For almost 2 years, I lived in a village in Zambia as a Peace Corps volunteer. In that village, there is no electricity or running water. Having no electricity means that there is no light pollution and the night sky there is absolutely stunning. There are stars and galaxies that I'd never seen until I lived there. By far the most amazing sight is the full moon. She seems so much larger and closer there. Full moon nights still make me miss those days in the village.
In the village, moving around at night is more dangerous, because of snakes and other harmful critters, like drunks stumbling their way home or speeding bicycles without headlights. Part of our Peace Corps training was all about the importance of staying inside at night. (Both of the snake bites that happened to volunteers in Zambian were at night, so it is understandable that they were wary. They'd been lucky both times and they had survived, but there is always a moment when the luck runs out.)
When I first moved in to the village, I'd get a bit anxious just before sunset because I didn't like being shut up all night. I had accepted it into my routine and was normally finished with eating and bathing by 6pm so that I could be inside when it got dark. I'd use the pit latrine for the last time and if I absolutely HAD to go at night, I had a bucket (like a chamber pot but with a lid). After about 3 months there, I would go completely stir crazy just before sunset every day. There was a group of 20 kids that were always at my house throughout the day whenever they didn't have school or other chores to do. At some point, I realized that the kids weren't freaking out about being home before dark, so I calmed down a bit and let some of the girls from next door hang out with me until their mom called them for dinner at 7pm.
That one evening changed my entire outlook on night in the village. I was more relaxed about the dark and a few nights later when I heard the drumming next door, I wandered over to see what was going on. I was lucky enough to have flashlights, so I could see things just fine and I carefully searched for snakes on the path. I discovered that whenever there is a full moon, there is an impromptu party in the village. It's like suddenly having street lights, so people can see well enough to move around and visit friends after dinner. Someone will always start drumming on empty water containers and there is dancing and story-telling around the fire and lots of laughing. I didn't understand most of the stories or jokes, but I understood the sense of
joy and camaraderie that went with them.
It became my full moon tradition to go to my next door neighbor's house and hang out with the girls that lived there. Their mother laughed at my very child-like Bemba skills, but she was nice to me and she understood that her girls were my best friends and teachers. I would bring over some popcorn or they would boil some groundnuts to share. Most of the other kids and their parents would wander through at some point and we always had so much fun.
Full moon time was always my favorite time and I think of them every month when the moon is full. It also reminds me not to be afraid of the unknown. As long as you have a few friends to venture into the dark with, you're bound to find that the things you fear aren't so scary any more. You may even find yourself dancing in the moonlight!