Monday, October 23, 2006

When Evening Falls

In Lianga, the transition between the late afternoon and the early evening is usually be swift and dramatic.

First, the already soft light of the weakening afternoon sun starts to mellow even further and from the western sky a blaze of warm, yellow hues start to coat the tops of the roofs of the houses and shadows start to lengthen and merge in the streets beneath them.

People are suddenly outside their homes to savor the sudden coolness in the air after enduring the heat of sultry afternoons, their voices drifting up from the corners and alleyways as they chat and gossip with friends and neighbors. The town, is for the moment, suddenly full of life and activity.

Children play in the streets and sidewalks and the marketplace and stores quickly fill up with buyers and shoppers making last minute purchases for the day and trying to get the best bargains for the food items needed for the evening meal. A buzz of sudden activity that often bewilders visitors who just a few hours ago could have only seen what would pass for just another sleepy town on the edge of nowhere.

Then the last rays of the dying sun is suddenly cut off and the patch of yellow and fiery reds in the western sky swiftly fades to a pale glimmer and a sense of urgency seems to grip the town. There is a sudden rush to hurry home. The street lights come on and as the people hurry along the streets, final greetings and words are exchanged and the children reluctantly drag themselves away from their playmates and their unfinished games.

Suddenly it is night. No warning and no lingering twilight. It is as if a light switch was turned off. And as the church bells toll for the Angelus, a quiet descends upon the town. Some intrepid souls are still on the almost empty streets and byways but for all intents and purposes, the town is dead and sleeping.

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