Little red explorer ants fan out across my white tiled floor every morning and evening, presumably looking for little oases of nutritation, like scabs, crystallized electrolytes from drops of sweat, and maybe the odd gigantic morsel of food, like candy or bread or oozing mangoes.
I have never lived so close to the equator, nor so intimately with insects. I take mosquito coils to the bathroom and watch them bob and buzz around me while I’m on the toilet. They seem undeterred by my violent swats are them with my hands, or by the smoke rising from the coil that I wave around like some kind of alterboy. Sometimes it’s hard to forget that these guys are bearing Dengue fever, and that Dengue is bigger than the cumulonimbus rain clouds hovering over Dili – a vice-like headache for weeks and wracking fever.
More harmless, are the geckos, some seemingly naked in their translucence. They constantly run up and down the walls and ceilings here, defying gravity. They are silent companions here, intermittent witnesses to our indoor activity.
The coolest place in room, by far, in on the floor. I am may have discovered this serendipitously, through my aescetic style of furnishing. But even when I do buy a chair, I know that on truly sopping evenings, I will be sprawled out across the floor with the fan beating down warm air on me. In bed I estimate I sweat out a liter of water an evening, even with the fan cooling me down. Something about sheets and mattresses and proper “beds” that is just wrong for the tropics. In Brazil, they seem to have it right, with most rooms consisting of no furniture at all, just two pegs half way up opposite walls and its BYO hammock.
Truly, the distinction between “inside” and “outside” that we make in my temperate home is not applicable here. Beyond the obvious physical porousness of my room (half of the outside wall is made of laminated palm spines nailed “tightly” together), dirt, insects, and rain are just as much present here as outside. It just takes them slightly longer to get here. I can see water stains on the white board ceiling I have above me, which clearly conceals a mostly-rainproof corrugated metal roof. The stains, however, seems proof that roof is not waterproof on some especially torrential days.
Pig screaming greets my every morning “inside” my room as though I were in the sty yanking pig ears in my sleep. I suppose I’m reminded that I’m “inside” by the unfailing Olympian leap of a particularly insane rooster on the tin roof every morning, followed by a number of cacophonous events such as the across the roof shuttle run, the triple jump and the merciful final catapulting leap off of the roof.
I have taken a truly Dalai Lama-like attitude to this invasion of insect and animal life. I mean really, what is the point of killing the ants and the rooster and the mosquitoes? They have surely already made heaps of babies that will come after them, and there is no point in increasing the death and destruction around here. I just pick up my chicken-feather duster and sweep the ants out of the door. Or put on 80% deet (I affectionately call “jet fuel”) and pray.