Monday, March 15, 2010

Quote the Raven – “Not Again!”

If you close your eyes at night, Chiclayo becomes a town of barking dogs, motos laboring to some unknown destination, and the plastic whistle of the neighborhood vigilante, the purpose of which I’m told is to drive fear into the hearts of anyone contemplating thievery and also to signal those paying him that he is indeed being vigilant. But mostly barking dogs. The roofs are full of dogs. Dogs of all sizes and shapes. They bark often, usually at other dogs who have the audacity to invade their territory, but often for no apparent reason…at least not for a reason that’s apparent to me. Maybe they’re trying to uphold the cultural thing. Noise and Latin America are inseparable.

I bought a pair of ear plugs at Sodimac several days ago. See, there’s this place…Maribel calls it a restaurant but it plays loud music and packs in lots of young people so I don’t think it’s a restaurant. Anyway, every Sunday afternoon at about 3:00pm they start with the music (which I call noise). It continues until about 3:00am Monday morning. Imagine that folks!...a solid twelve hours of prevent-me-from-reading-and-later-from-sleeping music (which I call noise), and all for free! This ‘restaurant’ is located five blocks from our apartment. Five blocks, and yet the music (which I call noise) is so loud that I literally have to use ear plugs to read or sleep. The ear plugs work fine. True…they’re joined by a cord that sometimes pulls one or both of the plugs out of my ears as I turn while sleeping, but the thirty seconds it takes me to make things right again is a small price to pay. And I don’t believe the cord is long enough to strangle me in my sleep, as Maribel warns is sure to happen.

Shortly after the noise (which I don’t call music) stops, the chickens take over. I always thought chickens crowed to ‘greet the new day’. To my knowledge there isn’t even a hint of ‘new day’ at 3:00am. I’m convinced they do it simply to avoid the danger of a possible period of tranquility. They keep it up even beyond the time when motos, taxies and myriad other noise makers have marshaled and deployed their full force. I think Chiclayo must have a NO SILENCE regulation. But the ear plugs have proven successful…until very recently.

Now there’s a new assault on peace. Maribel’s son Brian has discovered rap – that thing that only serves to prove we humans have not progressed far from the caves. Hour after hour I am forced to listen to – dah dah da da duh, dah dah da da duh, dah dah da da duh, dah dah da da duh. Because the enemy is within, even the ear plugs don’t completely shut it out. And so tonight, out of pure frustration and perhaps retaliation, I stalked into the kitchen where Brian was regaling Maribel with his latest rap creation, and wearing my pants down nearly to my knees (as cool rappers do); with sunglasses and a baseball cap worn backwards I recited as loud as I could Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” to a rap rhythm. Please don’t judge me too harshly. I’ve tried to stand up under the constant onslaught, but this latest invasion has finally and completely beaten me down. I’m sorry Edgar.



  1. Hi Tom,

    You are right about the noise level in Peru. The silence in my old neighborhood is one of the things I miss the most about the US. Here in Miraflores, I live in a five story building of apartments. There are two little girls in the apartment below and two little boys in the apartment on my floor. I hear everything these four children say and acream, and I also hear their cries when it's time to go to bed, or they have to eat food they don't like. Fortunately, I also hear them laughing and playing, and that brightens a day.

    Childrens' voices are not the real problem. I could stay forever in this apartment if that were the only source of noise. The biggest problem are the adults who turn on radios at high volume at 6am, who honk their carhorns in front of the building at all hours of the day or night, or who play loud music in all-night parties. Our neighbor on the fifth floor has a preference for parties that end with breakfast at 7am, and only at that time, does he lower the volume (doesn't turn it off) of his salsa music.

    One day, when the stillness and emptiness of the streets in my old neighborhood made me unhappy, I nicknamed the place "Death Valley". As I write this note, I hear several of my neighbors' conversations, the sound of somebody's washing machine, and the news on the radio in someone else's apartment. Death Valley never seemed a more welcoming and appealing place!

    My mother, who lives in a 1100 square meter property in La Molina, with her house surrounded by gardens on all four sides, also must endure traffic sounds and all night parties. She's lived there for forty years and is convinced, as I have become too, that things will be the same always. Fortunately, I have found enough of other good things about life in Peru to make the experience a positive one, overall.

    Thank you for writing so well about one of the topics that, literally, keep me up at night!


  2. Although we have had to bear up with a LOT of noise in other places we lived in SA; Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua; here in Los Organos, Piura, Peru, we have gotten into a real nice setting.

    We are only two blocks from the central plaza and market, but being a small town, semi tourist, the expected noise is just not there! Surprise!

    Kitty corner to us is also a large grade school, but again the only time we really notice the noise from there is on Mondays, the day of 'saludo a la bandera.

    All in all a great place to live. It would be nice to have one room with air conditioning, though!

    David and Lin