A city of few lights

Manado is dark. Very dark. Not dark like the devil sort of dark; dark like it has a serious case of electricity shortage.

Well, actually, I do suspect that the city has a problem with electricity supply. The exhibition halls have been plunged into minutes of darkness the past two mornings, and the hotel has had a few seconds of complete darkness the past two nights. It is really freaky when the black-outs happen at night because the streets outside are so dark too, there’re no external lights to help illuminate the room.

The streets and roads are truly dark. They are only lit by lights from shops or houses along the roads or by a rare street lamp. There’s no way I can walk down the streets here after sunset without falling down.

I wanted so much to ask my Indonesian colleague why the city is like that, but restrained myself because I was afraid she might take that personally. You know, some people can become suddenly patriotic. Like if a foreigner were to tell me that the people staying in Sembawang dressed like country bumpkins, even if that was an opinion I usually held, I’d be offended, insult his mother’s dress sense and pluck out his eyes.

But today, while driving through the city after dinner, my Indonesian colleague voiced her thoughts on how dark the city was.

The plucky woman had also asked the local tourism chief yesterday this: “So what’s up with Manado? Why is it always so dark?”

According to her, the chief looked genuinely surprised and asked: “Dark? Whatever do you mean?”

Hilarious! The man must have been so used to the lack of lights in the city that he failed to notice how dim the city is.

“He is in the dark about Manado being in the dark,” another colleague quipped.

Anyway, with a couple of international events mapped out this year for Manado, the chief told my colleague that the local government has upped the city’s electricity supply, which I hope will go into keeping more street lamps lit.