Quick! What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Indonesia?!
I bet it wasn’t LOUD, was it? If so, you’re probably a Peace Corps volunteer.
This country is so damn noisy. It’s almost inescapable. It’s difficult to concentrate or think clearly sometimes when it’s nearly impossible to get a snippet of silence. There’s constantly interruptions. This doesn’t have to do with sounds, but just now, my host sister told me to move because she wanted to mop the floor [where I was sitting]. When one thinks of a village, or at least before I lived in a village, I invented some peaceful, serene, rural, maybe mountainous, clear sky, fresh air, communal-like semi-Utopian place where everyone knows one another, a place where one can escape the bustling city and its invasive sounds. Most, if not all of this, at least in my case, is utterly salah or false. Other villages perhaps are what I naively imagined, but hey, I can’t have my cake and eat it too. Usually when I write these posts, I plop on my big headphones to drown out the dreadfully constant earsplitting CLICKINGpopPOPclicking sounds of motorcycles, but for this special post I think I’ll skip the calming voice of Stevie Nicks and endure.
I had a realization yesterday after returning home from a strenuous bike ride with another PCV Natasha. I had brought home with me a massive headache that forced me into bed by 6pm. A few hours later I awoke around 10:30p, and couldn’t go back to sleep for a while, so I read. At that moment, I experienced silence. Pure silence. It was glorious. No mosques, no motorcycles, no wailing babies, no Javanese words being exchanged outside of my door and windows, no screeching roosters, in fact, all of the birds/chicks—sleeping. Just sir silence himself and I. Glorious.
Right now even, I don’t think I could count to 5 without being interrupted. Let’s do a 30-second sound check. I’m going to count to 30 and list every sound I hear: mosque, sneeze, motorcycle, firecrackers, motorcycle, firecrackers, grasshoppers, television, truck, firecracker, motorcycleX10, conversations, honking, someone spitting
Given it’s Ramadan, the mosques are basically blaring prayers, simultaneously bouncing off of one another, all day long, and not only that, but people are always on the move because it’s a month-long holiday. I’ve been meaning to tally up what I hear within a 5-minute time span, not to mention count how many motorcycles go by my house within a brief timeframe.
(August 29, 2011 @ 4:30-4:35p)
# motorcycles: 46
# honks: 7
# roosters yelping: 6
# truck: 1
-baby chicks chirping
-revving and clicking of motorcycle engines
-the wind rustling the leaves
So that wasn’t even bad, that wasn’t even the worst of it. What’s bad is when the neighbors set up the massive speakers and blast dadun (combination of traditional Javanese and pop music) and force the entire village to listen, for whatever occasion, be it a wedding, or just for fun. That’s when I start to grit my teeth with frustration. The mosques and call to prayers in the mornings, I don’t mind, I can sleep through that, some times I even feel the urge to sing along with the recordings! When they let the anak kecil “recite” prayers that really means they scream and speak little kid jibber-jabber, that’s when I can feel beads of blood begin to stew within, just a bit. Back in Charlottesville, residents in the Belmont neighborhood were complaining to City Council to increase sound regulations because restaurants with live music were starting to flourish in what was once a quiet part of town. Oh, those residents would DIE here! PS What’s sound regulation? What the proper decibel? Indonesians sure haven’t gotten on that train yet. Some Americans would call these annoyances “inconsiderate” but a PCV must dub it “cultural integration”.
An hour later (5:30-5:35p), minutes before magrip, or the prayer that commences breaking the fast, sound check:
# of motorcycles: 60
# of honks: 14
-shuffling flip flops
-gasoline bottles clinking
-wailing baby across the street
-generator that runs the sugarcane juicer
There was no question when I arrived in Indonesia, that it was pertinent for my mental health to invest in some high quality headphones and ditch the dinky Apple ear buds that I had been using for so many years.
Happy Birthday to me, new Sennheiser headphones!
And if any of these sounds seemed a bit irritating to you, I have only scratched the surface I haven’t mentioned the roosters that occasionally squawk like suffering carnivorous dinosaurs or in the words of PCV Tim “Well, there’s one across the street from my school that sounds like a pig being slaughtered…” or the neighborhood children…and their endless supply of fireworks…
sometimes I feel like this… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0P4A1K4lXDo