With rainy season creeping up on Malema, storm filled afternoons have been occurring more often since getting to site. As the ground soaks up the water quickly, the thunder and deafening rain falling on my tin roof are a refreshing reminder that I won’t have to fall asleep covered in my own sweat. The rain on the tin roof also serves as a alarm, to remind me that before dusk arrives- I have to make sure to close my front door, cover the crack with a capulana, and/or keep the lights off in my house. Otherwise, the mpepes get in from every manner possible.
Mpepe are a mystery bug that appears out of the ground the day after it rains, they are about the length of my finger and fly around my veranda lights until they’ve bumped their heads too many times, lost their wings and fallen to the ground. All night, I can hear them buzzing and bumping, and in the morning, I get the lovely surprise of piles of dead or dying Mpepes that I have to carefully sweep off.
The story doesn’t end at the dead bugs. My two-year old twin neighbors, Dana and Danny, snuck into my quintal a morning after an Mpepe invasion and as they were watching me sweep, started picking up the dead bugs and munching on them. With Mozambique going through a chicken (and wine) shortage, before the holiday season, Mpepe is a welcome source of protein. One of the neighborhood mães gave me her Mpepe recipe: some oil, tomato, green pepper, salt, and a tiny bit of water and then you boil them just until they get crispy. I lied to her and said that I would try it one day, but honestly my newly acquired fear of having an allergic reaction to anything while living alone tells me I’m going to have to avoid the local snack for the time being.
My bug acquaintances haven’t ended with the mpepes, I recently found a scorpion on my kitchen floor (a reminder to tuck in my mosquito net extra tight every night) and the other day when what seemed like an ancestors of the dinosaurs, a four inch flying terror (that turned out to be a longhorn beetle) fly right into my face as I was preparing dinner, and then didn’t die after being sprayed by an entire can of bug spray and being hit dozens of times by my chinelos. Needless to say, the group of seven of so lizards that squat in my house now are slowly becoming my best friends.