Life here is different.For one thing, we live with our windows open. In fact, everyone does.It’s pretty much a necessity because of the heat. Because no one has air-conditioning for the most part, the windows stay open to catch the breezes that blow through.A by-product of this way of life, though, is the noise. Back in our house in Phoenix, we rarely heard much from the outside world. Sure, you’d hear loud things—the freeway, the occasional ambulance, or pool party next door.But here, we hear everything. Here are five things we hear on any given day:
- Roosters. That’s right. Roosters. There’s one next door, one down the street, one the next street over…it’s like every other house has one and here’s the thing about roosters: they don’t just crow in the morning. They crow All. The. Time. Is it 4 in the morning? There’s one crowing. Midnight? Yup. Another one’s crowing. 2:00 in the morning? 3:00 in the afternoon? The answer is always yes. And they have some sort of chain-letter system because whenever one crows, you inevitably hear another bird respond a few seconds later. They are loud. They’ve got an intricate communication system. And they never let you forget they’re there.
- Dog Fights. There are a lot of dogs here. There are a lot of dogs in the States too, I realize, but you don’t really see them like you see the dogs here. In the States, you see dogs when they’re being walked or in designated dog places or the occasional stray. And you can tell the difference what with the prevalence of collars in the US (dogs—owned or not—don’t usually have collars here). In PNG culture, there really isn’t such a thing as an ‘inside’ dog. And for good reason since most of the dogs here have lice or fleas and what not due to the non-existence of veterinarians. So the end result is quite a few dogs, many on the brink of starvation even if people own them if food happens to be scarce, roaming around the streets and occasionally picking a fight with each other. The up side is that my kids get to see all kinds of dogs all the time! But at night especially, you hear it when there are dog fights.
- The Neighbors. You might think your neighbors are noisy, but trust me—everyone is noisy when everyone’s windows are open. We’re noisy. You can hear everything from neighbors laughing or yelling to cooking or singing or calling out to each other—you can hear everyone. My favorite is when one of our neighbors invites their church choir over and they sing until late into the night. The domestic disputes are one of my least favorites. But hearing my neighbors sing or laugh at night is actually one of the things I like best about living with our windows open. It makes me want to laugh or sing more on the off chance it makes someone else as happy as it makes me.
- The Birds. We’ve already covered roosters because they deserved their own line item, but every bird is loud when the windows are open. The hundreds of bats nesting in an enormous tree a block away kept us up at night and woke us up in the morning our first week here. Before I came here, I associated hearing birds singing with a peaceful retreat somewhere, but here they are the soundtrack to our lives. Sometimes, this is a good thing. Other times, not so much. Where are you supposed to talk on the phone if the kids are playing in the front room and the birds are too loud for you to understand the other person on the line in the back room? And then you’ve got the ones that mimic the sounds of a lawnmower or my phone ringing or the one that sits right outside of our window and bellows its song late at night when we’re trying to fall asleep.
- The Ups and Downs of Electricity. Recently, our power here has been near-constant which has been fantastic. But when the power goes out, regardless if you are inside or outside, you know. You know because of two things: 1) everything gets very still. No constantly-running fans trying to desperately to take the edge off the humidity-drenched heat, no refrigerators or washing machines running. Nothing. This is especially true if it goes off in the middle of the night. The sheer quietness is actually what wakes us up if the power goes off at 3:00 int he morning–the resulting heat keeps us that way. 2) the generators kick on. Not everyone has generators here—most don’t. But you hear the loud hum when the ones that do, be they next door or a block away, kick on. There happens to be one at the apartment complex across the street from our flat as well as the large house of the family that owns many of the stores in town just down the street. If you’re outside and hear one of those generators kick on, you know that you’ve just lost power. But the opposite also holds true! If the power has been out for, say, six hours, and the generators kick off, not only do you know that electricity has emerged victorious once again, but you also hear the cheers of pretty much every neighbor within hearing distance! The communal bond felt during one of these times reminds me of back home when the traffic on the freeway finally starts moving again after being stopped still for an hour and the people you’ve recently befriended through bewilderment and frustration share your joy. Back when the power was super-inconsistent all throughout the night you would hear the joyful shouts resound from every house within hearing distance whenever it came back on.
Besides that, it’s just your typical listening-to-Oliver-make-sounds-until-he-falls-asleep downstairs or hearing the guard clear his throat at midnight or play the same Kenny G. song over and over again on his phone. It’s a different culture.I suppose these new ways of life could either be placed in the culture-half-empty cup or the culture-half-full cup, depending on how you look at it. It’s taken seven months, but not only have we grown used to new sounds of our life, we’ve grown quite fond of them. In any culture and with anything different, it is simply what you make of it. You embrace the roosters with the laughter, if you will.I suppose there is only one way to end this blog post….So from the land of chain link backyard fences and open-louvered windows, take it from us; somewhere in the world, a rooster is always crowing.