I lie here, awake, in the predawing of the morning. In that dark space before any rays of that glowing orb chase away all the boogiemen and the moths. I slept poorly, tangling alone in my sheets, but now I listen to the sounds. For the campo is never actually quiet.
First I hear the repetitive, constant crowing of a roster. And sometimes one of his friends a bit further down the road responds. These roosters speak Spanish, so they say ki-kire-kee, not cock-a-doodle-doo, like our American roosters do in the US. Really, you ask any school child here, and they’ll tell you.
When I used to work with volunteer college students, bringing them from their prepackaged lives in the suburbs to spend a week in some rural third world country side, it was one of the first thing that they commented on. Really only knowing roosters from Saturday morning cartoons, they always think that roosters are only supposed to crow once, one brief announcement of the sunrise. Then, their first night they inevitably realize what a bunch of bucolic bs that is. Roosters go off pretty much any time that they damn please, which I estimate to be every 15 seconds starting at precisely 2am. What can they be telling one another so repeatedly, for so many hours? You think the hens would get annoyed—yes, ok Hector, we get it already! you have the biggest cock of all the roosters in the neighborhood (don’t be so shocked, dear reader, you know…a roosters cock, that dangly red stuff that hangs off a rooster’s face? Its technically called a cock. Google it.). Now shut up so we can all get some sleep!
Underneath is the more subtle chirping of various bugs, birds, and frogs. I would list them out for you, but since its dark, and I’m in bed, I have no idea exactly who it is that’s out there. I imagine them waking up – as annoyed with the stupid rooster as the rest of us – going about their morning routines. “don’t forget to brush your teeth” “here I made you a fly sandwich to take to work with you, honey” “madito gallo, I tell you Maria, if I wasn’t a tiny little tree frog, I would go and strangle that rooster myself!”
One sound that is particular to my little neighborhood here in Otavalo, is the peeting of a taxi horn, impatiently waiting for someone who has called them from the Hostal Ruiz Senor. My company has been renting our office/staff apartment here for some years now. But just recently found out that our next door neighbor at Hostal Ruiz Senor is actually seedy love motel, a place to take your amante (lover). So the taxis line up in the predawn hours to take home all these illicit couples. Who, in contrast to the rooster, are trying to be as absolutely quiet as possible. Apparently, this is such a well-known spot for such trysts, that one morning I was late in opening the office to let in our local staff. And Marisela, rather than sit in the little gazebo in the park in front to wait for me, was walking several blocks away to wait by the bus stop. She was flustered as she explained that she didn’t want to be seen sitting in the park- someone might see, and think she was waiting for someone other than me….
Its too bad, because Hotal Ruiz Senor has huge, 8 foot high sign, so it makes a great landmark. Whenever I call and ask for a taxi, I always tell the operator “next to Hostal Ruiz senor” and I do it so frequently that as soon as she hears my foreign accent telling her the neighborhood, she immediately finishes saying the address for me. wonder what she thinks of this gringa calling almost daily for a taxi from the love motel.
Once, before we knew, what every single person in town knows, one of my coworkers stayed there for an entire night, rather than walking all the way into town to stay at our normal hostel. I went over for a while to use the wifi. Not at all the sort of seedy, heart shaped beds I would have imagined. I think there was even a picture of the Virgin Mary on the wall of the room. Wonder what they thought of two gringas walking in with their laptops.
The house we rent is old. Sometimes it cracks its old joints in ways that make you think someone is walking around inside, in the next room. I lie there watching the shadows on the wall from the lights off the street, watching for any unusual movements. The day the neighbor cat ran across the roof I think I might have choked on my heart. Sometimes I realize I haven’t grown up too much from my four year old self, burning my eyes out trying to see into the darkness of my open closet door.
Some mornings, eventually, as the light starts to grow, you can see the imposing form of el Volcan Imbaburra, huge in a way that you feel like he’s leaning down hovering overhead. But only on the days that he’s up early. Most days he keeps the clouds pulled over his head, like a lazy teenager who hides under the sheets and doesn’t want to get up in the morning. This morning he’s like that, cant see even his toes sticking out the bottom. Guess the dumb rooster kept him up all night too.