A writer friend from Alaska, Lizbeth Meredith, is visiting South America. We’re having fun discussing books, writing, our mutual love for animals, and the signs in life which point us in the desired direction. Elephants have always been a positive sign for me. Corgis speak to her.
“Wherever you go, there you are…” is a quote attributed to the teachings of Buddha. No matter how far one goes to find greener grass, there’s no getting away from ourselves.
My husband and I moved to the mountains of central Mexico in 2006 and got to work designing our dream home on an extra large lot in the small village of Tzurumútaro, Pátzcuaro. We lived in the small casita while our big house was being built. Our Mexican contractor decided our dream home should be even grander and built us a beautiful Mexican colonial mansion with cut pine beams (which we learned about much later, that’s another story…), ceramic floor tiles, beautiful stone arches (noticeably lacking the keystone), three fireplaces finished with elaborate wood mantels, a circular staircase, new windows to accent exquisite views, and French doors opening to the closed courtyard on one side and the large garden with a pond on the back side. It was beautiful and spacious. Perfect for indoor and outdoor living.
But after the sledge hammers stopped pounding from gutting old walls and the concrete mixer’s revolving drum stopped its noisy spin, we realized the noise would not stop.
Trains rumbled through our village up to ten times a day and blew horns to caution pedestrians to move off the tracks. Since our property line was less than 70 meters from the track, the noise was unavoidable. Besides the rumble of engines and screeching or axles, the loud train horn: LOOONG LOOONG SHORT LOOONG preceding the town’s two level crossings. One of which was one block from our home, and 15-20 seconds before the train arrives, as law requires. Opposite, two houses down, we’d hear the loud frantic squealing of pigs. We never found out for sure what that was all about. I wore earplugs to muffle that. And, every time someone died, the local religious rites included fireworks set off every twenty minutes to commemorate the life of the deceased. Rockets soared up 100 meters then exploded with deafening concussions and continued until someone took away the body. In the meantime, all dogs for miles around howled and barked for hours on end, making it difficult to sleep at night and to concentrate and write by day. A writer friend of ours, doing research for a book on the culture of Mexico, concluded that Mexicans are sleep deprived because of noise.
Mexicans know how to celebrate and do it often. There are official holidays observed nationwide and many local festivities to honor religious events or public celebrations. In 2008, I counted forty-four holidays celebrated with rockets, firecrackers, sparklers, rattles, drums, loud music, a parade, and lots of noise. Many times, in the middle of the night, aerial explosions jolted me awake. And after experiencing the war in Cyprus in 1974 where the bombs bursting in air were real bombs, I cringed at the cacophony of any nerve racking noise.
In 2009 my husband and I traveled from our small village in Mexico to a small country in South America which got good reviews and seemed like a quieter place. Although we loved many things about Mexico (the customs, the traditions, the art, and the delicious food), the constant noise wore us down.
While vacationing in a small Uruguayan beach town, we often sighed and smiled at each other realizing we had found a perfect place. By day, we walked the beach and explored other small towns and villages nearby. All seemed tranquilo compared to village life in Mexico. Each night we slumbered, lulled to sleep by the soothing sound of waves lapping and swirling along the sandy seashore. By the end of our first stress-free week, we decided to move to Uruguay. My head tingled with excitement, knowing I could finish an important project I had been working on for many years—my memoir.
I felt a flood of creative energy wash over me as I walked barefoot along the sandy beach near our new home in Atlántida. I could hear myself think. Aha! Gentle waves tickled my toes and senses and writing became a joy again. I finished my first memoir, The Lullaby Illusion, in 2013, and counted only seven noisy holidays in Uruguay that year. I finished my second memoir, Good Morning Diego Garcia, in 2016. I heard more noise that year but not enough to interrupt my creative flow. At present I’m working on screen scripts and loving the SHOW, don’t TELL way with words.
As the Uruguayan economy grows so does the noise, but I’m happy to say no rockets explode in mid-air. And our two avocado trees yielded several hundred delicious Fuerte avocados this year. So I keep writing, awaiting next year’s harvest.
Cyprus was an awakening for me on many levels. I lost everything I owned, escaped with the clothes on my back, and felt grateful to be alive. Others weren’t so lucky.
Cyprus taught me that doomsday can happen anywhere, at any time — a natural disaster, a financial disaster, the loss of a home. The important thing is to be aware and plan, so that your assets don’t all sit in one basket under one government.