I may have been traumatised by ants forever. During the second week of staying on the island, it would usually rain for about an hour or two a day.
The lawn that stood between the bungalows and the beach were the natural habitat for some other guests – big ants. Big is an exaggeration here. The ants were about a centimetre to a centimetre and a half big. They only came out after it had rained. And when they came out they came out in swarms. Most of them were outside my room and on the way to the shared bathroom.
They wouldn’t ordinarily cause a problem but we never wore shoes on the Perhentian. There was no point – most the time we were on the beach. When we weren’t on the beach, the beach was the main way to get between places anyway.
Every time it had rained and I walked over the lawn bare footed I always found out that ants were out. Whether day or night, whether I could see them or not. I always found out the hard way.
As I’d walk across the lawn I’d feel a sharp bullet like pain going through my foot. So I’d start to sprint and get to my porch as quickly as possible.
On my porch, I would sit down on the chair and inspect my foot. Clinging on with their jaws for dear life were the ants. Several of them lodged in my foot. They didn’t have the power to pull their jaws outwards freeing themselves. They were stuck.
I would systematically and quickly pull each out in turn. Once the ants were removed from the foot, though, the pain would immediately disappear. Sometimes the ants were still alive after removing them, crippled but still alive.
Sometimes I would remove the ant but the pain remained. The body had dislodged from the head. The head was still stuck. I would have to go for a second round of pulling the head out.
These were my unofficial neighbours.