4:30 – Adhan startles me awake. Living beside the mosque means that I get this wake-up call every day. The dogs all howl and the babies all start to cry in response. It’s the daily village cacophony. I grumble, roll over, and cover my head with my pillow in an attempt to fall back asleep.
6:30 – this time, it’s my alarm that wakes me with its tinny ringing. I groggily roll over and rub the sleep from my eyes, which are still working to focus properly. As things become clearer, I notice something dark at the top of my mosquito net.
Ew, a cockroach, I think to myself. I then realize that the insect isn’t covered in white cross-hatching. It must be on the inside of the net. This is somehow alarming, but not all that bad. I’m fairly certain that it’s unlikely that a malaria-carrying mosquito would fly low enough to get into my un-tucked net. A cockroach, on the other hand, could crawl in a small gap at the bottom. I’ll have to figure out how to tuck it better, I realize, still lying in my bed.
Mornings aren’t really my thing; my stepmom could tell you that. So I lie in bed for some more time, watching the cockroach. It’s not moving and this gives me hope that the insecticide in the net has killed it. 5 minutes have passed. My mind has started to wake up and now I’m thinking that maybe I’m not looking at a cockroach at all. The shape is wrong. Cockroaches are sort of oval-shaped. This thing is more triangular. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% alert just yet, so I chalk it up to the cockroach being injured. I’m reading The Metamorphosis by Kafka and my imaginative (and sleepy) mind is allowing reality and literature to blend together.
It’s been 10 minutes and I’m now convinced that the thing on the inside of my mosquito net is definitely not a cockroach, injured or healthy. So, what is it? My curious mind wants to know. My tired body, on the other hand, would rather lie there and let the thing—whatever it may be—do its thing. Another 5 minutes passes. I really need to get up at this point, so I roll over and unclip the clothespin that holds my net closed. I fumble with the opening, but eventually stumble out into my hut.
Now there is a barrier between me and the thing. It’s only now that I realize the safety that barrier provides and how silly it was of me to just sit there and watch it for almost 20 minutes. Who knows what kinds of creatures are out to get me in Ghana and how they’ll do it? I decide to investigate, looking down from above on the thing:
I was right; it was no cockroach. In fact, I am looking at a scorpion. The irrational side of me has a small panic attack. It could’ve stung me in my sleep! The rational side of me comes in and informs the irrational side that most scorpions aren’t poisonous enough to do any serious damage. You can imagine this rational/irrational discussion as two small replicas of me sitting on either of my shoulders, arguing. I’m fairly certain that in my sleep-deprived daze, that’s what I pictured happening.
The scientist in me wins out, though. I immediately grab my camera, set it to macro and reach into the net to snap a pichah. That’s the one you see above. Now I’ll be able to identify the species, I think proudly. THEN IT MOVES. I jump away a little bit; until now, I had assumed that the insecticide had killed it. Oh, right, scorpions are arachnids, not insects (do they even make arachnicide?) I wonder if the chemicals will kill it, so I decide to leave it and go about my day normally. Maybe when I return from work it will be dead.
Later, I return.
It isn’t dead.
Thankfully, it is still in the net and hasn’t escaped to some other region of my room to plan a sneak attack which would lead to my demise. I puff out my chest. Alright, Chris, I tell myself, time to be a man. You handled those two mice last week. What’s a little scorpion going to do to you? I grab an empty Pringles can that I’ve got and deftly scoop the arachnid into it. With the lid on, I venture out to show my host family. Ayisha is very surprised and tells me that one sting from that little bugger could lead to a week of full-body pain and fever. My host grandmother has a fun time scaring Yaku’s nieces by pretending to throw the scorpion at them. They shriek, even though the lid would stop it from leaving the canister.
I take the specimen to Bailey’s compound to show her. Her host family is equally surprised. They tell me that God has answered my prayers by preventing the scorpion from stinging me and that I am blessed. I’m pleased with this analysis. Then they kill it with a few swift, crushing bashes with a plastic container. This too pleases me.
I walk back to my compound. As I’m about to enter my hut, Ayisha tells me with a devilish grin that the scorpion I had just dealt with was only a baby and that the babies stay close to their mother for some time after hatching.
The babies stay close to their mother for some time after hatching.