Friday, September 4, 2009

Cohabitating with the bugs

There is a lush, deep, green quality to the landscape in Sri Lanka. Though Jaffna has sandy and rocky patches, the green, where it exists, is staidly present and striking. I know nothing about gardening or agriculture, but presume that part of this lush quality comes from the humidity, that seems to contain the atmosphere in pockets, nurturing a slow, full growth of foliage.

One friend, who had previously visited Sri Lanka, told me to imagine all the greenery I had ever seen in the UK, US and Lebanon, combine it, multiply it, and then I would approximate what I might see in Sri Lanka. I think he was referring to the central parts of Sri Lanka, but still, he wasn’t too far off.

What nobody ever points out, however, is that this glorious manifestation of nature does not only involve foliage, but does, quite naturally, come with an assortment of bugs, and birds, and bugs, and chipmunks, and bugs, and frogs, and did I mention the bugs?? The birds and geckos and others can sometimes create a disruptive cacophony, but are amusing for the most part. The bugs, however, are a different story. They are so ever present that I have already begun to normalize to the situation, assuming at any point in time that if I feel an itch or a tickle that it is not a fallen hair, it is not a loose string from my clothing, it is not a figment of my imagination – it is, quite simply, a bug of some sort. And acting as normal does, I no longer attempt to flail said arm or wave the bug away, a simple and effective flick or slap rids me of the insect once and for all. (I spend a lot of my time washing my hands…) I also no longer look too closely to figure out what has given me this bite or that (a true city girl, I only ever recognize the mosquitoes’) but rather marvel at how they found a path between my skin and clothing to manage that bite. Yes, I am quite easily entertained.

These bugs so belong here that they seem rather comfortable in their existence; they don’t move any faster as our footsteps and swooping hands approach, they’re just not easily scared. This brought on a happy realization: that for all the environmental speak against insecticides, over-construction spoiling natural habitats, and such, I was finally in a place where the insects faaaaar outnumbered us, and where they had their own places to live and thrive that were just as nice as mine. Thus with the playing ground equalized, I could fight back with all I’ve got! I was now free to cohabitate with the bugs armed with my insect repellent, mosquito net, house spray, and VAPE! I was free to build fences and trenches, set up traps, free to run generators, and seal all my doors and windows shut as I blast my air conditioner. Indeed, with the playing ground leveled, all was now fair in my own little war. You may say that I used to do this before – true, but not without a hint of guilt and shame at the luxury of it all. Now, these same actions come with a clear sense of guilt-free entitlement.

I can live with that!

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