Sounds of Life in a Caribbean Neighborhood
From the crowing of the rooster at dawn to the chirping of the cricket at dusk, the sounds of people, animals and birds contribute to the joy of living in a Caribbean rural neighborhood.
There are also unwelcome sounds like mosquitoes buzzing, neighbors quarreling across the fence and radios blaring loud enough for an entire block to hear. Fortunately, neither the sounds we like nor those we dislike last forever, and pleasant sounds come around often enough.
From among other sounds (like dogs barking, weed cutters trimming) which are also common in upscale city areas, the ten selected for this article are common in the Kittitian (of St. Kitts) rural neighborhood.
Country workers no longer depend on roosters for their wake-up alarm, but the roosters still begin to crow as early as three o’clock in the morning. It may be another hour before the rooster alarm sounds again in a chorus of echoes, as if each rooster is answering to a roll call. The crowing of the roosters ends the silence of the dark night and invites the neighborhood to greet the new day with excitement.
It is not clear whether aged roosters suffer dementia or they’re just hyperactive, but some continue to crow intermittently past the noon hour. They may be just happy.
2. Blackbirds Tweeting
There are a variety of birds hopping our trees and flowers in the neighborhood; but whenever I draw my window curtain in response to an early morning tweet, there is a blackbird looking for residential space in my window. Nothing more than a twig ever sticks, so there’s more to hear than to see when the birds come around. Whatever they do or tweet, it is comforting to just lay there and enjoy their morning song.
3. Bread Van Honking
Imagine that about the time the roosters begin to crow in chorus, one bread van is leaving the capital city and another is coming from the opposite direction to make their daily delivery to the neighborhood stores. They will also make stops for residents who wait at their gates to purchase fresh bread, meanwhile saving a few dimes by purchasing from the van instead of the store.
One enters the street with a shrill vibrato sound, more like a flute than a honk. The other sounds like a bass horn. Residents learn to identify the bread van which has the white bread, wheat bread, multigrain bread, raisin rolls, coconut drops or buns they prefer.
4. Fisherman’s Horn Blowing
Some fish are still jumping when the fisherman brings them to the neighborhood. How is that for fresh fish?
Entering the street, someone on the pickup truck blows into a large conch shell to announce that he has fish for sale. He continues to blow until a crowd gathers, or as he drives slowly through the area. Without the conch, someone on the truck will shout a call, “Come get your guar (or ballahoo or whatever type of fish they caught)”. The fishermen usually take their best fish to the restaurants and city fishery, but some country folk welcome the offer of having the fish come to them.
5. Visitors Calling
Many Caribbean neighbors announce their visit in an extra high volume that matches their happy-go-lucky personalities. At the sight of the house they intend to visit, they call out in a cheery tone, “Anybody home?” or “Who lives here?” If the person in the house answers, it is possible that a conversation will begin though the visitor is several yards away from the front door.
There is usually no advance notice of the visit, so the resident may not have the opportunity to straighten up the living room before the guest walks through the door.
6. Children Playing
There is no park in the neighborhood, so any street or yard (even mine) may become a temporary playground. The most pleasant sound is their laughter between the yelling and screaming. They talk and laugh more loudly than an adult would like, but they transmit positive energy to those who view them positively. Happy children lend to the happiness of the neighborhood.
7. Ocean Waves Splashing
During our childhood, some of us ran a few minutes to the seashore and enjoyed the sight, smell, touch, taste and sound of the ocean. For us who were children then, the sea is still part of our backyard and though it takes more effort now, we find it. Next to enjoying a cool morning swim, the best part of the event is sitting or standing on the beach, seeing and hearing the waves lash, splash, crash (or whatever word you choose) onto the shore. Different people have different names for the sound of the waves; it is that awesome!
8. Congregations Singing
Accommodations in country churches do not include air conditioning. The windows remain open when the building is occupied, and the public address system is geared toward preaching the gospel to the entire parish. The singing is accompanied by a band complete with guitars and amplifiers.
Caribbean gospel music includes both reggae and calypso rhythms, so imagine the upbeat mood both inside and outside the church, and the additional sound of passersby humming along as they subconsciously walk to the beat.
9. Ice Cream Truck Serenading
After church on Sundays, the instrumental sound of Friedrich-Wilhelm Möller’s tune for The Happy Wanderer adds sweetness to the air. Residents hum along or sing out “Val-deri--- Val-dera---” as the ice cream truck makes its way through the streets. Small children holding the hands of adults run to meet the truck and stand in line beside the older children.
The event gives practice to the younger ones in the art of saving or requesting money--a skill they will need long after they leave the neighborhood and Sunday ice cream.
10. Crickets Chirping
The sound of crickets chirping is a regular nighttime occurrence in the Caribbean garden, and one may get into the house through an open door. The cricket resembles the grasshopper although they do not belong to the same family. Only the males chirp as a way to attract females and it has been calculated that “to get a rough estimate of the temperature in degrees fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in 15 seconds and then add 37. The number you get will be an approximation of the outside temperature.” (Everyday Mysteries)
So, the warmer the temperature, the faster the chirp; but after a while, the sound blends into the night as we give thanks for the sounds of a perfect day.
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© 2015 Dora Weithers