I teach English at a primary school in rural China, in a mountainous village three-plus hours away from anything that remotely resembles a city (I’m actually closer to the border of Burma/Myanmar than to the nearest Chinese city). And sometimes, teaching English in such a remote location really means dropping off the face of the planet.
For one month my village had no electricity: no cellphone, no laptop, no lights. Having no power for a month also meant no communication with the outside world, unless I found a way to train the local pigs to become my little messengers (although towards the end of the month, we were able to get power back in the classroom—thank goodness for cellular data).
So, I lived without power for a month, and here’s what I learned (and how I fared):
Doing everything by candlelight isn’t so bad.
From brushing your teeth to writing lesson plans and everything in between, you really can do everything in the dark. Conserving your electronics becomes broken down into an art form. Really, it should be acceptable to put this in the ‘skills section’ of your resume. Tip: Turning off wifi, data, and dimming your iPhone all the way down really give it an extra day or two of battery life.
The best way to catch up on all your sleep deprivation is to simply go without power for month.
I’m pretty sure I have always been slightly sleep deprived since junior high, given the busyness high school and college entailed. This busyness, compounded with the distractions of Netflix, Facebook, Pinterest (I admit, I am addicted), and the other million-and-one electronic distractions, how can you go to bed at a reasonable hour? I got the best amount of sleep since the glory days of nap times being mandated into the regular school day (oh, pre-school) when I wasn’t able to access any of these distractions. That, and the fact that it becomes acceptable to go to bed at 8 PM; by the time the sun sets and everything grows pitch black by 7:30 PM, your internal clock rearranges in such a way that you’ll think it’s 10 PM, and be ready to crawl into your giraffe onesie for bed.
We’re a lot more creative than we think.
I learned how to teach 44 rambunctious third graders in the dark (investing in 44 pairs of headlamps was a lifesaver), how to take outdoor showers in pitch-black darkness (re: #1), and so much more. When we find ourselves in these sticky situations we really can’t get out of, we are somehow able to unearth that creative gene in us and find a way to function (with perhaps a few bumps and bruises from feeling our way around).
We’re also a lot braver (and tougher).
Really. Seeing my third graders go about their daily lives—walking to and from school (and mind you, our school is on a mountain), studying, etc.—all in the dark, and without any complaint really proves how resilient we as human beings can be. We overcome our fear of the dark, and the noises that used to make our skin crawl. The big, dark mysterious unknown no longer becomes big and dark (although maybe still mysterious).
And when we emerge from whatever challenge we faced, whether that be going a month without power or anything else in our lives, we learn of one more thing we can survive through, one more thing that proves our durability, one more thing that shows we are capable of doing something we never thought we could.
Sometimes, we get to know ourselves best through a long, uninterrupted time of simple self-reflection.
We live in a world filled with constant interaction, where the hustle and bustle in our everyday lives can sometimes make us forget to stop and think. There isn’t anything wrong in taking a few minutes in the day, or even the entire day, to simply stop and reflect: of who we are, of who we are becoming, of where we are, of where we want to go. I know I took advantage of my living-under-a-rock state to take the time to think: to think about the impact I have (or haven’t) made upon my kids, my attitude about moving to rural China, and how much I have changed since moving here, for better or for worse.
And when we’re going through times of hardship (re: #5), this uninterrupted time of self-reflection is all we need to remind ourselves of who we are, to take a deep breath, and keep moving forward with a clear picture in mind.
So after my month-long power hiatus, I learned that there are no nighttime monsters (despite the eight year-old in me believing otherwise), that you really can do everything in the dark, and that while I will never take advantage of having electricity or the Internet again, going a month-long without power isn’t so bad after all.
No power? No problem.