Monday, August 12, 2013

The Ants Chop Everything

One day, Africa as we know it is going to disappear under one giant anthill. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
In addition to eating holes through my cement bedroom walls and occasionally infesting the sugar for my tea, a lot of them like to snack on humans too. Our friend Evans discovered the hard way that he can’t park his car in grassy areas after he turned it on only to have ants start pouring out of the vents.

Karina and I went to Accra last weekend to submit our first round of paperwork to the Registrar General’s Department. We’re waiting for our certificates- which theoretically should be ready any day now- but otherwise my forward progress for the foundation has slowed, and I think I’ve done just about all I can for the time I have left. It will be up to the other staff to finish the registration process without me.
We decided to use the waiting time to take a little vacation, a reward for the long hours we put in pulling Students of Success together in less than three weeks. Karina and I headed to Green Turtle, an eco-lodge west of Takoradi on the coast and old favorite of mine. I went there with my Julia on our first vacation, and again with Rudy and his Julia right before their wedding. Unfortunately, we only stayed for two nights because I got DEVOURED. We’re still not sure what attacked me since I never caught anything in the act, but our best guess is that it was a combination of ants and sandflies. Ant bites are pretty distinct: small, round and hard, fiercely itchy and typically occur 3-5 at a time in a straight line spaced evenly apart. You can practically map where the ant walked on you. “Three steps *chomp* Three steps *chomp* Three steps *chomp*”
Karina got an unusual amount of mosquito bites, but nothing like what I experienced. My legs were covered with hundreds of bites. The only good news- and that's a relative term- is that I had very few mosquito bites, which are the ones most likely to transmit disease. By the morning of the third day, however, I was in so much pain that we decided to leave early. The manager was apologetic; she said that the sandflies seem to go after some people more than others for whatever reason. I must be their crème de la crème…

Evans picked us up in Takoradi and we went on a day trip to Nzulezo, a remote village several hours from the city that is also known as the Village-On-Stilts. We paddled by canoe down a canal through beautiful wetlands for about forty minutes before coming out into Lake Amanzuri, a big body of water, black and still, that runs 30 or more feet deep in most places. Hugging one shore was Nzulezo, a cluster of wooden houses and buildings connected by walkways that sits on stilts about four feet above the water. It’s a fascinating place, a tight-knit and isolated community of 450 people in one of the more unlikely places. Our guide motioned to a squared-off section of water next to the school with two bamboo poles at either end, and explained that it’s a soccer field during the dry season. Most of the residents paddle across the lake daily to work on farms or palm wine tapping sites on the opposite shore. Karina supported the local economy by buying a bottle of akpeteshi- distilled palm wine that I think of as Ghanaian moonshine.
We paddled back before it got too dark, and along the boardwalk that led from the canoe launch to the road, we found a bona fide tapas bar of all things. Ghana never fails to surprise me. We stopped there for some dessert and the owner let us use some shot glasses to sample the akpeteshi. I don’t even want to know the proof; it burns for a while after it goes down, but I was surprised that I somewhat liked it. Fresh palm wine is very sweet and akpeteshi retains a little hint of that, which makes it actually drinkable.

The next day Karina and I set off for two days in Cape Coast, which has hands down the best shopping in Ghana. The streets around Cape Coast Castle are lined with rows upon rows of artisan shops boasting handmade goods- everything from drums to dresses to paintings. Needless to say, most of my Christmas shopping is already done.
Cape Coast has become my favorite big city in Ghana. It has a calm, quite atmosphere. Many of the buildings are old and elegant and the streets are wide, perfect for strolling around. There are so many tourists that you get the rare opportunity of exploring a place in Ghana without being singled out every thirty seconds.

I still have faded red marks from the Battle of the Bugs, but the itching and swelling stopped after a couple days, and I was fine by the time Evans picked us up on his way back from Takoradi to Accra. We spent two more days in the capital hanging out with Evans and his brother Selasi and making repeated trips to a Mexican restaurant we discovered. If it’s possible to become a regular in two days, Karina and I qualified.

We also spent an afternoon at Labadi Beach, Accra’s most popular beach hangout for locals and tourists alike. A young teenage boy was hanging out at our table while we played cards, running a surprisingly witty and humorous commentary on everything we did. Our game got interrupted when I stood up and confronted a man around my age who came up and stuck his cell phone in my face to take pictures of me in my bikini without my permission. When I sat back down, the boy’s eyes were huge. “Are you a bouncer in America?” He asked, awestruck. “You don’t look like one-” he glanced at Karina, “Well you do, but you don’t. But you certainly act like one!” Might just be one of the best compliments I’ve ever received!

I’m back in Aflao now to spend my last week with my Gomashie family. I enjoyed our mini vacation, but there’s something powerfully sweet about coming home. (Case in point: Christian just interrupted my typing to deliver me a fresh coconut from the yard. I just dribbled juice on my keyboard- which means more ants- but well worth it.) The way Worfa exclaimed, “I can’t wait to see you!” when I called to say we were on our way. Or the hug Victoria gave me without hesitation when I walked in the door. The shy, conspiratorial grins the boys give me when the adults aren’t looking. Only one resident of the house doesn’t seem happy to see me…

I woke up at 4:20 this morning with searing pain up and down my left leg and arm. I jumped out of bed and shook out my sheet to reveal a medium-sized black ant, a kind I don’t remember seeing before. I killed two more in the thirty seconds it took me to apply medicine to the bites- which were burning and sending shooting pains through my whole limbs, more like a bee sting than any ant bite I’ve ever had. I quickly decided to spend the rest of the night on the couch. Worfa and Victoria were pretty confused to find me there, until I explained. They pulled my mattress out to reveal yet another hole in my wall where the little creeps had started building an ant hill directly underneath my bed. I was sleeping on an entire community of these (insert string of expletives) ants! Victoria sprayed my room and aired out all my bedding, so hopefully that’s the last of it because my leg is still burning periodically. Those little suckers pack quite the punch!

1 comment:

  1. Omg, you even make reading about bug bites entertaining!!