Ants. Let's just say I hate them. They bring out the absolute worst in me. There are just so many varieties and my house has enough cracks and holes to welcome them all. When we first moved to PNG, a friend advised me to let my ant anger go - it's a battle you will never win she said. She was right, but I have not let it go.
We have been back in PNG for nearly two weeks now and I'm already being reminded that it's the little things (literally in this case!) that get me down. I hate ants because I think their presence means I haven't cleaned. But here the ants have unusual (as well as usual) tastes. They like water, lettuce, sweat...I think they just like going for a walk, having a look round, saying hi. I hate it when they walk across the baby's mattress, when they are in the kitchen or on the sofa or on my face. They refuse to leave no matter how rude I am to them.
It is true that I hate ants but I realise too that they represent a target at which I can aim general frustration. My reaction to discovering some is usually a good barometer of how I'm doing. When we were in the UK we went on holiday in the Lake District. The place we were staying in had an ant problem and I, well I freaked out. They were big and black and they were walking around the kitchen. I was shocked by the vehemence of my desire to have them instantly eradicated. Inside I was thinking, 'THERE ARE NO ANTS IN ENGLAND. THIS CANNOT BE!' Looking back, this is rather funny, but at the time I was genuinely unsettled and distressed. When I discussed it with Duncan, he said he was surprised by how strongly I reacted too but as we talked about it we were able to recognise it as a symptom of transition. It wasn't and isn't really about the ants (although I do still hate them). I have accepted that ants are not only a problem in PNG, that neither of my 'homes' is without significant challenges, and that I must stop trying to make things perfect, without flaws, without ants.
As we stepped off our final flight we were met by friends. We felt loved and wanted. In the joyful rush of return I did not think about ants. We soaked up the welcome and did not dwell on the little things that can make life hard here. Now I am reminded again, I can't pretend that they don't exist. In fact it is better that I admit it and develop strategies for coping. It's not going to be perfect, but it is already wonderful anyway - ants and all - to be back.