Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Blackout!

A few nights back, while Miranda and I were comfortably lounging on the couch playing a video game, suddenly and without warning our entire world went dark. The TV shut off, the lights went out, and both of our living room fans stopped their precious oscillations. Our dog, Peanut, became understandably freaked out and started barking wildly, along with what seemed like every other dog for miles around.

Those first few moments, before we realized that one of the generators at the power plant probably just broke down, were slightly terrifying. The total absence of light is indescribable. It’s not like back in the US when a fuse blows in the house, or the power in the neighborhood goes out, where there’s at least some source of light from somewhere. Here, since everything – including street lights – runs off the same grid, when the power goes out, you literally can’t see your own hand in front of your face. Occasionally a car would drive by, its headlights carving a tunnel of visible jungle, only to be quickly swallowed by the dark.

The creepy quiet didn’t help the generally unnerving atmosphere. Without the blaring of any radios, televisions, telephones, all you could hear was the low rustling of the wind through the jungle and the intermittent yelping cries of confused animals.

We stumbled around blindly until we were able to light some candles that have turned out to be both practical and decorative. Thankfully, we also brought along with us a rechargeable lantern that has come in handy on more than one occasion. Miranda actually got four of these identical lanterns at her bridal shower all those years ago, which we rarely used before coming to Yap. While blackouts are infrequent, and are usually at least scheduled in advance with the times announced on the radio, it does help to be prepared. During our entire stay so far there have been maybe half a dozen scheduled outages, usually lasting two hours in the early evening, and two unscheduled ones. The other unplanned one was during a powerful storm. This one on the other hand, came on only a slightly windy night.

Without any power to run our usual form of entertainment, the TV and trusty PS3, we basically sat around wondering when the electricity would come back on, and developing paranoid theories as to what caused the problem. My guess: zombies.

At one point, our new neighbor came over wondering whether the power outage was island-wide. He had pretty bad luck, considering the power went out on his very first night living in the house across the street from ours. We passed the time by going outside to look at the stars. Even though it was hazy and cloudy, with no other light anywhere to be found, the stars were pretty bright.

Sleeping that night was difficult. Even during the relative cool of the evening, without the air conditioner or even a fan, the temperature was uncomfortably high. I tossed and turned, before finally getting out of bed in order to pace around the house aimlessly.

Shortly before midnight, all our electrical devices suddenly came to life without a moment to spare. Miranda’s worries about how long everything in the refrigerator would last with no power and constant 85 degree weather were put at ease. Luckily, we still have not had to find out, and we hope it stays that way!

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