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The Quiet in the Countryside The Quiet in the Countryside The Quiet in the Countryside

In the "Cult of Escapism": The Quiet in the Countryside The Quiet in the Countryside The Quiet in the Countryside

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Quiet in the Countryside The Quiet in the Countryside The Quiet in the Countryside

There's this rumor that one will sleep peacefully in the quiet countryside. Apparently this rumor was not written in Panama, because it is absolutely false. People in the country make it their priority to make noise at night.

In theory, most towns in rural Panama have almost ideal sleeping conditions – dark, quiet and cool. But the quiet in the countryside is consistently interrupted by chaotic noise. Battery-powered radios lead the audio assault with accordion-led tipico music – which just recently won a Grammy for Most Obnoxious Music Ever Created. And it goes all night. Until Peace Corps, I had never had violent fantasies involving a hammer and a battery powered radio.

When I lived with host families, they often spent the evenings with the radio off and only turned it on right before they went to sleep. Apparently for them, peace is not necessarily coupled with quiet. At first, I had to assume it was a prank on the gringo. I then theorized that the parents put the radio on so they could get down without being heard (How else do they do it? The entire family of 12 people lives in a house that is one big room). However, the host siblings were often the DJs, so that doesn't make sense. What child would want to facilitate their parents having sex in the same room as them?

I've since decided that most people out here are afraid of the dark. Seriously. Almost every person that's visited me in my house has asked if I get afraid at night. Even young men have asked me this, in front of their girlfriends, which is about the least macho thing I can think of doing, except maybe pulling on a pair of panties and painting your lips. So I assume that here, you're expected to be afraid of the dark. Sort of like how it's not feminine to lock your apartment in New York, it's just what you do.

I solidified my theory on my second trip to the Mordor Mountains, when I slept in a family's house. They had the radio off all day until about 9:00pm, when everyone was getting into bed. The next morning, they woke up at dawn and immediately turned it off. How else can you explain turning on the radio right before bed and turning it off when you wake up? Fear of the dark. That, or there's a Comarca-wide plot to torture me when I'm hosted at someone's house.

Luckily, I live alone and my nearest neighbors are within sight, but not close enough for me to hear them unless they are screaming. There is also no electricity in my town, so the nights in my neighborhood are quiet and dark. I've never slept better in my life. I grew up in cities and didn't think much of the traffic and sirens and people at night, but now that I live without that white noise, I realize how much better my sleeping conditions are.

I've floated this theory with other volunteers and they tend to agree. The white noise is comforting and it's better to hear the radio than the jungle at night.

I can't explain why the city kid is less afraid of the dark jungle than the natives – maybe because I don't believe in evil spirits. Or maybe because I'm not getting down with anyone.


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