I remember, back in my pre-mission days, when I imagined Brasil to be a place loaded with big, ugly bugs. When I was sent to a tropical beach area, I braced myself for the worst. To my surprise, all I ever saw were butterflies the size of robins and hummingbirds the size of bluejays, only black with long, trailing tail feathers. Paradise without the bugs! Ok, so there were lots of sugar ants when we left sweet things out for too long, but that's all. Only twice in my whole mission did I see cockroaches in my house. They're always out on the street and in the houses of other people, but they stay out of mine. Funny how I had to come all the way to Conquista, the city that most resembles the US than it does the rest of Bahia, to see REAL bugs.
It all started with the rain. On Tuesday I felt so cold that I was shivering and I finally pulled out the flimsy sweater I'd brought from home and even with it my teeth were chattering. But being the enthusiastic missionaries that we are, Sister Quispe and I plunged out into the icy downpour to find those elect children of God who were waiting for us! Walking warmed me up well enough, but for the first time I wondered if my Chacos were the best footwear for the climate. There's a first time for everything here in Conquista. One recent convert's mother tried to offer me some close-toed shoes, but even with the cold I couldn't bear the thought. My feet have become like those of a cave woman-- tough and gnarly and resilient. They like being free. I declined the generous offer.
A few hours later as I was standing in front of a house, yelling a church invite over the sound of the rain to a woman leaning out her window above me, I began to feel little stringing pricks on my feet. The woman declined my invitations and I wished her a good day. Just in the nick of time, too, because the pricking at my feet was growing in intensity. As I walked away from the house, shaking my feet, the pricking grew worse and worse. Once shelter from the rain was found, I saw that my feet were covered in ants, all of whom were biting me with all their little anty might! I didn't even know that ants bite people! Oh Nelly, it hurt! Apparently I'd been standing over their home and they didn't like it. No, not one bit. I removed my shoes and managed to get them all off and thought that would be the end of it.
I thought wrong.
The next night I awoke to a dreadful itching in my feet. The kind of itch that spreads its way through your nerves, up your legs and arms and into your very brain. Imagine the worst mosquito bite you've ever had, multiply the itch by ten, and then imagine ten of those on each of your feet, in between the toes and on your heels. And mosquito bites usually go away after a couple of days, but these ant bites? They're here to stay, it seems. I soak my feet in hot water and treat them with tea tree oil and creams and lotions. I think the worst of it has passed. But I'm sure careful around ants now.
A few days after "The Attack", some long flying ants began to fall from the sky and the next day Sister Quispe and I were witnesses to a city-wide infestation of ants the size of cockroaches. I feel like I'm in a horror movie. Sister J. Santos says that these big ants (that look like they've been injected with steroids) are a favorite snack of the country folk here in Brasil. Fried or raw, they're delicious. A part of me wants to take my revenge and bite back, but I think I'll just forgive and forget this time.
I love you all! Hope all is well and ant-free back on the home front!