Wednesday, February 19, 2014

A cacophony of sounds

ca·coph·o·ny [kuh-kof-uh-nee] 
noun, plural ca·coph·o·nies.
1. harsh discordance of sound; dissonance: a cacophony of hoots, cackles, and wails.
2. a discordant and meaningless mixture of sounds: the cacophony produced by city traffic at midday.
3. Music. frequent use of discords of a harshness and relationship difficult to understand.
I just completed another nine day trip to the Dominican Republic which included six days in Santo Domingo.  Since being home multiple people have asked how my trip was and my response has been a resounding wonderful………and hard.

Today at lunch after that response my coworker asked me to elaborate.  I explained to her that living in Santo Domingo is a difficult thing for me.  I’m not one to love living in a big city.  I’ve always lived in the suburbs and love the fact that my house now backs up to a working wheat field.  About midweek last week I was lying in bed in the early hours of the morning and listening to the sounds outside my apartment.  All I could hear were birds singing.  It was actually really wonderful.  Being in the depths of winter in Spokane I haven’t heard a bird in probably about three months.  I drifted off to sleep and was awoken about two hours later to the sounds of people yelling, car horns, radios blasting and men selling their goods through loudspeakers – all before 7am.  I sighed in exasperation and counted the days until I would be leaving the city.  It had started to wear on me. 

I knew that in a few minutes I had to get up and go face a city filled with people who tend to be loud (which I love about them but can get overwhelming) and who also live in very close proximity to one another.  In addition, it was going to be a day filled with overwhelming language instruction and challenges in communicating and understanding cultural differences.  My language skills are far from “good” but they are getting better and I can muddle through a bit better but the classes were still very difficult and at times I just wanted to close my ears to the words.   I found myself exhausted before I got out of bed most mornings, having not slept great on the too hard bed and usually not having eaten enough the day before really only to my own fault (I lost 8 pounds while I was there this time.  Now if only I could replicate that at home). 
But even with the feeling of exhaustion I was always quick to get up and face the day.  I knew there would be moments when I couldn’t hear Miley’s teaching over the car alarms and I knew there would be times when I would feel the stares of people as I walked through the crowds down the street but for some reason, while there, I was always filled with such joy.  The reason for that really boils down to the simple things – the humor I found in having 25 people in a 15 passenger vehicle, the kind woman at the restaurant where I would usually get lunch who by the end of the week began insisting on giving me suggestions for what to eat, and not taking my head shaking no as an answer, Santo Domingo coffee brewing at school, the old woman cleaning the school who always tried to talk to me no matter how many times I apologized for not understanding, the man with a car washing business outside my apartment (really he just sat on a bucket and would wash cars in the street when people would drop them off) who was always the first to greet me with a “Buenos Dias” in the mornings and my ever growing and deepening friendships I have developed in the city.  I knew I would run into Jonathan usually about every other day with his million (and a half) dollar smile who would take my hand, kiss my cheek and send me on my way.  I knew I would get a hug from Luis, Miley and/or Berenice and I knew my fellow classmates would share conspiratorial glances throughout the morning as we all struggled to understand what Miley was trying to teach us.

I spent the last three days of my trip in Bavaro on the beach and I was in such need of the quiet that it was like heaven. (more on that in the future)  As we rode the bus back to Santo Domingo the constant “oh no oh no oh no” in my head got slowly louder and louder as signs of the city increased.  At first I thought it was because I was heading back into the hustle and noise but as the city limits approached I realized it was because I was going to be leaving the place that has become such a huge part of me and that, despite wearing on me, has an iron hold on my heart.

The silence of that last day was shared with my friend who had gone to Bavaro with me.  I think we both realized my trip had come to an end and the reality of the sadness of it moved me to a place where I couldn’t really share words.  Barely a dozen words were spoken between us from the beginning of the day to our arrival back in Santo Domingo.  Our friendship is such that we can move in tandem without them and I knew if I tried to add my voice to the noise of Santo Domingo it would end up being in sobs.  Within the clash of sounds that make up Santo Domingo, my heart was anything but silent.

And maybe that’s the reason I love the city despite the weariness.  It makes my heart feel more alive than it ever has been before.