Tuesday, August 26, 2008

What I can hear

I'm not kidding about the frogs. There is a persistent two-toned peeping from what sounds like dozens but is probably just a few frogs outside. They no longer keep me awake. I can hear a low-pitched hum rising and then transforming into white noise and then a new low-pitched hum and finally a rumble as a motorcycle drives up from the avenue, 500 meters down the hill, up the street wet with irrigation water, past the gate at the base of this street and up past my building to some higher, fancier-still highrise on this silent cul de sac. I hear popping sounds like machines turning off, from the laundry room, but no one has been here to run the laundry machines all day. I hear a heavy steel door closing on some other floor of the building -- there are many heavy doors, each with a cheesy aluminum key. I need to open at least four locks to get into my apartment from the street. I hear a car alarm - woodawoodawoo. woodawoodawoo. woodawoodawoo. And it's gone. Voices from a building up the hill. The night is windless as usually and sound carries out from a building, across the broad horseshoe of this street, across the little park in the middle of the horseshoe with its broad acacia tree and sleeping families of guacharacas, and in through the bars on the wide-open, screen-free windows.

This city has somewhere between 3 million and 6 million people, depending on who is counting. And to hear both barrio-dwellers and the top politicians speak, you would think that we are packed in together like a mail-order box of cockroaches. And yet the vast majority of the city's land area is like this: lengthy uninterrupted cloud forests, quiet winding streets trickling with the water from lawns and escaped sewage, parrots and egrets flying by. The city could bear many more people, or could give a much more comfortable life to the majority of the population that lives in barrios.

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