Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fire Ants!!!!

You really never know what your day will be like at the Christian Zheng Sheng College, most especially when you are hamstrung by a lack of language skills. Not that this would change the chaos, it would just give you an extra ten minute heads up. Cantonese is such a surreal mix of ancient roots and crazy modern culture that I feel I am caught up in an Asian Mennonite tribe trying to learn low German with nine tones.
Today was another one of those 'another days' where I was pin-balling around the campus as life happened around me, and one change after another sent me careening from one situation to the next. Today was, in fact, the day of the, I mean BIG clean at the campus as everyone is preparing for the Lunar New Year. Every corner of the campus was being carefully scrutinized and sanitized for the festive season, which honestly leaves Christmas somewhat lacking. Lunar New Year just has so much history and culture behind it that Christmas feels like a cheesy ad trying to lure patrons back to its tinsel and commercial mayhem. Not that there isn't commercial mayhem here, with banks forming people into queues to get their crisp new banknotes for red packets, but I digress.
As I was wondering about trying to ascertain where my presence would be most useful Mr. Lao came up to me with an eager eyed student and asked if it would be OK for the students to "use the fire guns for the ants?" I was immediately intrigued, and even as I was about to query one of the numerous lines of questioning arising from his question I had a pretty decent idea of what was going on, but I also realized I needed to find out for myself exactly what was going on. Mr. Lao is a senior staff, and no slouch, but I was not going to hand off this assignment with a casual nod. No, I had to know. I told Mr. Lao it should be fine even as I headed off in the direction of the mayhem that must have been the cause of this request.
What I found was that a bunch of the desks ( a loose term) had been pulled back from the concrete wall that they normally back onto, and a fierce skirmish ensued as dozens of infuriated fire ants advanced upon the unsuspecting brothers. Seeing how, in our environment of schooled incarceration, any blip on the screen will be treated as a host of hostiles just to make life interesting, this was tailor made. Lines were quickly drawn and weapons swiftly brought to bear on the perceived antagonists who quit themselves admirably if the state of the study area gave any testimony. Unfortunately I arrived too late to take part in the main assault and was relegated to a minor role in the mop up operation. It was only when this was winding down that I caught wind of a second front. On the stairs of the kitchen there was a fiery confrontation taking place in very close quarters. The brothers had cornered their foe in a wooden cabinet door which already bore the scorch marks of the first few assaults. There was an inch and a half by one eighth gap in the plies of the plywood the enemy utilized to create a system of defensive tunnels. When I came upon the scene the brothers appeared to have it under control until I saw one of them beat the door on its corner with a jarring rap on the concrete. Cries of "WHAAAAA" (Cantonese for wtf, I'm sure) filled the air as fire ants literally poured out of the small gap in the door to meet their doom in a butane driven conflagration. Witnessing this left me little choice, I had to join in! When they put the door down to see if any more would come out I scooped it up and gestured for the "fire gun" which is a WD40 sized can of butane with a torch/ingniter on top that is like a low powered propane torch. With door and torch in hand I too bashed the enemy's stronghold on the floor, and gleefully incinerated the six legged troops who were, by this time, just trying to get clear of the carnage I'm sure. Not satisfied, though, I hoisted the door up and set upon the escape hatch with the torch until smoke was pouring from other pin holes, no doubt formed by the ants burrowing, and the bottom of the door was slowly being engulfed.
At this point I shut off the gun, and with a contented grin, handed the still flaming door to its owner. There were no cheers, or accolades, but the looks on all their faces gave it away. For this day I was still one of the boys.

1 comment:

Amrita said...

Sounds like a lot of fun....words not needed.