Nighttime in my African village was pitch-black. No electricity, no streetlights. No pavement, no signs. Just footpaths, thatch huts and cooking fires banked low. The sensible Peace Corps volunteers took flashlights with them on after-sundown excursions. If you had a full moon, you could see fairly well. But even starlight from the magnificently glowing skies overhead offered little help when the moon was away. And the skies were overcast that Saturday night 25 years ago in the village of Bobonong, Botswana, after a few of my fellow volunteers and I spent a long evening at a bar sipping Lion Lager.
We parted sometime after midnight, and I walked for hours, feeling as much as seeing my way along. The school I taught and lived at was only a mile and a half away from the bar. But where, exactly? Thatch huts loomed vaguely out of the darkness, and I stumbled repeatedly into dry riverbeds and endless thorn bush.
Three parts embarrassed and one part unnerved at being lost in my own village, I finally spotted the outline of another human being. Hurrah! Accustomed to living without electricity, the villagers could see like cats at night. I would politely ask for help.
My elation evaporated when the man came closer. It was Paul, another Peace Corps volunteer. We'd parted hours ago at the beer joint. He was now as lost as I was.
"Well," he said, glumly, "there's always sunrise."
Richard Kaminski, Vienna
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