Thursday, September 07, 2006

Africa vs. Naomi — The Mosquito Battle

One of my favorite things about my bedroom is my bed. Specifically, the four bamboo poles and the mosquito net they hold up. What girl hasn’t wanted a four-poster, canopied bed? And tucking myself in at night by drawing the bed curtains, as it were, feels incredibly decadent somehow. The kind of thing they’d have done at Versailles, back when Marie Antoinette was enjoying cake.

Plus, I have an entirely irrational fear of creepy, crawly things. It means that in the past, I’ve never liked sleeping without a cover, because that leaves me entirely DEFENSELESS while my defenses are ALREADY DOWN (because, sleeping). Except, when the mere act of eating allow me bathed in a thick lather of sweat, as is currently the case, even a sheet is too hot. But the mosquito net is even better protection than a cover—frankly, I don’t know why I haven’t been using one for years already.

Of course, all of this leaves out the intended, and most important function of a mosquito net — namely protecting one from the curse of mosquito bites. And my mosquito net performs admirably (though it can do nothing about the bites I get while in the living room, or at an open-air bar, or crossing the street or, fuck, the two bites on my leg and one on my shoulder that I just got while writing the previous two paragraphs). (Yes, I use insect repellent. Yes, it helps.)

So, in the battle of Africa vs. Naomi, the mosquito net definitely puts a point in my column,

Except. Well, the system is nearly, but not entirely, perfect. Because sometimes, despite your best attempts, a mosquito gets IN the net.

There’s almost nothing worse. One tiny little mosquito can keep you up all night swatting and scratching.

The other night, I was reading in bed, and a couple of times, I thought I saw the tell-tale black dot of a mosquito cross the edges of my field of vision. But my glasses were off, and I was tired, so I decided to pretend I hadn’t seen. After a couple more pages, I turned out the light and hoped for the best.

10 minutes later, with angry welts across my legs, feet, hips, and back, I couldn’t ignore the beast any longer. So I turned back on my light.

It’s harder than you think to spot a single mosquito. There’s a lot of space above a double bed to keep your eyes on, and if it’s moving around, it’s almost certain to avoid your gaze. But when I sat very, very still, the mosquito would stop moving and land somewhere on the net, and I could spot it.

Which turned out to be entirely useless. Because as soon as I moved to kill it, it would lazily flit off, and I’d lose sight of it for another five minutes. The problem was I had no real strategy. You can’t swat a mosquito against the soft sides of a mosquito net, and capturing it in your hand hardly ever works.

I tried killing it with a clap of both hands. I tried waving my book behind it to herd it under and out of the mosquito net. I tried catching it between a fold of the net. In the midst of my incredibly ineffective attempts, all I managed to do was discover that there were actually two mosquitoes in the net.

I kept it up for about ten minutes, stalking and pouncing and always missing my prey, innovating all sorts of creatively useless solutions, until eventually I was sitting outside the net and the mosquitoes were both still inside.

That was when I realized that I’d lost. It’s not over, the battle of Africa vs. Naomi. But this round? Definitely not mine.


And this, dear zebras, will be my last posting from Africa. Until October, anyway.

Tonight I’m catching a jet plane headed east. By tomorrow morning, I’ll be somewhere where electricity doesn’t cut all day, every day, where cereal doesn’t cost six dollars a box, and where my sister is getting married (on Sunday).

It’s my first visit home since I moved here, and I’m very excited.

I’m also excited because this has been a very good week for Journalist Naomi. My very first commissioned article finally appeared in print, and I officially became a radio journalist.

And finally, because yesterday was my 25th birthday (send DVDs!), celebrated in style with chocolate risotto, Moroccan stew, and an African reggae concert.

But most importantly, I need to thank everyone who has written to offer me shoes, and all the bloggers who have publicized my shoe drive on their blogs and on Complete Running (and, in some cases, to friends, offices, and book clubs). The response has been amazing, and if I get even half of the shoes that have been promised, I’m going to have big problems carrying them all back. Which, in this case, is the best kind of problem to have. I’ll keep you posted as the shoes come in, and as they go back out in Dakar. Thank you all so much!