Wednesday, September 20, 2006

A Celestial Shift

Something strange happened this weekend. I started waking up a half an hour later. Or, rather, the world around me started getting up a half an hour earlier.

I can’t explain how it happened. Maryanne and I have this habit of going for a walk in the mornings, a nice little circuit that takes us on scenic overview of the city. We meet on the street at 6 am, watch the sunrise as we pass along the mountain road, then return to town at about 6:45, just as things are getting going and in plenty of time for us to shower and get to work. We have been doing this for months now. As winter waned we watched the sun ascend the mountain tops just slightly earlier each day, but something very strange happened between Friday morning and Monday morning. Friday all was as normal – we met students on their way to school and noted how the town was just beginning to stretch as we passed by. But by Monday, the rest of town had beaten us to the punch – and not by just a little either.

I didn’t notice the full effect until Tuesday because Monday was socked in with heavy clouds and fog. But on Tuesday morning when I emerged on the street at 6 o’clock, the streets were already packed with people going up and down the hill, children on their way to school and taxis and motorcycles threatening to run them all down. As I began walking I found I was dodging in and out of crowds of school children and out of the path of city buses. And the sun was so bright (it had already crested the hill before I even stepped out of the door) I regretting not wearing my sunglasses. Yet the time on my watch was the same as the last week, and the BBC wholeheartedly concurred with it. It was as if the Malagasy had decided that over the weekend daylight savings time, Malagasy style, had come into effect, and all times were now shifted half an hour earlier.

Something else happened too: summer arrived. Just last week we were still wearing turtlenecks and heavy sweaters and complaining about the incessant cold wind. On Sunday night I threw off my long-clung-to covers in exasperation and by Monday I was sleeping with the window open. The fog and clouds on Monday were almost steamy rather than clammy and on Tuesday I wore a halter top when walking outside.

So spring lasted a weekend, and now we’re fully into summer here. And I have started my walks at 5:30 am – I’m sure by next week, or at the very latest, October, it will be 5 am, or else risk getting mowed down by taxis and buses and herds of children on their way to who-knows-where, since school doesn’t start until 7:30.




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