Looking at the Stars

by Joey Hesayne-Ayoub

Kristiny seemed to have been naturally drawn towards me, and I towards her. It would take me some time before I really understood why that was the case. All I knew at the time was that she was the 11 year-old daughter of the village president and that her sister, Sasa, 9, loved building sand castles everywhere, much to the annoyance of their mother.

It was my 5th day in the village and the sun suggested that it was around noon. The villagers took advantage of that part of the day’s intense heat to rest. Most spent it on the beach while others, in particular the very old, under the many palm trees’ shade.

I had barely become accustomed to this new lifestyle – my old one slowly but surely fading away. It had never occurred to me before that taking things slowly might have its advantages. I mean, it had but it was just me entertaining an interesting thought. I never allowed such a scenario to enter my stream of consciousness in any significant way.

A day in Ambohibola lasted for a very long time and was nearly always interesting. We all woke up with the rooster’s response to the sunrise, spent a full and productive day and slept whenever we felt like it. I was not bothering myself with anything that would require unnecessary effort all the while keeping a very active and as-far-from-lazy-as-possible lifestyle.

I didn’t have many books with me so I read a collection of poems by Pablo Neruda over and over again. When not reading, I was helping out in the kitchen or carrying water from a nearby well or going for a  swim in the ocean or shellfish hunting or petting the Zebus (cows) or debating social topics with Eirik, the Norwegian volunteer or fighting with King Julian, the annoying ring-tailed lemur.

But one activity really stood out from the others: watching the stars at night. Ambohibola had no electricity and was separated from the closest village by 14km of sand dunes. It should come as no surprise then that no light pollution were to be found at night. But the stars did surprise me, every night.

It was hard to accept the very reality of such a spectacular sight. Every corner of the sky was filled with white luminous dots of different intensity, most colliding in a long and large strip of light that form our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

I knew that the Milky Way contained between 200 and 400 billion stars and was around 100,000 light-years in diameter but seeing it with my own city-accustomed eyes left me in awe. It was an odd thing to remember that that phenomenon happened every night – we just forget about it because we can’t see it.

Honoring my newly-formed habit, I went near the Ocean when the sun died and sat down to watch the stars. A girl was sitting in my spot and had her legs barely touching the coming and going waves. It was Kristiny. I asked in my broken Malagasy if I could join her and she just smiled in response. I sat down next to her and soon lost myself in the stars.

We didn’t talk. We couldn’t even if we wanted to for language-related reasons. My Malagasy was too poor and her French even poorer. However, it soon became obvious that the language barrier didn’t matter. It was just an obstacle that we soon overcame to satisfy the need to connect with one another.

Nothing else happened. We just sat there for I don’t know how long and watched the stars. Pure silence gave me a new little sister and a relationship that would grow deeper and deeper while remaining utterly wordless.

Some moments later, we wished each other good night and went back to sleep.

Also found on CowBird

1 Comment

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  1. Nice story Joey, reminds me of the children and the song Arise and Shine Ambohibola, when i recall the kids singing the Swahili version kills me!!!

    Good stuff!!

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