Saturday, January 25, 2014

The soundtrack of our lives

   I think I'll have to make some sound files as keepsakes of our time here before we head back to Canada this spring.
    The blog posts, the photos, the videos – sure, they’ll all keep the memories alive. But an audio clip of all the noises that go on outside our door every day would probably be the thing that would instantly bring me back to this kitchen table, where the soundtrack of daily life is the rumble of cars a foot away from our front door, the BROO-broo-broo-broo-broo barking of the dog next door, the blaring television from the house across the street where we’re certain a deaf man must live.
    It’s the toddler two doors down having one of his usual tantrums, and the stressed mother down the way bellowing “Callete!” – “Shut up!” – at her worried looking little two-year-old. It’s the snatches of conversation of people passing by, mostly talking in animated Spanish but occasionally in that distinct way that, even when you can’t make the words out, makes both Paul and I look up and cry, “Gringos!”
    It’s an  injured-animal call that the kids do here for fun – the sound of a dog right after it’s been hit by a car or beaten, a cat trapped on a roof. The kids fake the animals’ desperate cries so perfectly that it never fails to shake me up. It’s a vibrating bass line thumping out of the disco two blocks away, and an enthusiastic evangelical church service that our neighbours sometimes organize in their garage, replete with much religious rapture. It’s the guy with the bad starter trying to get his car to turn over, and the neighbour with the makeshift tin door on his garage dragging it out of the way every morning as he leaves for work at 4:30 a.m.
    In this moment, I am hearing the dog Hegel tormenting the fuzzy dog behind the fence, a scene that plays out at least twice a day. Hegel is free and Fuzzy is stuck behind bars, and Hegel never tires of reminding the poor thing of that fact. In the distance I hear a moto-taxi labouring to climb the hill near here, and the little boy next door – a terrible brat a year ago, always howling indignantly – asking in the nicest possible way if his grandfather would like to play with him.
    I had to wear ear plugs every night in our first weeks here to try to tune out the endless din. (OK, not really endless – most nights, Copan Ruinas falls deathly still between 1-4 a.m.) And the roosters! Whoever fed us that story of roosters crowing at dawn has clearly never lived in a small Latin American town, where the birds crow with gusto at whatever hour they please. The strangled, discordant sound that emerges from their straining throats sounds nothing like “cock-a-doodle-doo,” and each one seems calculated to provoke a chorus of equally hoarse calls from every rooster within hearing range.
    I know I’ll miss the grackles – big, black shiny birds that emit the most amazing whistles, pops, and complicated lines of chatter every morning from our roof top, their beaks pointed straight up to the sky like sentinels. Were I at any risk of sleeping in – as if that would be possible, when the whole world begins its noisy day here well before 6 a.m., with mighty throat clearings and the honk of car horns to beckon someone from their house, the scrape of tin on asphalt as that damn makeshift garage door is dragged out of the way – the sound of grackles would be sure to rouse me.
    The firecrackers and gun shots – well, I hadn’t expected to get used to them, but I have. Sometimes I think I’m getting better at telling one from the other, but who knows? There are still mornings when I curse the Honduran birthday custom of letting off firecrackers at 4 or 5 a.m., I admit, but at least now I fall back to sleep quickly instead of lie there cursing the early wakeup. And on the rare occasion when a mariachi band shows up as well to fete the birthday person, I kind of like it.
    I still crave silence sometimes, the kind that only insulated windows, doors that go all the way to the floor and a 50-foot setback from the street will get you. But I’ll be back soon enough in the land of noise bylaws and closed windows. I expect I’ll miss the sound of life. 


Laurie said...

After living almost seven years in Honduras, I am in New Orleans for an extended break. I find it disquieting to be in a place where it's quiet, sometimes. Life seems slower, older and quiet here. In Honduras, the streets are vibrant, the towns full of young people, and of course, the air full of noise. In North America, these things are not the norm. Enjoy the sounds of life while you can.

who doesn't miss the gunfire and fireworks

Ian Lidster said...

I've often thought of recording the sounds on my various travels. I'd like to hear the tram bells on the street below our room in Grenoble once again, and the thundering surf on Rarotonga that sounded like a 747 taking off.

Glen said...

Once again, Jody you nailed it. The sounds you describe could be identical to our little Mexican town! Thanx for the smiles!