Thursday, December 3, 2009

Spiral Flight

My friend M, who is getting her PhD in etymology (etiology? Whichever one is the study of bugs) entomology, says that the grasshoppers spend their last minutes on this earth attacking our light bulbs because they “have compound eyes made up of simple ocelli that only sense light and can’t form images. They need parallel lines of light in order to move in a straight path so spotlights and porch lights really confuse them. They go into ‘spiral flight’ mode where they will just fly or jump around in circles and they usually end up hitting the lights or flying directly into them.” M ended her lesson with the scientific conclusion, “Crazy, crazy grasshoppers.”


At the start of French class tonight, my teacher asked how I spent my weekend. I told him we celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday. This led to my attempting to talk about the genocide of the American Indians. In French. Which led to my trying to explain what Reservations are. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to explain what Reservations are in English, but it’s downright impossible. Imagine trying in French. To someone who doesn’t know. He asked if American Indian Reservations were like the Nature Park Reserves here, only with special land for people instead of for the gorillas and the chimpanzees. If we had been speaking English, I wouldn’t have known what to respond. It was an impossible and heartbreaking conversation.

Tomorrow morning we are switching from discussions to studying verbs.


One of the lovely girls with whom I go jogging in the mornings was complaining today that the water has been shut off in her house for over a week and she’s been having to carry buckets from the UN office where her boyfriend works so that she can shower and drink.

And my first thought wasn’t pity, but almost, nearly, envy. Which is insane. I know. But it is sometimes easier to live without than to be so constantly reminded about the division of rich from poor and haves from have-nots and which side of the line you fall on. It’s easy to feel good about yourself for roughing it (generations of PCVs have taught us that). Capturing the rainwater running off of your roof and boiling it to drink is easier in a whole lot of ways than turning on a tap and watching clean water pour out, spiral down the drain, while your neighbors are dying of dysentery, cholera, and typhoid.