Tonight I assisted in the murder of about 30,000 wasps in a field out back of Irma’s property here in southwest Portugal. It wasn’t exactly how I planned to spend the evening, but if this time in my life is all about experience, I decided it was probably more authentic to destroy a wasps’ nest with my adopted German/Portuguese family than to drive to Lagos to chat up some locals in a bar, which is what I thought I might do when I woke up this morning.
It started innocently enough with dinner at Irma’s, which her 26-year-old son Emanuel also attended. Irma’s a great cook — tonight it was Indonesian chicken, carrots and toast with homemade tomato butter. We also had a bottle and a half of white wine and, emboldened by the first alcohol I’d had all week, I requested and was granted my first lesson in Portuguese swear words.
After dinner, Emanuel and Irma began discussing how to dispose of a massive underground wasps’ nest that has been problematic. “We’re plotting a genocide,” Emanuel told me, when I emerged from the toilet to their conversation mulling how to exterminate them.
The plan was that Emanuel would pour gasoline down the entrance to the wasp’s nest and then light it with a torch, in theory lighting a fire that would burn underground and fry the wasps to a crisp. Irma and I came along with hose, shovels and flashlights for support and to put out any fire that might spread to the dry fields around the nest, which Emanuel had covered in sand.
I felt somewhat bad being a part of the murder of thousands of insects, but the wasps have stung Irma and Emanuel and Irma’s dogs, and also some of the guests of the houses, so I understood why the nest had to go. I was actually more fearful that a cloud of pissed-off wasps would rise from the nest and come after us as we did the deed than I was of any bad karma that would result from my part in the wasp deaths.
The plan was a success, and the wasps met their end peacefully, all things considered. I can now add “aided in the extermination of a wasp’s nest by gasoline-fueled fire in the Portuguese countryside” to my resume. I’m hoping Irma and Emanuel will teach me how to split wood next.
I have to say, if one must engage in such a task, it certainly couldn’t have been a more beautiful night for it. The weather is still unseasonably warm here — which is unsettling for the locals who are waiting for rain for their crops, but feels just fine to me — and there were thousands of stars visible in the inky sky.
As I stood there, holding a flashlight and mapping out which way I would run if the wasps attacked, I saw a star fall in the eastern sky, disappearing nearly as quickly as it appeared. It was my second shooting star of the week, and again I was reminded of how lucky I am.