Sunday, March 18, 2007

The towering termites

American novelist Jim Harrison wrote that spending time in natural settings - and taking in interest in the animals, plants and insects that inhabit them - can be a humbling experience for people. We humans are so enamored with what we think makes us special – our consciousness, ingenuity, and intelligence – that we forget about the wonders of the other living things that share the planet with us.

In Ghana, termite castles are the natural wonders that have captured my attention. I first noticed them when I left Accra a few weeks ago to conduct a workshop. Along the side of the road on the way of town, I noticed what looked like 10- 15-foot sand castles. My Ghanaian friend told me they were homes for termites that construct them with mud and grass.

They’re big enough to house a million or more termites, and are quite sophisticated in design. For example, they’re constructed in such a way that new air can flow in and old air out. Imagine an office tower that holds a million people constructed by hand out of such basic material. They’re so well built that Ghanaian Muslims have used mud from them to help reinforce mosques built with similar materials.

- Mark


Anonymous said...

Hummmm I wonder about that technology in Saint John's fog....It might be Avant-garde but would it last?

Janet & Mark in Ghana said...

Hi Patrick,

I think it can be done, providing you hire a firm of termites to oversea the design and construction. The hills are built to withstand the torrential downpours of the rainy season. Properly built they could probably withstand the fog. I'll check with the termites on that one...could be an eye-catching waterfront development project!

- Mark

Anonymous said...

Quite a picture Mark and Janet of the termites castle. I can't even imagine what they must look like.It must be something to see.
Love, Mummy and Daddy

Anonymous said...

Janet and Mark,
Your blog captures some nostalgic moments as well as gives us an insight into your amazing endeavors in Ghana.
I've not gone through the entire blog as yet; however, going by what I've read so far, I can safely say that you are doing a very noble deed. I commend you for your initiatives in this rather underprivileged country and hope that the rest of your stay in Ghana will be equally enjoyable and fruitful.

All the best,
[by the way, I am a permanent resident now :)]