Today’s story is directly related to what I was talking about last week: power problems. Due to the nature of the power grid in Kyrgyzstan (and, no doubt, the quality of the bulbs purchased), regular incandescent or florescent light bulbs tend to have short life spans. In each of the high-rise apartment buildings we have lived in, there were sockets for lights on each landing which would, when fitted with a light bulb and turned on, easily light the stairways.
However, those two conditions aren’t as simple as you would think. First of all, usually there aren’t light bulbs; most of the time, a good percentage of the floors of a building simply won’t have bulbs in the socket (due to poverty, neglect or any number of reasons). We were blessed to live in a place with great neighbors, and we all replaced bulbs on a rotation, so our floor was usually nice and bright.
Second, frequently the lights simply aren’t turned on. We currently live in a fourth-floor walkup, and while about half of the floors in the building have lights, they usually aren’t turned on for me if I show up late in the evening.
Of course, the worst was when we lived in Bishkek and the power would periodically be off in the summer. I get nervous thinking about it: 103 F on the street, no elevator, 10 flights of stairs, no windows in the stairwell, no fresh air – just that sticky, dusty, stairwell air, complete with the myriad scents left behind by the homeless. And of course, because the power is out, this all takes place in the dark. The pitch black. I actually almost stepped on a homeless guy sleeping in the stairwell once in a situation like this.
This is really a guy problem though. All the women I know have purses, so they’re able to carry a pocket flashlight, and don’t ever have to hike ten flights of stairs in the pitch black.