Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Ants Go Marching One by One

The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching one by one,
The little one stops to suck his thumb
And they all go marching down to the ground
To get out of the rain, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

I have spent the last three weeks in bliss and corporate solitude, where the only decision I had to make every day was sun, or shade. And it was heaven.

There were other burning issues of course that caused some discussion and in some cases a decision. Am I burning? Am I thirsty? When do we eat? Mango or pear? What is that bug with knees that keeps bothering me? Do centipedes really sting? Do they crawl into people's ears like in the movies? Is the air conditioning turned on? Is that a rain cloud? What day is it anyway, and does anyone really care?

On January 28, we left our chilly but beloved Canadian homeland and went to Brazil. Upon leaving, the temperatures were minus 23 degrees Celsius. Fully dressed in my lululemon gear, my husband and I ventured off for warmer lands. We arrived in Brazil some 26 hours later, to be greeted by 41 degrees Celsius.

If you have ever travelled to a hot climate, you know the smell. That musty, pungent aroma that is a strange combination of body odor (theirs, not mine), pollution, humidity, and stale air. When I first stepped off of the airplane, I was struck by the odor. I stopped, closed my eyes, and inhaled, as deep as possible. And that was the beginning of an existence of simplicity and absolute human uselessness. From there on, I practiced the art of learning to exhale.

The first thing we did was undress. Literally. A waterfall of sweat and perspiration began to emit from our bodies and we needed relief. My lulus might work well for hot yoga, but not for hot Brazil. Dressing in Brazil is a tricky undertaking. First of all, everything that you think is summer wear here in Canada is just too hot, and too heavy. Even our cottons might as well be a winter jacket. Clothing in Brazil is barely required and possibly optional, although I never saw any full nudity. Necklines and hemlines cover the essentials. The trick to dressing in that heat is to wear as little as possible. Catching on quickly, I donned the uniform of the day - a bathing suit, sundress or shorts - and never really deviated from the plan.

We rented a Townhouse in a little town called Marica, which has a population of about 125,000 people. Half the size of Regina. Our group of eight Canadians got into the spirit of living in Brazil. Our daily drill would involve coffee, breakfast, a trip down the 45 degree hill to town to buy groceries, and of course shop for shoes and weather appropriate cloths. Then we would head over the Acai booth and have a quick one, before heading back up the hill to home and pool.

We did not rush, and those who did only tired faster in the extreme hit. We stopped under the "kissing tree" for shade, then the mango tree before we made it home. We learned that in order to avoid passing out in the heat, we needed to have our daily trek under way be 10 AM and completed by noon to survive the mid day sun.

By night, we would visit with local friends that we have made over the past 2 years, shared our favorite foods and recipes (yes, I cooked there), and participated in the Carnival activities.

I think during the course of the 3 weeks, I learned about another 50 words and took about 500 pictures of the places we visited, the daily life of the people around us, and the breathtaking scenery of the never ending garden that is Brazil.

Experiencing the world of ants epitomizes total relaxation. One day, I spent 3 hours observing and photographing ants carrying food to their "home." It all started when we were having our morning coffee. There was a crumb on the concrete. We watched a group of ants pick it up and walk away with it. We were amazed to see this cookie crumb on the move, across the patio, up a 6 inch granite wall, over a ridge, across a 4 inch plane and down into the flower bed where they were living.

We wondered how much the ants could really carry. So we upped the anty. We bit off a slightly bigger chunk of cookie, and put it on the ground. The tiny red ants moved with purpose toward the Cookie, gathered around it and carried it off, across the patio, up the wall, across the plane, and into the garden.

The next piece was about the size of a small finger nail. Once again, the red ants got to work and they they carried the cookie across the patio, but stumbled as they made their way up the wall. But their goal to reach the promised land was greater the problems they were facing. So in came more ants and up they went, only to fall again, and again, and again. I watched them persevere for three hours.

Finally, I decided to help, picking up a leaf and carefully lifting the cookie and as many ants as possible up to the top of the wall. They carried on their way and took the cookie to their queen, who was by then waiting and wondering what was happening to the the delivery. (I imagined that part.)

"Great", said my friend. "Now you've mechanized them. Soon they will be unionized. They will lose their will to work, they will grow pot bellies, and expect to be paid more. The colony will suffer."

We laughed at the sight of a pot bellied ant, and then we went for a dip in the pool.

The next day we left our paradise, our friends, and our ants and found our way back to Canada, where the necklines are higher, the pants are longer, where sunscreen is replaced with moisturizers and lip chap, and where the ants are out of sight, but not out of mind.

The ants go marching ten by ten, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching ten by ten, hurrah, hurrah
The ants go marching ten by ten,
The little one stops to say "THE END"
And they all go marching down around the town

No comments: