Thursday, July 23, 2009

Last One Out of China, Please Switch Off the Sun.

Yesterday morning, it did feel like the sun was switched off for a brief moment in time. Probably you may know from the news coverage of it, that the century's longest solar eclipse covered a fair portion of Asia that day, running between the Indian coast, over the Himalayas, through China, and off into the Pacific Ocean. The upper edge of the 'totality' (area where the sun is completely covered) passed perhaps ten miles south of Nanjing, so I was able to witness the effects, if not at their greatest power.

Unfortunately, the skies were shrouded as I awoke yesterday morning, and a serious thunderstorm approached the city at the same time as the eclipse neared completion in Eastern China. The doors on the upper deck of my 25-story apartment building were locked, just in case the weather had permitted us to watch the event. I leaned out my window as winds whipped over the trees, and the city began to darken as if dusk approached. Street lights sprang on; the city skyline, including its almost completed super-skyscraper, Greenland Plaza, lit up within as myriad office workers were forced to turn on the overhead lights. For a period of about five minutes, the skies approximated the darkness of about 7 or 8 PM, just short of true night. The ominous cloud hanging over the park just across the street became ever more sinister in appearance. Then, suddenly, it was like a giant hand had begun to turn up the 'dimmer'. Moment by moment, the day had returned, if still under storm clouds. Several minutes passed, and the city lights turned off, whether automated or by the irritated hands of coffee-crazed interns. And the heavens let loose a monsoonal downpour that drenched the streets in inches of rainwater. I'm not sure if the eclipse had any bearing on the weather, but it certainly made the moment more dramatic.

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