The impending darkness

9 12 2012

As the weather changes at home to include some cold weather and snow, things are changing here as well. The weather is getting to be the coldest it gets all year, leaving students and teachers alike complaining about “the cold.” For me, December weather is great for a few reasons – better sleep, less sweat, and less stinky clothes. It marks the end of the muddy market and the beginning of the blowing dust. Better for the bottom of your pant leg, less great for your eyes.

With winter approaching, I can only imagine Michiganders are stockpiling hot cocoa, snow shovels and rock salt in anticipation of the changing season. For most Michiganians (let’s see how many of these I can use), the coming solstice marks the last few days until Christmas as well as an end to the hopes of a 50+ degree day. In Cambodia, however, the buzz around December 21st sounds markedly different. Many people over the past few weeks have been talking about the “three days of darkness.” I first heard of this about a month ago from a tuk tuk driver in Siem Reap who told me the sky would be dark around the 21st, 22nd, or 23rd of December. Due to a distinct lack of astronomy words in my Khmer vocabulary, I assumed he meant there would be a solar eclipse and he wasn’t sure of the day. Instead, he really meant that the sun wouldn’t rise for three days. No amount of context clues could have possibly led me to that conclusion.

Apparently, the story has been on the news here and everyone I talk to about it cites the “science” behind it, although they insist it’s too complicated to explain. Even my uber-intellectual math teacher friend insists something will happen. My no-nonsense English co-teacher isn’t hearing it though. No one can quite explain what’s going to happen or why, but they ensure me it will be dark. All of this is said without a touch of concern: “Yep, so the sun won’t come up.” As farmers, I would like to think that the idea of ZERO sun for three days would concern them.

black sky

I’m told it will look something like this.

Some may call it defeatism, fatalism, inaction, etc etc, but I can’t help but find this classic Khmer reaction endearing (most of the time). Things are going to happen, we don’t have control over them, and that’s it.

Me: So the sun won’t come up for three days?

Teacher: Right.

Me: The giant ball of fire in the sky that has lit our world for 5 billion years is just going to take a few days off for the first time ever?

Teacher: Right.

None of the Internet doomsday talk is happening here. The sun will go out. It will come back in three days. Typical weekend.

-Tim, Michiganite

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