Sounds of Silence

I remember lying on my back in the high grass watching clouds through the apple trees, crickets chirping, birds singing, dogs barking once in a while far away and very faintly some cars driving by.

That was the sound setting when we arrived at our house in León, Nicaragua. The same peaceful suburban village sounds from my childhood. It seemed like peace and quiet to us, who we were dulled by Berlin’s four-lane streets and two tram tracks running right through our bedroom, disturbed only by occasional police sirens and government helicopters.

How beautifully different it sounded here, cocks and hens playing, the sound of pigs and horses being fed. How calm compared to the howler monkeys we got used to in the jungle. The neighbor’s radio and occasional Nokia ringtones (hardly heard any more in Berlin) were easily ignored. How nostalgic the ice-cream man sounded driving by with his ringing bike! And horse carriages instead of cars, accompanied by chanting from the church across the street.

Still the first night we hardly got any sleep. What first sounded so romantic accumulates and turned out to be very disturbing to our subconscious ears. Nicaraguan roosters seem to be overly cautious and cry through the whole night. Only the barking dogs had more stamina – and every house seems to have one. The number of saints requiring a “gigantonia” to be carried through the streets accompanied by drums is staggering. At first we ran to the gate to watch every time we heard a parade. Now we don’t even notice them anymore. Just like we were wondering what these constant sirens meant that sounded like world war II bomb alerts. Now, I can’t even tell if they subsided.

Today, we don’t wake up from the 5 am garbage truck anymore or the muezzin-like salesman going from house to house night and day. And we hardly notice this Spanish speaking Hitler ­ or whoever is yelling from these gigantic loudspeakers strapped on the back of those duct-taped pick-up trucks like in a pre-radio era. Only shortly we prick our ears when a chicken is chased by our dog. Then silence returns.

Except for the wtf 300 beats-per-minute ADHS church bells that sound like a hyperactive kid playing the drum on a saucepan right next to your pillow at 6 am and 6.15 am and 6.30 am.

Other than that, it’s quiet again – just like in Berlin.

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