Colombia, the only risk is wanting to strangle your neighbours

I hate vallenato.

There, I feel better for admitting it. Despite how much I’ve tried tell myself “but this is Colombian culture, you’re not open-minded enough if you can’t embrace it” I will always intensely dislike this incessant, squeaky, loud, monotonous music that is only ever blared out of oversize speakers at a decibel warning level.

How did I finally come to confess this you may ask. Well, my day started like this:

Ahhh, Sunday, you beautiful sleep-in of a day with only relaxing things to do. Oh, except that I have to take D to a soccer game that starts at 7:50am. And we can’t go on the motorbike because it is waiting for my brother-in-law to fix it with his magical mechanic hands. So we’re up early. Although the funny thing is I didn’t need an alarm clock because the neighbour two doors down started the music up at 6:40am. Did I tell you it is Sunday?

Normal people (ie not costeños) would think twice before spinning the volume dial on their music up until it spins no more. Even more so you would expect this consideration when you live in a laneway that isn’t even 2m wide and every house is a terrace house, wall beside wall. But our fabulous neighbours have instead brought out their mega speaker to the front terrace, aimed it in the direction of our house and found the limit on the volume dial. Playing vallenato. That music I hate.

I couldn’t hear la suegra talking to me across the lounge room, and it wasn’t even 7am. I couldn’t even hear myself think. My brain started to crackle and frazzle with the fast accordion scratch and grate. Ooops, here arrives my bad mood.

I went to the corner store to buy breakfast supplies and my face withered into a sour, glowering scowl as I passed the neighbours sitting out the front of their house with their ears pressed up against the mega speaker. Perhaps the sound isn’t as loud as it is in their terrace as what it is inside my house. Maybe I should invite them to our lounge so we can shout at each other from the couch to the chair and continually repeat “que?

Unfortunately for me vallenato is the most popular music in Santa Marta. It screams at me from bars, shops, buses and of course the neighbours’ stereos. I long for a bit of Latin pop, the other neighbour’s old time ballads or even ranchero, Colombian country music mi novio sings along to badly, but the vallenato is escapable. Like the bad mood it brings on. I detest it so much I can’t even bring myself to search for a song to link to so you can experience it yourself and really know what I mean. Sorry but you’ll have to do it yourself (don’t worry, it won’t matter what song you find because they all sound the same).

I’m in serious need of a coping mechanism for dealing with the obnoxious sound, but can’t seem to find a calm space while it vibrates in my brain. I tell myself that if it is played at a normal volume it wouldn’t be so bad, but that’s never going to happen and I have to resign myself to living with vallenato.

Do you have any strategies for how I can accept vallenato and not end up strangling my neighbours? Or what would be the best annoying music for me to play at max volume on the terrace (assuming I had a super mega high wattage speaker)?

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually want to strangle my neighbours – it’s just a figure of speech – because except for the inconsiderate vallenato they are nice and always greet me with a buenas or adios when I pass with a non-vallenato-soured face.

Nice and neighbourly

Tonight we got home after a day of roaming Los Angeles on various projects – pick up business cards, look for a car for Cameo, look for a TV and other assorted errands – to find a piece of white paper tucked under the door.

We instantly thought it was from our landlord, but were nicely surprised to see a handwritten note from our new neighbour across the way.

To put a little context around it, the morning after sleeping in our apartment for the first time, we had the carpets steam cleaned. It was a noisy process which started at 8am and finished at 11am. As a little sweetener, and also as a little introduction, I wrote notes to all the other residents of our building and went with mini Cherry Ripes in hand to offer our apology and explanation.

Only one resident was at home and answered my door knock, which happened to be from the only apartment we hadn’t yet met. For everyone else I figured out a way of attaching the note and Cherry Ripe to their door.

It was so lovely to receive a note back with our new neighbour giving us his number to call if we had any questions about the area and what to do. It is a nice way to start apartment living in LA.

It’s not very neighbourly but…

Last night was bin night. I know this because I nearly hit two wheelie bins that the houseboat owner had placed touching the edge of the bitumen and over the end of my driveway.

I was not happy about this bin placement. There have never been any issues before and I don’t know what part of my driveway they couldn’t see when putting them out or why they didn’t think they would get in my way.

As is the case with most things you find irritating, I shared this gripe with Bro #2 when he came to visit to see if I’d done his washing for him. Actually, on reflection, I think that Bro #2’s comments about expecting me to know that his clothes strewn on the spare room floor were all dirty and that he wanted me to automatically wash them got me wound up in agro mode.

All het up with vehemence, I asked if he’d hit the bins out the front when driving in the driveway. He didn’t really know what I was on about, but I soon filled him in about inappropriate bin placement and disrespect for my driveway in one of those loud, accusing, fishwife type voices.

Later, as Bro #2 drove away, I heard something that sounded like when the garbage truck collects the bins. I peered out the window but didn’t see anything except my brother’s big 4WD ute zooming off down the road.

Heading off to lunch with friends, I had cause for a big ole grin and giggle as I drove down the driveway. Bro #2 had stuck up for big sister and her feelings and nudged the two offending bins with his big bull bar and knocked them over and off my driveway. Seems he brought a little bit of his bulldozer driving job for Dad into town for me.

It’s times like these that I love my little brother like crazy. *heart*

(Please let it be known that these were not the bins of my neighbour who actually lives next door, as their bin is always in their front yard and we are friends)