Whether we travel abroad or stay at home, they orient us in time and place.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer living without the distractions of Internet in my house, I’ve been able to focus on the sounds I hear in Nicaragua.
Whether it’s the milk truck waking me up at 6 AM, or my phone ringing, I have come to treasure these sounds that weren’t a part of my life before. Check out the video I made (above) of a typical morning, where I’m buying fresh, handmade tortillas.
I’m not the only one who appreciates these “travel sounds.” I wanted to know other volunteers’ favorites, so I asked them!
“What is your favorite, or the most memorable, sound that you wouldn’t normally hear back home?”
Some of the sounds were relaxing. Others were annoying.
Often, as travelers, we have a love-hate relationship with sounds.
A band’s trumpets blasting “Happy birthday” to your next-door neighbor at 5 AM may not be your ideal way to wake up, but it’s sounds like these that mark our travels and orient us.
Sounds are a consistent presence in our lives, no matter how much we travel.
Here are some of Peace Corps Nicaragua Volunteers’ favorite sounds. Which have you heard before?
I know the difference between a bus, taxi, mototaxi, and motorcycle without looking. – Jules
Blaring announcements from speakers in a passing truck. – Chelsea
The sound of a panga (boat). – Nadia
The way bus drivers and operators yell their destinations’ names. – Rachel
Blaring bachata music (think Romeo Santos). – Jen
The noisy chicheros — the bands with trumpets and tubas. – Iris
Sad ballad karaoke in every bar. Why would you want to listen to something upbeat on a Saturday night? – Jules
The Pillow Vendor. – Danica
Vendors saying ‘Eloooooottttttteeeeeee’ and ‘Controles, controles!’ – Hana
The person selling water at the bus stop just past the airport: ‘Agua, agua, agua, agua!’ in a super high pitch. – Mariel
The guy who walks through town, yelling ‘Raspadooooos!’ [shaved ice] – Tim
The Eskimo Ice Cream vendor’s bells! – Ilana
There’s a guy walking around every morning selling something sounding like ‘Breakfast!’ After six months, we realized he said, ‘Raw fish’ — ‘Peces!’ – Tim
Fellow TEFL volunteer, Jen Rowley, and I, translating the sounds we hear in markets and on the buses we ride daily.
Greetings. ‘Ehh chavalo!’ or a whistle greeting, or even the ‘Oooaaee!’ – Eric
The ‘pat pat pat’ of tortillas being made every morning. – Liz
The geckos that crawl on the wall and make the ‘tsk’ing’ sound. – Jen
Howler monkeys at 3 AM. – Amelia
Horse footsteps. – Meg
Roosters on the bus. – Haley
Dogs barking all night. I like to hear monkeys on the weekly run up the mountain. – Deva
The sound of a soccer game during a penalty kick. – Chelsea
The BANG of mango falling on a tin roof. – Pete
Children laughing. – Eliana
Funeral announcements blasting from vans. – Rachel
The splash of water when clothes are washed in a basin. – Jen
The ‘tsst tsst’ sounds people make to get your attention. Or, the imagined sound of your sweat dripping down your face and blinding you. – Corey
Our neighbor’s electronic tennis racket that zaps mosquitos. – Michaela
My host mother’s laugh. It’s loud, rambunctious, contagious, warm and comforting. It speaks for her whole personality. – Nadia
Want more? Check out this poetic reading, The Sounds by business volunteer and published author, Janae Werdlow: