the gate to the bishop's compound to find the entire front side of the house lit up like a rock show. Two of the house staff, Helen and Apiyo, are patrolling the walls with brooms and buckets in hand, and as the white ants swarm to a particular light, they swat them down, make them into a pile, and scoop them by the handful into the baskets! They invited me to try my hand at it, and I successfully nabbed a few of them, but they kept swarming my reflective head and neck, and I just couldn't cope with that.

The next day, you could see evidence of the magnitude of the infestation, or harvest, by the wings which littered the ground, not just where people had lights on, but everywhere. And those who had harvested them were ready to capitalize, drying thousands in the sun, then sorting them and roughing them until their wings fell off. The sell for about 500 shillings ($.33) per cupfull. When boiled and shaped, they make a meal not unlike hamburger patties with a salty soup, and with a gritty crunchiness from the exoskeletons and legs and such. It can be a satisfying meal if I can just shake the image of what it is I'm really eating. That's tough to do.

1 comment:

John Simpson said...

I will certainly stick to the delicious vegetables and millet bread when/if I ever have a chance to visit. This falls into the category of an acquired taste I would choose not to acquire.

Maybe the folks need a bug zapper. Let the white ants fly to the light and ZAP!!!, they are ready for "harvesting." We will have to check on that for a Xmas present.