Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Sounds of South America...

We arrived to the house we thought we would be living in this year on Thanksgiving. It is an old colonial style with very loud acoustics (we have since learned). Quito is really beautiful-it nestles up against Volcano Pichincha, and the city has been well-preserved and renovated such that "Old Town" is one of UNESCO's World Heritage sites.

I am frequently reminded that I am a foreigner because of my sensitivity to noise here. In Bolivia, the packs of street dogs would wake me up-usually the night before I had to get up really early and spend a long day in the field-and there were nights when I literally wanted to go out and send them all to doggie heaven. When we got to Lima, one of the first things we noticed in the hotel where we were staying was how quiet it was. That didn't last long. Once we found a place to live (and work from), silence was gone. Alarms go off at the businesses near our house, and the one person with the code usually takes a good hour to arrive. There are regulated ice cream sellers who patrol the streets in their yellow uniforms with their yellow bikes and close to the world's most annoying whistles to let you know they are in the neighborhood with your favorite helado. I guess the good thing they've got going is that their particular whistle is associated with their product.

We had a couple day holiday a few weeks ago for the APEC summit in Lima. Meaning that for several days, the streets were strangely calm, as many roads were closed, and the public holidays took lots of Limenos out of town. But Monday morning after the holidays, the taxistas were out in full force, honking their horns extra long to make up for the lost time. Horn-honking is interesting here. There are short honks to get potential passengers' attentions; long, drawn-out honks that I could never imagine doing in the States-usually in traffic so bad that nobody could go anywhere anyways; and the multi-honk when a bus or other taxi starts to drift over into your lane. You also have to honk when you come up to any intersection because nobody follows the traffic laws. I was commenting to a Peruvian friend who works in Bolivia that Peruvians take the cake for horn-honking; her reaction surprised me as she said, " I know, in Bolivia nobody honks and I am always scared coming up to an intersection."

Yesterday morning around 5, folks in our neighborhood were on their way after partying all night. One man, who sounded like he was in our room, professed his love at the top of his lungs for a good thirty minutes. YO TE QUIERO.....YO TE QUIERO.....when he finally put himself to bed, a group of men began fighting in the street. To make things worse, our friends were headed off for a day trip, and their driver was robbed by the group of drunks fighting in the wee hours.

As we headed home from a tasty Cuban dinner last night, the techno music that is usually just background noise here was in full force on our street. Sort of the equivalent of a block party in the States...except this block party lasted until 6:04 a.m. My very tranquilo husband who usually doens't get his dander up about anything, was up all night trying to figure out how he could cut the electricity.

Things settled down after 6:04 a.m. and I foresee several naps in our future today.....

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