Mornings in Bartica can be really, really nice. They can be gorgeous and tranquil, yet I have only recently figured this out. Let me explain.
Normally (i.e. last four months), waking up in the morning consists of any combination of or all of the following things (please keep in mind that here I find myself consistently measuring the volume level of music in terms of number of china wear I want to throw at my wall):
- Groups of roosters will crow for at least a half hour anytime between the hours of 2am and 7am (often 3-4 times a morning).
- A donkey will complain or have sex with another donkey and they will share this information with anyone inside a quarter mile radius.
- Our neighbours directly to the right of us (five families living in two houses) will turn on their music and play anything from Celine Deon, T-Pain, Busy Signal, Soca hits, Smooth 90s Jams (Boyz II Men included), or Oldies. They have speakers this size – see below photo – and the china wear count is usually anywhere between 1 or 2... hundred.
|From Pork Knocker Weekend|
- Our neighbours directly to the left of us (seven families living in three houses) who own a rum shop will turn on their music and play anything from Celine Deon, T-Pain, Busy Signal, Soca hits, Smooth 90s Jams (Boyz II Men included), or Oldies. They have speakers this size – see above photo – and the china wear count is usually the same.
- After getting out of bed I notice that Bartica has already shut off the pipe water. I learn (again) that 6:30am is too late for tap water and I must take a bucket bath. But, what’s more is that there are dishes from dinner the night before to be washed because the water was off last night. Looks like they’ll have to sit there until the afternoon when the water comes back on... if it comes back on. Usually pipe water is shut off for 90% of the day.
- A blood curdling scream begins anytime between 5:30am and continues on and off until around 7pm. What I mean by saying “blood curdling” is this: imagine a 5-year-old girl who is throwing a tantrum. She does not want to bathe. In fact, if it were up to her, she would run around naked “like the doggies do” and cover herself in dirt “just like the doggies do.” And so, in defiance of her mother’s hygienically driven demand, the little girl decides to make the most excruciating, aggravating, and ear piercing scream that her little, yet powerful lungs can produce. Now, imagine a parrot sitting outside your window replicating that very scream over, and over, and over, and over again: all day.
- Finally, the day care children come trickling in from 7:30am to 8:30am. They are immeasurably cute, but they are babies. They cry, babble, poop in their pants (the smell rises with the heat of the morning sun), and they generally put the cherry on top of the ice cream of a morning full of screaming. You scream, I scream...
Yes, that was the routine every morning for the past four months. I honestly detested it. No, I hated it, loathed it with all my heart. There would be mornings where I would get up extra early to wash dishes, bathe, and do my laundry before the water cut out. And, while scrubbing my clothes on the wash board, I would turn and stare daggers of decapitation at the roosters squawking and gobbling like a senate full of idiots trying to legislate for something like “No Child Left Behind”. Then, I would turn towards that sorry excuse for a parrot and mumble verbal death threats to it, boasting about my effective punishment tactics like water boarding and pulling fingernails out with a pair of pliers. But, parrots don’t have fingers or fingernails, so I would become even angrier with him for making me feel stupid. If there weren’t droves of neighbors up and about at that hour, who knows what would have happened to Charles – named to remind me regularly of how easy it is for Mother Nature to put you in your place. But, what bothered me the most was that this cacophony was more difficult to tune out than the noises coming from a place like New York City. I mean, come on, if I can sleep like a baby even when someone is jack hammering the sidewalk outside the city that never sleeps, then why the hell can I not handle a few birds, some sweet jams, and a gaggle of pooping babies? It was a bit irritating, suffice it to say.
Yet, as things go, I eventually became habitualized to nearly all of the above mentioned. Sure, Charles continues to make me want to club baby seals, but I have manners enough to smile at him as he sits on our clothes line picking holes through the shoulders of my shirts. I cheerfully remind him that Exxon sells petrol to Guyana and accidents can always happen again. As far as the roosters, the loud music, the water, and the poop babies go, It has been almost two months since I have had trouble sleeping. To be clear, I have grown really fond of the house Peace Corps put us in and all the crazy activity that I once hated with all my being. What I thought would eventually drive me insane actually disappeared in the background of life down here. This demonstrated a part cultural integration I never thought I’d have so much difficulty reaching and then eventually succeed in. It felt great to finally feel “home” in my home! Consequently, every part of my daily routine became easier, less stressful, and more enjoyable: which definitely serves as a great example of what makes a house a home.
As it turns out, however, our employer decided otherwise. On a routine visit to our site, our Peace Corps safety and security officer deemed La Casa de Bartica Boys an unsafe place to house PCVs and so the hunt for a new house began: and boy did we luck out. Our VSO friend, Tessie, was finishing her service with the Department of Agriculture and heading back to the Philippines and we were able to swoop in and grab her apartment before anyone else could claim it. At double the rent, Peace Corps was happy to accommodate our choice. I won’t go into too much detail about the house except to say that every waking day has begun with a grin on our faces (i.e. a bathroom that is a part of our actual house, no pooping babies, no crowing roosters, and no Charles). The fact that we have tiled floors and a roof that doesn’t rain dust and mold on all our stuff is enough. And, even though we have been missing the musty and motley character of our old house, we are happily enjoying our new, less stressful residence. It is plumb. You should come and visit!
Our new address looks like this:
Christopher Olin, PCV
54 Fifth Avenue, Bottom Floor
Bartica, Region 7, Essequibo