Thursday, March 24, 2016

Two Chiclayo Constants we could live without

Dust and Chiclayo are synonymous, though to me it’s not just dust. It’s more like a combination of dust and beach sand. The color is volcanic gray. It permeates and settles on everything. Use a dust cloth on a table in the morning, and by early afternoon you can write your name in the dust on that same table, or refrigerator top or counters or computer or bedspread or yourself if you sit still long enough. Spill a few drops of water on a floor and you have instant mud.

Chiclayanos are accustomed to it…they don’t even give it a thought. When we first moved to Chiclayo we used to vacuum floors and furniture daily. Now we do it three times per week and call it good. What I don’t understand is that the dust seems to be unique to Chiclayo. In all of the towns and villages we’ve visited, I have never seen that dust in homes, restaurants or hotels. Even Pimentel, twelve miles away on the ocean doesn’t have dust.

The other constant is ants. Ants are everywhere. Every building has ants. They were in our apartment when it was being built. They probably moved in when a scout ant saw the first brick being placed. There was no food for them…at least none contributed by human action. Still, they were there busily doing whatever it is ants do.

Scout ants can be seen on almost any wall. They just slowly meander around without apparent direction looking for food, and when they find it what happens is amazing. A drop of melted ice cream or a speck of meat missed on a kitchen counter, table or floor will have hundreds on the spot within thirty minutes. In a relatively short time they eat the food and disappear. Or they die by my hand. But what’s really impressive is when a scout locates a bonanza…a mother lode of food that can be taken back to the colony. When that happens you see what appears to be a continuous black line slowly undulating on a wall. I’ve seen those lines extending from the street to a second-story window on the exterior walls of white buildings and marveled at the distance those ants were traveling.

This morning we had one of those continuous black lines slowly undulating on a wall. It began at the top of a kitchen window. From there it followed a ceiling/wall juncture through the kitchen, into a hallway, into a bedroom, then down a wall to the floor and then climbed a table leg where Maribel had placed a guaba fruit. Normally that would not be a problem…unless the skin has an opening. The skin had an opening. The ants were able to enter the fruit and get at the sweet white flesh that surrounds the seeds. And that is why the entire colony was going back and forth on the chemical trail laid down by a scout. They are no longer doing that. I am into my second can of Raid (no odor formula) this month.

Once again I was impressed with the distance those ants were traveling and wondered how far it would be in human terms. You can see what’s coming…right? I measured their path at 509 inches one way. The ants are .0625 inches in length. I divided 1018 by .0625 to determine that they were traveling 16,288 times their own length round trip. Now I had to equate that to human measurements.

There are various sites I found on Google that show 9.5 inches as the average chest/belly to butt measurement for adults. I don’t believe that for a minute, but now I know how spacing for airplane seats is calculated. These same sites showed that the longest part of a human is the feet, averaging 11.75 inches. I see a lot of people whose feet are not their longest measurement, but rather than me choose an arbitrary number I went with the conservative 11.75 inches, which I multiplied x 16,288 ant lengths for 191,384 inches, which works out to a human equivalent of 3.02 miles those ants are walking. And they make multiple trips. And that’s just inside the house. I don’t know how far they walked from outside to get here; probably at least double the inside path. Would I walk that far for guaba fruit? No way, but then I’m not a member of a colony.

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