The Wasp Dance

I could write a book about the beds we have slept in in rural African villages. Let me rush to say, these are some of the most hospitable people on the face of the earth. They would literally borrow money in order to keep us in their homes, feeding, and entertaining us.  One village heard that we were accustomed to sleeping in a Western style bed, so they carried a bed over two mountains, rebuilding it for us to sleep in. If ever we write such a book it would also have to include our numerous encounters with mosquitoes, critters which inhabited beds and mats before we arrived.

It was also about this time that I was introduced to the mosquito coil.

This was a simple chemical device which you lit the end of with a match.  It burned down to increasingly small coils, emitting a noxious smoke inside of your sleeping space, with the intent to kill any mosquitoes in the nearby vicinity. It was deadly for mosquitoes, but no one ever mentioned to us about its effect on wasps.

Climbing into my sleeping bag one night I did not notice a huge wasp nest in the grass ceiling of the hut in which I was sleeping with 3 other men. Just before I lay back on my sleeping bag in the warm summer night air, I lit my mosquito coil and watched its vapors disappear into the thatch roof of the hut. While mosquito coils are effective in killing mosquitoes they only serve to make wasps groggy, and after they wake up, they are very angry. By lighting the mosquito coil near my sleeping bag these noxious fumes arose and drugged many wasps in the ceiling. They began to fall from the ceiling into my sleeping bag. For many minutes they lay dormant inside of my sleeping bag until the anesthetic of the mosquito coil began to wear off.

Then they started getting mad.

And as they came out from under the anesthetic they began to take out their anger on the country boy from Kentucky. I don’t know how many times I was stung but I do remember, with extreme embarrassment, my ejection from the sleeping bag yelling at the top of my voice as these wasps stung me all over the lower part of my body. I woke up my sleeping mates and the entire village.  Many people came running worried their visitor was being attacked by thieves…or perhaps having a psychotic episode. All the while I was dancing out of the hut, beating myself, trying to lead the wasps in my sleeping shorts to an early death.

It was not long until I accomplished this urgent task of eradicating all of the wasps upon my person. Once this task was successfully done, I looked around, and found most of the village staring at me with various looks of concern and growing amusement. Here I was, half dressed, with my friends from my hut beginning to explain to the broader village what indeed had happened; I was not suffering from dementia, but had lit my mosquito coil and had been sharing my sleeping bag with a nest of wasps. Some kids began to giggle until the whole village had a good laugh at my expense. Kids began an attempt to imitate the dance of the white man in their village that night. The village found this hilarious. I found it less so.

For the next 3 days we ministered in this village. Whenever we would walk past a group of children, they would look at me and begin the wasp dance, until they fell laughing on the ground.

I don’t think I ever returned to that village.