Monday, March 14, 2011

Ode to Mag-Lite

Let there be light.

During my time so far in Kathmandu, this is a daily request. Right now, we live without electricity for 14 hours a day. You read that right. Electricity. 14 hours without, 10 hours with. Fortunately, we live in a privileged bubble where an inverter provides us with a trickle of electricity in the off hours, enough to power some weak bare bulbs and other essentials. While it stutters, pauses, and its most reliable trait is that it is unreliable, we are grateful that our internet connection runs on little enough power to be technically available 24/7 in our home. Certainly we are not complaining, but many of you in other locales will understand our electrical predicament compared to many parts of the world. Think of us during your next blackout.

An inverter will not help you, however, when on the streets of Kathmandu at night during "load shedding." For a person totally lacking in all coordination and grace, the streets of this city, with their uneven surfaces, speeding motorcycles, napping dogs, and other obstacles, present a daily challenge during daylight. Knowing that things get even trickier under the cloak of an after-dark blackout, we invested in quality Mag-Lite(c) flashlights before arriving.

Allow me a short aside here to note that Brits call flashlights "torches," which is something we find ridiculous and yet somehow charming. Kind of like the royal family. Not that we're counting down to the royal wedding or anything like that (do you think BBC World will be covering it live here?). But I digress...

Getting the Mag-Lites to Nepal was one feat, but getting them to work was another. I bought the appropriately-sized batteries at a grocery store here, but upon inserting them any and every which way could not get the flashlights to work. Google was no help and I eventually had to sink low enough to accept the harsh reality that the kinds of people sitting around answering questions on a Yahoo! message board about flashlights were my last earthly hope to get these damned flashlights to work.

After some searching (of soul and internet) this is what I found: "for lack of better terminology - insert each D cell, so that the 'pointy end' (positive end) orients toward the light bulb - and the 'flat' end (negative) is towards the spring in the bottom of the flashlight." Simple. Insulting. It had to work.

And it did. I'd still like to blame sketchy Asian batteries and a faulty initial connection for missing this obvious "pointy"/"flat" combo, but the fact is that the flashlights did not work until I received this advice.

After all of this, you can imagine I was pretty excited to try out our badass flashlights on the streets during a blackout tonight. Feeling pretty pleased with myself, I clicked on the flashlight to combat the darkness at our feet. It works! Wow, look at this beam of light that is totally...unimpressive. Yep. All of that amounted to a pretty weak puddle of moonlight a few feet in front of us. No one broke an ankle, but no one went blind from the stunning intensity, either. Overall, a light sabre fail. "Torch," indeed.

Photo withheld due to lack of proper lighting.

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