Saturday, December 16, 2006

No birds, plenty of dogs

Here's something weird: there are hardly any birds where we live. Or, from what I understand, in the Philippines in general. It has a lot to do with habitat loss, pollution, the endless supply of stray dogs and cats and of course, the fact that people ate them. I was told it's mostly due to the fact that they've all been eaten. It's weird though, here we are in this lush tropical country and I rarely hear a bird. I didn't really notice it though until fairly recently when we were at language camp. It was up in the hills a little ways from Manila, and off the road, so for the first time in almost nine months, it was quiet. You could still here that distant highway rumble, but for the most part it was almost deafeningly quiet. Then I noticed there were no birds signing, and I thought back and realized that I never heard or saw birds at site, or anywhere else for that matter. A little discussion with other volunteers and I was able to piece together that information. Weird, huh?

The interesting part about it for me though was not that there weren't any birds, but more the fact that there's such a constant barrage of noise here I didn't even notice for close to a year. Tricycles going by (even the smallest little 150cc bike sounds like a Harley because they don't have mufflers), jeepneys and cars honking, neighbors talking, kids yelling, people outside cooking, dogs barking, cats in heat yowling, roosters crowing, music (ours or the neighbors), chainsaws going, street vendors calling out "Taho!" (silken tofu with syrup) or "Toasted Siopao!" (toasted, steamed bun filled with pork), the ice cream man ringing his bell, the Nestle ice cream man playing that damn song over and over, the cigarette guy snapping his rubber band, sirens going off, loudspeakers blaring the national anthem over at the elementary school, the non-stop whir of the electric fan, rain pounding on corrugated metal roofing... It's crazy how much noise there is here, and you get used to it so fast. I don't notice most of that during the day, but I'm still able to list it off. I guess that's why I never noticed the lack of a few song birds.

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