Invasion of the ants.........
on Postcard from Uganda (Uganda), 30/Oct/2009 12:29, 34 days ago
Please note this is a cached copy of the post and will not include pictures etc. Please click here to view in original context.

Over the last 2 weeks there's been quite a lot of rain, which means lots of mud as most roads off the main roads and out of town are dirt roads. It also means most of the top layer of dirt just gets washed away, so the roads are now full of huge potholes and ravines where the water flows down and across the road. Most roads have some form of drainage channel on either side but these often get blocked and it's quite common for them to overflow in really heavy rain.One very unwelcome result of the rains, for me anyway, is the arrival of swarms of white ants. These are not your everyday little ants and in fact they don't even look anything like ants as we know them. I've heard of them referred to as flying termites but they're commonly know as white ants, as they have quite large white wings. They usually live in the termite hills but when it rains and the temperature drops they come out looking for warmer shelter, but they don't last too long when the rain is lashing down and usually die pretty quickly, discarding their wings everywhere. It's quite common to see piles off wings on the road sides or around houses. To many people these are very welcome visitors as they are considered a delicacy and a good source of protein when roasted or ground into a paste - in Masindi they were very popular and it was a common for people, especially kids to go foraging for them after the rains. For some reason they're not very popular in Mbarara, they prefer a nice big juicy roasted grasshopper instead!Recently the white ants have taken a liking to my house and on a few ocassions I found some wings and dead bodies scattered around the living when I got up in the morning - I soon realised that they were getting in through a small gap under my front door, so I blocked up the gap with newspaper when it rained. However, last week it rained during the night and I hadn't blocked it up and so imagine my surprise when I walked into my living room the next morning and found this sight......................Many of you reading this will know I'm not a big fan of creepy crawlies of any kind, so to say I freaked is putting it mildly! They were all over the floor, some dead, some still wiggling away - unfortunately (!) once they've lost their wings they die pretty quickly and are not too lively!The pile I swept up ......there were piles of wings outside the front door too!Salome, the girl who manages the compound thought that the security light right outside my front door was attracting them, fortunately since I've turned it off at night I've not had a single one!It's a commonly held belief in Uganda that the rains also bring the 'thieves' out at night. When it rains heavily the electricity often goes off so everywhere is in darkness, also the sound of the rain against metal roofs is really loud, so it's difficult to hear if someone is lurking around. Last week, Patricia got up during the night to take her nephew Elijah, who lives with her, to the outside latrine as he wasn't feeling well, when she got back to her house (2 rented rooms)  two guys told her not to scream or talk and proceeded to take her TV, DVD player (which didn't work), 2 mobiles (almost everyone here has at least 2 phones for different networks), a blanket and unfortunately a very expensive microscope she'd bought the day before for her brother who's a doctor. She had borrowed the money to pay for it, and now her brother is refusing to refund her - it cost about 3 months salary. She reported the incident to the police, who took a statement but have done little else, it's unlikely she'll see any of her stuff again. I felt so sorry for her, she works so hard at the project, and is looking after her young son and her nephew while her sister is studying full-time in another district. I bought her a cheap promotional phone as I didn't like the idea of her being alone with 2 young children and no means of contacting anyone.Life is really hard for the majority of people here, but somehow they manage to not let it get them down - Patricia was still her same smiling and bubbly self, well at least it appeared that way to others, but it really is tough for her.Patricia outside the office with flowers she made