Saturday, August 13, 2016
It’s been more than a year since I last heard the hypnotic calls of a million cicadas in the summertime; in fact, besides the years I spent in Taiwan, I hadn’t heard them anywhere else—not in South Africa, not in Russia, not in Hungary—until I arrived in Athens.
Despite the collective hum created by these noisy insects, a summer without them would be inconceivable and indeed would spell disaster for any resident of the island first dubbed Formosa by the Portuguese in 1542.
Camouflaged against the dark hues of trunks and shaded by leaves on branches, cicadas are nothing short of iconic for us, conjuring memories of scorching Julys when pupils gathered in stuffy classrooms across the nation to sit for their university entrance exams. A little over six years ago I was no different, shuffling into a classroom with about 30 others and pretending like the 35° Celsius morning temperature didn’t faze me, when in reality it did.
In the dead silence of the classroom, we were accompanied by the loud mechanical buzz of ceiling fans and by the occasional turning of pages—another pupil racing through the test paper just to make you that little bit more anxious and force you to check the watch on your wrist, which is just about the only personal item you’re allowed to carry besides your minimal stationery. And then there were the cicadas, blaring their short-lived mating calls like they’d done, and will continue to do, for millennia.