The best hour of the day

One of my favourite parts about traveling in South Sudan is how quickly I become in tune with the rhythm of the day, a rhythm that is largely governed by the sun.

I wake up with the sunrise, and I am often asleep within two hours—and oftentimes less—of sunset. Back home, electricity and a whole host of other conveniences allow me to block out what is happening outside—I can burn the candle at both ends (at my peril) much more easily than I can here.

During the day, my activity is concentrated in the morning and late afternoon. After lunch, when it is hot, I am fine to sit in the shade and read a book or have a nap. It’s what other people are doing, after all. And it’s too hot to do anything else.

But the absolute best time of day is between 6 and 7 in the evening. The sun is setting so it is cool enough to be active. But it hasn’t set all the way so there’s still plenty of daylight to see by. As I walk through town, I am aware of all the football and basketball games that are going on. I smell the cooking fires that are preparing dinner. I hear the children running off their last bits of energy, and the creaking pedals of bicycles as people return home. The light comes at such an angle that is an excellent time to take pictures. You get a whole new perspective on something when the sunlight is not directly overhead, baking it in the sun. In some places I have stayed, this is the time of day to say evening prayer—to gather chairs in a circle in a yard somewhere and pray for the day that is passing and intercede for the world as it passes by. It is a beautiful liminal hour between day and night, between activity and rest, between the public world of our day-to-day existence and the private world of our home life.

Then the sun dips below the horizon. In the gathering gloom, the mosquitos come out, generators come on, and people head indoors. The rare electricity of the generator means that it is time to charge one’s electronic devices and flip on the television. It is good to see the news of the world, and I appreciate having a charged computer on which to write items such as this. But sometimes the artificial noise can become too much, so I step outside again, look up at the stars that are appearing, and start counting down until tomorrow’s late afternoon and the beautiful hour that is coming again.

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