Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Night of the Dudus

A recent conversation about "domestic" iguanas escaping into the trees of Santa Barbara and geckos living on the walls reminded me of a night in Kenya I will never forget: The Night the Termites Came to Town.

It's only fair to directly quote the journal I kept during my year living and teaching in Kenya:

Friday 8th November (1996)

Monday was "Attack of the African Rain Dudu" night--the little-known sequel to Hitchcock's The Birds.  During an afternoon conversation, Bharti [my tough Indian landlady] offhandedly joked and said we'd all eat at my house tonight, and I said, "Fine!" (but there's a Murphy's Law in play whenever Bharti, consummate Indian wife and mother, is around: that I will look stupid and do things wrong). I tried making focaccia [Kenya-style], and didn't follow directions [duh].  My spaghetti sauce was blah.  I even almost ruined the noodles.

In the midst of preparation for my guests, it began raining hard, and big flying bugs materialized near the kitchen window. Soon, there were multitudes coming through a crack at the side of the window. I wisely thought, I will open it, and let them fly out.

Yikes!  So many flying, flapping buggies were in my face and hitting the wall and then crawling around as I shrieked and hit them with a curtain and avoided squishing them underfoot,. I found even more in the living room and hallway, pouring into my porous house. It was an insect invasion like no other I had experienced.

In a flash of inspiration, I figured out they were attracted to light, and I turned on the outside bulb and extinguished all lights inside. I opened the front door, and many flew out.

The ones remaining appeared to lose their wings, crawl around, hump each other, and inexplicably disappear. Their wings, however, were ubiquitous. I joked with my fourth-grade students the next day that I could have stuffed pillows with dudu wings.

"You should have fried them up and eaten them, Miss," a student offered. "They taste like peanut butter."

Which might have been better than the spaghetti I served my guests that night.   

That they were "dudus" and tasted like sandwich spread were the only details offered by my students about these winged invaders. [I learned later that these were your garden-variety termites, the ones who build admirable mounds above ground. Here is a similar account of Termite Horror from a San Diego Zoo conservation program specialist]. 

It's not unusual for me to find an errant dudu wing tucked in an journal or bag I used during my time in Kenya...

1 comment:

aitchpea said...

We had a similar, albeit smaller, invasion at our rental house in Glendale. One day they were there, the next day strangely gone, leaving wing calling cards. Ew.