One aspect of living in the tropics, close to the equator, is the rapidness of dusk. Where North Americans or Europeans can enjoy seemingly endless summer twilights (that is, when summer eventually chooses to appear) in Cambodia the same thing occurs every evening at 6:00pm. The sun goes down and within minutes the evening is dark.
At the school we have solar panels and these are useful for powering up laptops (and charging phones – lots of phones) but when evening falls, nothing can supply electricity quite like the big diesel generator that chugs into life and lights up the classrooms, keeps those ceiling fans churning up the hot evening air and keeps the computers running.
The generator has been mighty reliable, thankfully, because previously we purchased a real lemon that lasted less than 2 weeks before failing. This, after careful shopping around in Phnom Penh.
When you’re in the classroom the evening sun, when it falls, is often gold or red and it flares up the sky in gorgeous colours. Then the welcome sound of the generator as it roars into life, and the fans begin to swirl and the fluorescent lights come – attracting insects and creating activity from the little geckos that clamber keenly around the walls. I think all day they wait for this moment.
Meanwhile, despite the heat, the students are hard at work, and the generator gives all of them extra time to read, or study or to wrangle with their computer studies. That’s another 90 minutes they gain each evening in their race to beat the odds of growing up in a poor rural community.
In that respect I think the fuel bill for the generator, around $2 a night, is amazing value.
Now that works out around $600 a year – and we’re soon to launch a little fundraising effort to tidy away this element of our annual budget.
My friends groan when I make dreadful puns, but in this case the saying “many hands makes light work…” is the perfect truth. I hope readers can contribute in due course.