The days have been llena con lluvia. I could feel the air thick with water; los pajarros were more active than normal, flying and buzzing and chirping and trying to find refuge in the dryness of my house.
The sun had just set, which means I had long since closed my doors and began my nightly routine- that basically involved turning my home into a Little America. Tuning into American news, listening to American music, watching American TV programs, cooking American favorites… It were these few hours each night that often got me through days of working with my jovenes. As much fun as they could be, they were notorious energy vacuums.
Having just finished eating one of my easy campo favorites, I went to grab the filling bucket of water that sat underneath my leaking shower head to fregar my dishes. When I reached down to grab the bucket * CLICK* se fue la luz.
“%*&^$@@)((*)*@#!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” A slew of expletives spewed from my mouth.
The electricity had gone out, and I had left my phone- or in this moment- my flashlight in my bedroom. The darkness was disorienting. I put my hand on the wall as I waited for my eyes to adjust. Because when the lights se fue in this country, the entire town’s lights go out, or in other words, we have a blackout.
My community is lucky, in the sense, that we have an electricity schedule, meaning our blackouts are más o menos scheduled, allowing people to plan their days around when we will have luz and when we won’t. This is not the case for every community. Many community’s lights come and go as she pleases, leaving people without the ability to plan their days like we can. At times the lights can come and go every 20 minutes, sometimes we are without electricity for the entire day, and every once in a blue moon we may get blessed with an entire day llena de luz.
As many of us are still unsure of exactly who or what is controlling the electricity schedule for our communities, we volunteers often joke that there is a little man with a Napoleon complex sitting at a switchboard playing God. Often I think it really is the only logical explanation.
The problem with electricity in this country is cyclical. It is unlike the US where a person’s electricity can be individually turned off if they are not paying their bill. Here, with the infrastructure created, this is not so. Electricity cannot be controlled individually, meaning either the whole town has electricity or they don’t- regardless of who is or who is not paying. This system leads to a lack of incentive for people to pay their electricity bill. People say, well when the government stops giving us blackouts, we will start paying our bills, but then the government says, when the people start paying their bills, we will stop giving them blackouts. It is a messy, complicated vaina. Wealthier communities like the capital rarely experience blackouts. Families that can afford it, counteract the gaps in electricity by investing in generators, but the majority of people cannot, hence, it is the poorer more rural communities that suffer the most.
This specific blackout, however, was not a part of my community’s normal schedule. The excessive rain we had been getting was known to be a menace to our fragile electricity infrastructure. Most nights, gracias a Dios, our community has electricity from 6:30 at night to 1 in the morning. Hence, I was not well equipped for a blackout at 8pm. I begin zombie walking out of my bathroom, feeling around to make sure I would not trip or run into something, eventually making it to my room where I eventually found my phone after feeling around my dresser for awhile. I turned on my flashlight and went back to my bathroom to continue with my nightly oficios.
However, as I am beginning to fill my washing buckets up, I hear the voice of muchachos calling my name from my front stoop; they are the voices of my counterpart’s sons.
“Yoooordannn. Yoooooordannnnnn.” They call.
“Me voy!” I call back. I run to put on some pants and open my door to see Elbin and Kelbin standing there. They tell me their mom sent them to see if I was in my house and to check on me. Their mom, my counterpart’s wife, is quickly becoming one of my closest friend’s in site.
I walk out of my front stoop to talk to them and am quickly accosted by the brilliance of the stars. Without the light pollution, I felt as though I could reach out and touch them. I was overwhelmed by nature’s beauty.
“Mira!” I say to them. “Look at the stars! Look at how bright they are.” The boys look up too, and we begin pointing out constellations, stars and planets.
*Now cue Coldplay’s Yellow*
Kelbin, the youngest, points at a star that is enthusiastically flickering a spectrum of colors. “Look!” He says in his adorable little-kid lisp, “It looks like that one is having a party!” I laugh out loud, grinning from ear-to-ear.
“You’re right.” I say, “It does!” We go on doing this for the next ten minutes, truly enveloped in the curiosity and wonder of the Universe that cradles us. I could do this for hours, I thought to myself. It brought me back to being a kid in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, laying on out backs, counting the shooting stars as they passed.
However, as quickly as the electricity had left, with a click and a flash, the artificial, buzzing lights had returned.
“Llegó!” cheered our neighbors. I looked at the lights then to the boys and then back to the sky; the brilliance of the night sky was diminished. I guess our stargazing had come to an end. I told the boys thanks for checking on me and to come back next time we have a blackout. They happily agreed.
As they trotted down the dirt road back to their home, already nostalgic, I found myself wishing the lights could have stayed away for just a little bit longer. I was already thinking about what stargazing activity we could do next time the lights se fue.
Un beso fuerte,
Photos from this week(s):