Tuesday, October 4, 2005

Chicago needs mosquito nets

And how about insects? Well, you remember from primary school, the unit you did on Africa? Remember the termite mounds? They’re tall pillars of red dirt standing around in the veldt. Anyway, the termites live underground in enormous colonies, and those pillars are simply the ventilation holes.

Because of brilliant engineering, the termite nests are able to stay a constant 25C all year long. The hot air just rises out of these chimneys. The mounds can be much taller than a person, and because the soil near them is so rich, many have extra trees or bushes growing out of them. It’s so bizarre looking. Almost like coming across Lot’s wife in the desert. Hey, what was her name again? (Trick question, she didn’t have a name! See, I did do my Sunday School homework.)

Another queer kind of insect is the community web spider. They build little nests, about the size of a tennis ball, at the ends of branches. Inside these nests live 20,000 spiders. Talk about “yuk!” They are smaller than a pinhead, too small to bite you, so nothing to worry about there. At least, that’s what Jim said.

And, so I can take a little break (and give you one too) we’ll go from the very, very tiny to the extremely, extremely large -- the elephants. We saw massive families of elephant... 25-30 in a group, wandering through the bush. They are so quiet when grazing, which is astonishing for an animal that size. Just the occasional crack as a tree gets crunched or pushed over. For such a big animal, they can be surprisingly difficult to see. It’s usually the tusks that you focus in on first.

It seemed to be baby season for most animals, so lots of small eles hanging out with mum. They are simply darling. The elephant in Africa are the ones with BIG flapping ears... now I’ll never forget.

And that was just the very first drive.

We actually saw a whole lot more stuff that first evening than I’ve mentioned, but I don’t want to exhaust you immediately. (As if you weren’t tired of reading already; where are we at, episode 8 bazillion by now? Too bad I didn’t put this to more productive use and write a doctoral thesis.)

A friend from Chicago wrote me and said, "E, I can barely keep up... it’s like being on a high-speed Eurostar train, almost out of control!” (almost?) and her husband wrote, “You need a hobby!”, to which I must reply, “I’m afraid this IS my hobby, for now. Enjoy the ride, my pretties.” And that being said, if you’re NOT enjoying the ride, let me know and I’ll take you off the mailing list. I won’t be offended; I KNOW I’m not everyone’s cup of tea!

So, we returned to the lodge after dark, where we had a divine meal out of doors, under the stars, in a big circular area called a boma. It’s a big round protective wall made of vertical branches and grass, open to the sky above. There was a crackling, roaring fire pit in the center, and the tables ranged all around, with candles and white tablecloths and food that was simply too delicious. How civilized! And the stars came out as we sat there, and you could see the Milky Way like I’ve never seen in Chicago. Oh boy, tears. Never mind. It’s just too beautiful.

Finally, off for a good night’s sleep in our own little thatched roof cottage, in a lovely soft bed completely surrounded with mosquito netting. Why do they not DO mosquito netting in Chicago summers? I could really use it, as I’m the bite (or BITTEN) queen. Here, so far, so good, though. I’ve only been bitten by mozzies in the apartment so far.

And no dengue fever or other exotic diseases.


No comments: