So I meant to put a few thoughts down as our lights went out for the entire day and night on Sunday, but after a lovely but distinctly dark dinner cooked by fellow guests here – a quiet Italian couple (say what?) with a mean knack for pasta – we decided to use up the last of the laptop battery and watch an episode of We Can Be Heroes (a great little Aussie show) before hitting the hay. Lying in our room, open to the sounds of the tamed jungle around us (particularly one supremely annoying bird, I imagine it was ugly too), I was struck by just how deep and all-consuming darkness can be. You get so used to light pollution of varying degrees when living in cities that when you find yourself in a more-or-less rural area during a blackout, even eight PM feels like the deepest darkest night you’ve ever experienced. It feels like you’ve been sucked into the furthest corner of space, suspended weightless in a world of zip zero visual stimulation. No street lights, no reflections of the neighbor’s fluorescent porch light, no stars and no moon. Just total, complete darkness pierced temporarily by my iPhone and laptop with their fast-depleting batteries and an ineffective solar-powered emergency lamp given to us by our lovely host, Sandra.
The power outages are becoming an all too familiar and predictable occurrence here and no one knows for sure if they’ll get any better soon (the rains were supposed to help but apparently the cuts are also politically motivated and deliberate). I don’t mind the outages during the day – we’re either at work or do our best to charge up laptops etc. when power is available – but at night the sheer depth of darkness does kind of do your head in (especially when under-stimulated eyes are compensated for by over-stimulated ears bursting with the near torturous sounds of the bird with a shrill voice).
But I guess there is something soothing about that kind of darkness too. After all, what else forces you to be present and divorces you so fundamentally from the usual cacophony of light and visual attractions (“read me!”, check out this photo!”, “watch this clip!”) than the complete and utter darkness of an African suburb starved of power? It’s so dark your eyes don’t even get used to it and your mind is forced to decide: stay awake and listen to the crazy bird or just shut down, tune out and go to sleep with the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro keeping watch just over your shoulder.
On that note, good night, dear friends. Be grateful for every day of uninterrupted electricity, it sure ain’t the norm in this corner of the Earth.