Friday, June 06, 2003


The ants find everything. My friend told me once you can tell how long you've lived in the Philippines by the ants. You go to a restaurant, order a glass of milk. There are ants floating in it. If you're new you decide not to drink the milk. After six months, you get the same glass of milk with the floating ants, but you skim the ants off then drink the milk. But when you've become a real local you get the glass, see the ants floating and drink it down ants and all. Good protein.

During the break in class, there's a trail of ants leading to my pasiking (those woven Baguio backpacks). They've found the candy at the bottom of the my bag. Even in the heat of the hottest day you can see ants scurrying in all directions sweeping the terrain for any bit of sugar: large ants, tiny ants, red ants.

I get rid of the candy at the bottom of the bag though the ants haven't really penetrated the plastic yet. I'm obviously new. If I were a real local, I would brush off the ants, and eat the candy. It's only my 6th day here. I'm still diligently putting on bug repellant. I toss the candy and shake the rest of the ants out of my bag.

Today's snack is orange juice pack and puto. I watch the ants swarm the crumbs of the puto. These are red. From a distance they look like a sparkling red jewel shimmering.

The cycle of life here happens at such a fast rate. There are no real seasons here, though they name a rainy season and a summer. The days stay relatively the same length. There is no winter or fall. No time for everything to shut down and take a break. Life grows out of every possible crack. To live here, people spend most of their time trying to keep back the growth. The night and early mornings are filled with the smell of burning leaves.

In the US there is a winter for several months. I wonder if that's why we move so fast in the summer and spring because we've waited so long that we need to get a year's worth of things done in a few months.

I continue to slam my bag on the ground. At least 5-6 ants fall from it each time it hits. Sigh.

A friend who lived here for a year told me how one time she powered on her laptop, a ton of ants came scurrying out of it. I'm not sure what they liked about the inner workings on her computer, but what she would have given for a good air can just then.

I've learned to just leave the bugs alone, since most of time our worlds don't mingle. I promise not to have sweets in my bag and the ants promise to stay out of it. I figure, the ants are doing what everyone else on this island is trying to do, look for stuff to keep them alive.

The speed in which they claim the crumbs astounds me, but makes sense. To sustain the kind of growth above ground (the trees, the grass, etc), resources must be reclaimed as quickly as possible. The ants are merely doing their job along the ecological chain.

By the end of class, there are no crumbs left on the ground.

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