Sun Outages

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When we were newly in India, and back at Ajay Guesthouse, the television was a thing of great fascination for us. It seemed unnecessarily and indiscriminately fickle. (For one thing, our choice in non-Bollywood fare was limited to the news, HBO, and the Hindi-dubbed Disney Channel, which we soon began referring to as “All Hannah Montana, all the time.”) Of these channels, none seemed to have as many quirks as CNN, which was prone to skipping, stuttering, and freezing. The reason for this was announced one day, apologetically, at the bottom of the screen: “We are experiencing some technical problems due to sun outages.”

Sun outages? Ironically, these problems were not confined to the nighttime hours. Perhaps during the day, when the sun was “out” in the US, this was a problem? We never got an explanation of this term, but since then we have blamed all of our television woes on these elusive outages.

There was the time we woke up, turned on the TV, and flipped through our cache of English-speaking channels, only to find different channels in their places. All of our news channels had been replaced with Hindi MTV, HBO was gone, and Hannah Montana had been relocated dozens of channels away from where she normally resided. Mystified, we turned the TV off and then on again. The same story. Feeling somewhat betrayed, we began our day without our customary dose of news from the outside world.

That evening, things were inexplicably back to normal. “Sun outage,” we concluded.

Here at Green Hills Cottage, sun outages occur at the least helpful moments. One evening, Nathaniel and I were watching “Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader.” The contestant had given his answer, the music was getting louder, and the suspense was building. We were on the edge of our seats. The host said, “That answer is ––” and then, static. Frantically, we flipped various power switches to try and revive it, but to no avail. As if to mock us, the program came back on fifteen minutes later, a new contestant on the stand. We will never know what tripped up the first guy.

One of the programs we are really enjoying (whenever we happen to catch it on) is called “Beauty and the Geek.” Have you seen this show? It’s a reality show of the Big Brother variety (i.e. the contestants live together in the same house, face challenges, and vote each other off), but the contestants are in teams: one “beauty” (former Hooters waitress; bikini model; sorority girl), with one “geek” (Trekkie; video game addict; MIT grad). The challenges are gender specific, with the women tested intellectually, and the men tested socially. Our favorite episode to date found the women studying to be informative tour guides at an Air and Space museum (“That’s sputnik right there… no, wait, that’s sputnik. Sputnik is a… satellite…”). The men were presented with easels and a naked model, and, 20 minutes later, were dumbstruck when the challenge turned out to be remembering details from the monologue the woman had given while posing. Most of them fumbled the first question, “What was the model’s name?”

We have missed pieces of this show due to sun outages, as well, but we are hoping to find complete seasons when we get back to the States!

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