There is a rooster that lives across the street, adorned by his many clucking hens. Throughout the day, they make quite the ruckus, and oftentimes I find myself pausing to lift my head and think, what on earth is going on over there?
The avians are always partying. At least, one would think so, due to the amount of noise that comes from within the henhouse.
But I am never jealous at having been excluded from festivities. After all, I am human, and have no business attending a rooster’s wild frat party. I have no quarrels with the rooster either, because come nightfall, the party always winds to a close. The birds settle in for the night, and for once, all is quiet.
That is when I take issue.
My first night sleeping at site, I was rudely awoken by this vicious, inconsiderate beast of a bird who clearly didn’t own a watch. 3am! Let me sleep!
But alas, he did not. He started up again at 4am, 5am, and 6am, pretty much on the dot. With bags under my eyes, I rolled out of bed and consigned that I would not be getting any more sleep that morning.
Come nighttime, I was exhausted, and immediately fell into a deep sleep. Although this was over a month ago, I still remember the dream I had that night. I was at home, with Mom and Devon, and they were arguing with each other. But instead of words, they were crowing like roosters. Sometime later they stopped, and the house became calm. Then suddenly, there was crowing again. I squeezed my eyes shut and covered my ears with my hands. Make them stop! I cried out in agony.
April, what’s wrong? Mom asked me.
The roosters! Can’t you hear them! Make them STOP!!!
I have been at site for six weeks now, and like clockwork, the rooster starts up at 3am every morning. How, you wonder, am I handling this situation?
First, I told my host mom and my supervisor that I was comfortable and happy with the exception of the rooster. I was assured that I would grow accustomed to it, but so far, that hasn’t happened.
The next thing I did was reach for my earplugs. I have never in my life used earplugs, and it was only at the suggestion of a currently serving volunteer that I thought to purchase and pack them. They worked like a dream. I slept through the rooster’s incessant bellowing and enjoyed pleasant dreams night after night.
But the earplugs are uncomfortable, and I usually struggle to make them stay in my ears. Sometimes, if I don’t push them in deep enough, they don’t work as well, but if I push them in too deep, then they hurt and irritate me. So Plan B was put into action.
(Sorry, but it’s not as exciting as it sounds.)
I fall asleep without my earplugs, and allow myself to get woken up at 3am. By this point, I am usually in the midsts of a pleasant dream, one that is quickly made irksome by what is known as the “Wilhelm scream.” (You may recognize it when watching a horror film, as a pretty blonde usually produces it moments before she’s killed.) At that point, I’ll wake up, realize it was the rooster, and then grab my earplugs.
This plan is not foolproof. I would prefer having not been woken up at all, or perhaps that someone would eat the rooster and vanquish this evil entirely. But this is Jamaica, and I am city-bred girl living inna di bush. This is one of the many cultural adjustments I am making, and for what it’s worth, it’s not too bad.
However, when Plan B ceases to work, I’ll need to come up with Plan C, and I think for that one, I’ll get a little more
vindictive creative. If he’s not paying close enough attention, Mr. Rooster will end up de-feathered and in my soup pot.
Here are some other examples of cultural adjustments were animals are concerned:
I’ve seen some pretty large insects here, and in many different shapes, sizes and colors. For the most part, they stay out of the way, and as long as it’s not a roach or a spider in my room, I’m good. However, there is a breed of beetle that emits a nasty stink when in distress, and it often likes to fly into my door (literally, with a bang), and end up upside down on the veranda. I usually know this has occured when I wake up and smell something foul. Also, there are crickets and cicadas that chirp so loudly, even my mother has heard them from the other end of the phone line.
In America, possums and raccoons frequently dart across the road. In some states, it’s a deer. In Jamaica, it’s a mongoose. They’re smaller than cats, and have a long, semi-bushy tail. I wish I could say they’re cute, but in honesty, I’ve only ever seen the back half of one before it disappears into the tall grass.
Cats & Dogs
These beloved household pets are not so beloved here. In fact, back during the days of slavery, dogs were used to keep the Jamaican slaves in order. As a result, there is an inbred, cultural fear of dogs. However, this is slowly disappearing. In Kingston and in other urban parts of Jamaica, people are beginning to allow dogs to live on the property to protect the home. An even smaller amount of people allow the dogs to live inside the house. For most dogs, however, they live outside, are underfed, and are perhaps more fearful of humans than we are of them. They are often fed our scraps and are shooed away.
Cats have the same stigma, and many are treated in the same regard, but they’re kept around because they chase off the mice and rats.
Goats & Cows
Goats are everywhere. They are most often seen on the side of the road, either eating, sleeping, or playing. Little kids like to dart across the road, and taxi men are quick to avoid hitting them. Most often a goat will be seen tied to a stake to keep it from wandering too far, but other times, the goat will come free, and it can be seen walking down the road with a length of rope trailing behind it.
Cows follow a slightly different story. In order to get from Cedar Valley to Morant Bay, the road drives right past a diary farm, with fields and fields of cows. Occasionally, one or two of the cows will get loose, and will be seen on the side of the road grazing as well. Forget free-range goats; we’ve got free-range cows!
Pigs & Donkeys
Many Jamaicans who live inna di bush have farms, or large plots of land in which they grow their own fruits and vegetables. They also keep donkeys to help with the plow, and to carry loads of produce from one place to another.
And let’s not forget how delicious a pig is. It is also pretty common for a family to own a piglet, raise it, and then, well, you know…
Need I say more?