So I believe I mentioned in an earlier blog that one of the first things that I noticed about Botswana was how quiet it is here. This is very true. BUT it is true in a weird sort of way—it is so quiet that it’s actually incredibly noisy. Kind of in the same way that you only hear a leaky faucet at night. Normally the sounds of everyday life like the TV, radio, vacuum, computer, voices, etc., would drown out something so soft, but at night once those sounds have died down, you suddenly find yourself plagued by the nagging drip…drip…drip…drip. Well, it is rather similar here. You see, there is no traffic sound, few electronic sounds (in fact, on many nights since I’ve arrived in Shakawe the power has been out) and no insulation in the cement block housing to muffle noises. So out of the silence created when one settles in for bed, arises a cacophony of the more subtle sounds, which would go unnoticed in most living situations in the States. Add to this that your sense of hearing seems heightened in the pitch black of night—just as the quiet is very quiet, without street lamps and little VCR lights blinking relentlessly, the dark is very dark—and that there are an array of noises that are not common in most parts of the States, or at least not common all at once, and the end result is that it is actually quite noisy.
So, what are the sounds that make Shakawe feel like a city that never sleeps? Here are a few—which, for the record, are frequently happening simultaneously:
Hippos (I don’t know how to explain this sound, but am quite sure that there must be some sort of audio clip somewhere on youtube, or whatever internet medium that has sprouted up and taken over since the two months that I’ve been away…I suggest checking it out)
Roosters cock-a-doodle-doo-ing (they go all night), and chickens scratching around (yes, you can actually hear when a chicken is walking by your house at night; that’s how quiet it is)
Dogs barking (sometimes terrifyingly aggressive, with growling and howling, other times more recreationally)
Donkeys braying (also happens all night, although less frequently than the roosters)
House music and revelers from parties and bars
Crickets and other harmonious bugs
Mice/rats squeaking and running around
Whatever my nighttime creature is, scuttling around my room (I have decided it is a rare African Nocturnal Lizard. Although I have no evidence to back this up, and in fact much evidence to contradict this fact, it is what I have decided, and have named him Reynold, in order to avoid thinking about the fact that it could in fact be something more precarious. I don’t want to see any replies saying that there is no such thing as an African Nocturnal Lizard. Don’t take this from me.)
And my personal favorite, angry cow moos. They don’t like it when they are awakened. So they wake everyone else up out of spite. People often underestimate how spiteful cows can be.
So, my friends, that is what Botswana (or at least Shakawe) sounds like tonight. For the record, this was written at 2am, and at the moment, I can literally hear each of the sounds listed above (actually, Reynold already paid me a visit tonight and seems to have left, or is taking a nap, which is not especially nocturnal of him). There may be other sounds that I can’t think of at the moment, because I’m so preoccupied with the ones occurring at the moment, but I think you get the drift.
Oh, and for the record, despite the fact that I don’t have a faucet, and won’t be seeing any of my beloved rain for another 9 months or so (sigh), I still have a drip. The large water filter that the Peace Corps gave me when we left for site is quite possibly THE slowest water filter in the world (I believe the package said it filters at the rate of 1 liter per hour—actually), (oh, and incidentally, it also has quite possibly the best [in a so-terrible-it’s-awesome sort of way] slogan ever imprinted on it: it says “drink and thrive”…get it? Yeah, it’s an actual pun which seems to make light of “drink and drive”…wow…great marketing…), so whenever I fill it up, I get a serious case of the drip-drip’s all night long. (Thanks again, SO much, for the nice, FAST, better-tasting water filter, Dad!!!).
Anyway…I’m going to try to get some sleep. Oh, but I must now add a new noise to the list—I think it might be bats? Hmm. Oh well…enjoy your highly insulated and mechanically-produced aural numbness to the world while I try to telepathically explain to the roosters that they’re only supposed to crow in the morning, AFTER the sun is up.
P.S. Umm…if you want to hear something amazing…try to find this song…I don’t know what it’s called, but I think it’s South African, and it’s literally written around the whole falling-from-heaven-must-have-hurt-because-you’re-an-angel pick-up line. There can’t be many songs like it; I’m sure it can’t be that had to find on the interweb. It’s pretty fantastic (again, in a so terrible-it’s-awesome sort of way). Oh, or the “Marry Me, Marry Me” song. I don’t know what either of them are called but they’re slowly seeping into my head and ruining my life! Ok, goodnight for real now!