Ants, Lizards, and Air Conditioning

It’s been a good while since I published on this blog.  Laura and I have been very busy as of late with Shoulder to Shoulder projects.  It isn’t that I haven’t been writing.  I’m publishing at least a once a week blog on our website.  If you enjoy reading this one, you would most definitely enjoy reading the website blog.  If you want to sign up for our newsletter on our home page, then you would get an email notice every time a new blog is published.

Our bed (note the plate under the leg)

In many places in Honduras, the dry season is over or almost over.  That’s not the case here in the Dry Corridor of Honduras.  Our house sits on the top of a sand mound.  It is essentially an ant hill.  Due to the dryness, we have ants all over the place, including in our house.  They majority of them are very tiny, black ants.  They are actually quite amazing to watch.  If we drop a green bean on the floor or out on our cement porch, ten minutes later we’ll watch it slowly being dragged away by four to ten of these little creatures that have teamed up for the task.  Mostly they don’t bother us.  They don’t bite.  We can manage to share our house with them as long as we are careful about keeping our counters clean and properly storing our food.  But there is one thing about the ants that is totally unacceptable.  They have been very deliberately sharing our bed.  For weeks I’ve been trying to figure out how to get rid of them: stripping the bed, washing the sheets and bedding in Clorox, airing out the mattress, washing down the bed frame, etc., etc.  Nothing seemed to work.  Then, I had a brilliant idea.  I placed plastic plates under the four legs of the bed.  I checked to make sure that nothing, especially the sheets and bedding, touched the walls or the floor.  I filled up the plates with vinegar.  Ants hate vinegar.  It worked!!!  There is a bit of a trade off.  But, tolerating the strong odor of vinegar is certainly preferable to waking up as something crawls across your face.  If anyone reading this has a problem with ants in your bed, though I can’t imagine that anyone would, please feel free to implement my solution without concern for any patent violations.

Front of our house

Front of our house

We had just solved the ant issue, sleeping soundly for three or four nights in a row, when we were invited to Tegucigalpa.  Our president, Wayne Waite, and the board secretary, Dwight Armstrong, visited us in the Frontera a week before the board meeting in Tegucigalpa.  It was a whirlwind of a trip for them with very little time and a multitude of meetings.  Certain aspects of their trip encouraged and enlivened them.  The bilingual school — the brightness of our children and their willingness to practice their English — assured them of the rightness of our mission.  They explored new possibilities of expanding into agricultural development and food security.  This is tremendously exciting.  They also faced the challenges of limited financial resources and the need to better our organizational and managerial skills.  The hope inspiring dreams and the anxiety provoking limitations were equally present and followed them back to Tegucigalpa and the board meeting.  It reminded me of an old TVpromo for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Living in the isolated, rural territory of the Frontera, Tegucigalpa is almost as much of a cultural shock for us as returning to the US.  This is particularly true in the tourist section of Tegucigalpa where we stayed at a very nice hotel.  They have electricity, cold and hot running water, nice restaurants, coffee shops, air-conditioning, cool and soft bed sheets, and, above all, no ants.  We felt pampered.  But we also felt an incongruous surrealism.  The same conflicting themes, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, permeated the discussions of the board meeting.  This created a certain feeling of vertigo that was exacerbated for Laura and me as we tried to reconcile the luxury we were enjoying in a Tegucigalpa hotel with our recent daily struggle of keeping ants out of our bed.  We had originally thought we would stay two nights, Friday and Saturday, leaving on Sunday.  But on Sunday we were asked to stay until Monday for important meetings.  On Monday we were asked to stay until Tuesday for important meetings.  If this kept up, we feared we would end up getting onto the plane with them to fly back to Cincinnati.  We hadn’t brought enough clothes and ended up doing some laundry in our bathroom sink.  At least this, doing our laundry by hand, better conformed to our lives on the Frontera.

Not an art or a lizard

Not an art or a lizard

The meetings were great.  For all of the challenges we face, we are clearly doing good things in the Frontera.  We are holding firm to our mission:  working shoulder to shoulder, establishing and maintaining relationships of empowerment, creating pathways from poverty and oppression to development and liberation.  This is found not so much in the details of our planning, nor in the gravity of our challenges, but in the integrity of commitment.  On Monday night, we went to a restaurant high on one of the hills surrounding Tegucigalpa, La Cumbre (The Mountaintop).  It owns a view of Tegucigalpa that is overwhelmingly beautiful; the lights of the city stretching out in all directions.  Clearly this is a privileged view.  Few ever see it.  It is a chimerical beauty, however; a mirage created from distance and altitude.  To descend the mountain and stand in the city is to recognize that its true beauty is still only hoped for.  But still, the vision, the hope, and the opportunities enkindle passion.  Laura and I love the hope almost as much as the reality.

Paul with Wayne Waite at Good Shepherd School

Paul with Wayne Waite at Good Shepherd School

We took our time getting back to the Frontera.  We spent another full day in La Esperanza, easing our way back to the scarcity of pampering amenities.  First thing I did when we got back was to check our bed.  Still, no ants, we’re making progress.  But a seven inch lizard had taken up residence in our house.  I’m certain she’s harmless.  She may be the off-spring of the iguana that lives in our back yard.  But I didn’t want her crawling on me while I slept anymore than the ants.  I made various attempts to sweep her out of the house, but the rascal was elusive.  Finally, just before retiring, I got her.  No lizards, no ants.  Life is good.

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