We've been here in Mexico for a week now and we are still adjusting. Everything is different - the food, the language, the weather, and the culture. Add to that the exhaustion from travel and sheer excitement of a major adventure and you've got a recipe for some major meltdowns. Aside from that, I think the kids are having a great time. There's lots of sunshine, time outdoors and delicious food.
Perhaps the most overwhelming difference is in the sounds we are surrounded by. The language itself creates a different auditory ambiance, but really that's just the beginning. With the warm days and cool nights, we usually have many open windows allowing fresh air in - along with all the sounds of our neighborhood.
In the evenings when we turn out the lights and settle in to sleep there is a cacophony keeping us awake. There are dogs barking - and when one starts barking, the sound travels down the street like dominoes until there are dozens of dogs barking. The feral cats have intense brawls on the roof to defend their territory. The ravine behind our house is full of chirping and creaking insects and lizards. One lizard in particular sounds like someone loudly knocking on the door. Across the way, the neighbors have sheep that bleat loudly. Last time we were here Leo was terrified of the bleating sheep and would cry at bedtime. The river at the bottom of the ravine adds it's own aquatic rushing sound as background. Most nights there is crashing thunder, the likes of which I've rarely heard in Philadelphia. Followed by raindrops pounding on corrugated metal rooftops. All combined it's positively deafening. Until we've been here a couple weeks, then it becomes a lullaby.
In the morning, before the light begins to stream in, the rooster across the ravine begins to crow. I used to think roosters crowed once a day. Not this one. He starts sometime around five am and keeps going until around eight. There is another bird that perches near our window that we fondly refer to as the "laughing bird" because it's song sounds so much like a hearty "Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha." Our own dogs bark greetings to every person that walks by the house. This is no small feat seeing as we live across from a bus stop and elementary school. Then there is the very distinct sound of brooms sweeping water as people clear their terraces after the nighttime rain.
The buses rumble by, cars blast salsa music and as the day wears on we hear the din of children enjoying recess and our neighbors shouting to each other from within their own house with open windows. After a while, it becomes easy to tune out most of the noise...but you have to be careful not to tune it all out because many of the sounds are quite important.
The garbage men ring what sounds like a cowbell - and you have to keep your ears peeled so you can run it out to them lest you get stuck with several days worth of garbage. The gas siren is perhaps more important depending on how you feel about cold showers and raw food. You can't ignore the thunder either, because it's your one warning before the sky opens up and drenches all the clothes and all those hours hanging in the sun will be wasted. Then there's the knife sharpener's whistle - not to be confused with the platanito (banana) and camote (sweet potato) vendor's whistle - that has us emptying out our utensil drawer to get a sharp edge on our knives from the bicycle wheel he travels with. When the doorbell rings it could be someone selling peanuts, sour cream and cheese, or asking to see if you have any shoes in need of repair. The ding-ding-ding of the triangle alerts us to the man that sells thin cylindrical cookies. Once you pay him you try your luck on the spinner he carries and that determines if you get a single cookie, ten or somewhere in between. One of the most welcome sounds is when we hear a familiar voice yelling "Tamales!" in a way that is both monotone and and sing-songy at once. When we hear that sound we scramble to gather some money and everyone's order before running out to the sidewalk hoping to catch him before he passes our house.
Soon enough we will be back in Philly and listening to sirens, traffic and the music of the ice-cream truck. Until then, I'll soak in the symphony of Juiquilpan.