In Mali there are few things which can let make you angry, or else you're not going to last very long. The men laugh at the fact that I carry Nalgenes of water (that is women's work). The women yell at me for 10 minutes about my wives when I tell them "No, I do not have any wives" and it is obvious that I do not understand 80% of the words coming out of their mouthes, and then they continue to ask me the same questions about my plural wives - only louder. The kids still pet my hairy arms and my hairy feet like I am a zoo animal. And my 2-year-old adopted sister Fatim is visibly scared by this strange white person living in her concession and so she cries and covers her eyes every time I walk past. It is... frustrating, to say the least.
The things which help me through the day right now are my guitar, The Beatles, Aerosmith and Meat Loaf, and a nalgene full of those 2-for-a-dollar gummi peach rings and Swedish fish. So mostly I stay sane by strumming and singing British Invasion love songs and glam metal power ballads, which has helped me and the other Tubabs (Bambara for "whitey", "honky" if you will) earn a reputation for being musical at all times of the day.
I used to have a bag of jelly beans which my mom tucked into my guitar case with love, and I enjoyed them very much (Thank you Mom. I love you!). But one day I came home to realize that there was a veritable superhighway of ants leading in and out of my hut - the ants found my stash of jelly beans.
... which leads me to the single most frustrating thing about living in Mali: bugs. Bugs are a part of one's daily life, and there is no escaping them. Kids are just so used to the ever-present flies that they don't even bat an eyelash when they are eating the spittle around their mouths, noses and eyes. And there are also of course mosquitoes, many varieties of ants, spiders, crickets, centipedes, millipedes, etc. Though this is more of an issue when you are outside - which is most of the time, even when you go inside that is no respite. I share my house with at least the first 4 species mentioned.
I like the spiders. Spiders eat mosquitoes, and mosquitoes try to eat me, so in perfect Machiavellian logic spiders are my friends.
But I. hate. crickets. They are the worst. I live in a house with a tin roof, so right about 2:30 AM when I am asleep the male crickets get all aroused and want to get their sexing on and start singing to let prospective females know how big they are, it reverberates all throughout my little domicile and I have to know all about it. And when I have just plodded through a long, tiring day of learning to speak Bambara and make bricks, and I have undertaken a de facto 2-year vow of celibacy, the last thing I want to think about is how certain animals in my house want to reproduce. And so I have instituted a strict policy in my house: if you sing, and your name is not Zac Mason/Madou Doumbia #5, then you and all of your brethren shall meet a swift and certain death. No judge, no jury. If there are not human love songs but insect love songs being sung in my hut, then everyone is going straight to the motherfucking executioner.
I have become very good at killing bugs. Killing mosquitoes is easy - I can just grab them in my hand. I have learned to catch flies in my hand too; they are attracted to light, so if I shine my headlamp on my hand long enough and keep it very still they will eventually land on my palm at which time I squish them like Pat Morita before the Japanese invented chopsticks. For crickets, the least leathal but the most hated of all creatures which share my hut with me, my preferred weapon is a flyswatter which I inherited somehow.
When I am woken up at ungodly hours by these insects who want to sexile me from my own mud hut, though I am in the Peace Corps a certain primordal urge for death and vengeance surges through my arteries. (cue the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). I turn on my headlamp. Then in all fairness I announce my policy - in Bambara, so I can practice - so that the crickets have an opportunity to alter their ways. "My name is Madou Doumbia #5, and I am a specialist in Water Sanitation. If you continue to sing, then prepare to die."
Usually the crickets don't accept my offer for reconciliation, and so I go into a killing rampage. Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Thwack! Every last motherfucking cricket in my motherfucking mud hut is pulverized into motherfucking cricket pulp.
And then my blood lust is content, and I can go back to my Methloquine-enhanced dreams in peace, insh'allah.
In the morning I wake up, and all of the crickets and whatever other bugs I killed that night are no longer there. I don't know which of my strategic bug allies carried away my kills, but I don't care. All I know is that somewhere someone is content with a full belly, and somehow my floor and my walls are clean.
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