I’ve always been an early riser. When the sun starts coming up, my eyes start opening on their own while the thoughts in my brain start darting around. Though I can occasionally stay in bed until 9 or 10, I’m usually up by 8 a.m. or so if I’ve managed to stay asleep until daylight.
Oh, but I do love naps. I’d say that I like them especially when I didn’t sleep well the night before, but the truth is I think I’m one of those people that just needs 10 hours of sleep every 24-hour period in order to feel well rested. Getting those all in at the same time is not reasonable under the circumstances, and I usually tap out on my night sleep somewhere between six to eight hours.
So, my ideal sleep schedule involves a one or two-hour afternoon nap, which is just not reasonable in my part of Mexico, and probably not in most.
Why, you may ask. In part it’s because I have a child and school is indefinitely not in session. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been almost entirely asleep and she’s woken me up to watch a specific part that she’s excited about of whatever movie I’ve put on for her in order to get my nap in the first place. I’ve also been woken to look for missing toys that are suddenly an emergency and of course for snacks.
She’s actually not my primary source of nap interruption, though: it’s people coming to the door.
Easily five people a day ring my doorbell. Though it makes me grouchy when it happens during my nap, I can hardly be mad at them. It’s common even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, and these are especially hard times.
Sometimes it’s the guys who carry off trash in their truck, an appreciated service in a city with rather unreliable and unpredictable trash collection (plus, I have to carry it a few blocks away because the truck apparently can’t make it up to where I live).
Other times, it’s the man and his cute son that sell fruits and vegetables door to door. There’s an indigenous woman and young child who speak very little Spanish that sell flowers as well, and the Yakult (those tiny probiotic yogurt drinks) lady comes every Wednesday.
I can also expect the guy decked out in military gear who “protects” the neighborhood by walking around during the night blowing a whistle at least once a week to collect his 10-peso “voluntary” donation.
Unfortunately, the people that came around selling ice cream haven’t been back in a while. But I have been able to buy pens that double as smartphone cleaners, made-in-China 3D puzzles of houses that my daughter adores even though they’re even less than dollar-store quality, and the occasional lollypop in exchange for a donation to some kind of good cause or idea of a good cause.
And since this is the pandemic, we’re having quite a few things delivered: groceries, packages, medical devices for my house guest with mold allergies.
When people seem curious about moving to Mexico, one of my first warnings is this: if you value silence, quiet neighborhoods, and generally being left alone, this is not the place for you.
If my daughter or the doorbell ringing doesn’t wake me up, the neighbor’s dog does: it’s situated on the side of the house in a little strip of a patio that seems like it was designed specifically to make lonely animals neurotic. We don’t live on a busy street, but anything that passes in front of the house — human, animal, something on wheels, a piece of plastic being carried by the wind — will usually set it off.
The acoustics are such that when it starts barking, the noise goes right into the rooms at the front of my house. Turning up the TV volume isn’t enough; it must be paused until the dog quiets down again. The neighbors are well-meaning and have tried to keep it quiet, but in the end it’s a “guard dog” for all of us, and the unfortunate acoustics of our two places are not their fault.
What other sounds might you hear? Well, there’s the person that runs up and down the streets with a cowbell to let you know that you’ve got perhaps a 15-minute window of opportunity to take out the trash.
There’s the “gas” song that blares from the truck to let you know they’re around. If you need a new tank for cooking and heating your shower that’s your cue to run out the front door and flag them down.
There’s the high-pitched whistle of the guy who will sharpen your knives for you. Then of course there are the people selling elotes, tamales (which doesn’t happen nearly enough on my street, if you ask me; I should have proposed to the guy selling those delicious mole tamales when I had the chance), and others who are offering to buy your large domestic appliances, which they let you know about through a megaphone stuck to the roof of their car.
The notion of telling children to quiet down seems about as logical to most people here as getting mad at the wind for blowing, and if a neighbor or five is having a party nearby, you’ll get to hear all of their music and probably some loud, drunk conversations as well. Most Mexicans, including my daughter, don’t seem to be bothered in the least by all of these noises. I, as a grouchy, bougie gringa, seem to be the only one having to stop herself from jumping up and down like Rumplestiltskin throwing a tantrum when the doorbell’s just been rung for the sixth time in as many hours.
My saving grace? I have a bad ear. While I can’t ignore my child or the doorbell if I’m expecting a delivery, I can lie on my “good” ear and be at least a little deaf to the world. So if you live in Mexico and value silence, I recommend that you learn to accept any one-sided hearing loss as a blessing in disguise.
Sarah DeVries writes from her home in Xalapa, Veracruz.