Monday, April 15, 2013

Night Noises

Here in Tirana we are in the midst of those few elusive weeks that appear each spring and fall.  The temperatures are hovering at that comfortable range where we can open the house windows with it being neither too hot nor too cold.  After spending months with everything sealed up tight (or at least as tight as the house can be since I feel drafts floating in through the windows all year long) it feels wonderful to feel fresh air inside of the house again.  We've opened the shutters as well so the bright sunlight that we have been waiting months for can stream in.  It is apparently still such a novelty to Sidney that he keeps exclaiming "The sun is out; it is bright."  I love to sleep with the windows open at night and feeling the breeze blow across the room makes sleeping that much more pleasant. Of course the breeze isn't the only thing that drifts into our windows.  The local noises of the night accompany the cool breezes and remind me once again that, despite what the locals tell me, we live in a very loud neighborhood that never truly sleeps.

The loudest, and perhaps most continuous noise, is the traffic on the street above our house.  Because of the way our house is situated at the bottom of a hill, our third floor is exactly parallel to the main street.  You can hear the usual traffic--speeding cars, the high pitched whine of motorcycles, and the occasional wail of a siren, but with all of the road construction that is going on, you can also hear the rumble of heavy trucks and road machinery.  This noise seems to continue all night long.  As do the random roosters and peacocks in the neighborhood. Yes, peacocks. I had gotten used to the dogs and almost don't notice their continuous barking and howling, but the peacocks are new. Or at least they are to me.  At first I attributed them to a local restaurant that plays host to a menagerie of animals--including a big brown bear in a cage-- since I have seen them strutting through their grounds.  Now I suspect there is another flock near by as well, either that or the sound is really carrying and echoing from all directions.  I wonder when peacocks became the must have animal in Albania.

The other new to me sound is the morning call to prayer being emitted from a local mosque.  Since Albania is a predominantly Muslim country, the sight of mosques is as commonplace as cafes, stores, and car washes.  In fact, you will see more mosques than any other type of religious institution and you will see them in the least expected locations.  What puzzles me is the fact that I'm not sure where the closest mosque is to our house and why after two years, I am suddenly hearing their pre-dawn chants.  For anyone who has never heard a call to prayer the sounds are both beautiful and mystifying as well as unnerving if you aren't expecting it.  This is especially true during the dark, pre-dawn hours. The first time I heard a call to prayer was in Dubai, UAE. I was visiting Glenn during a port call and had spent a fitful, jet lagged night trying to get some sleep. No sooner had I fallen asleep than I was awoken by the haunting chants.  Taken by surprise I wasn't sure what I was hearing and being alone, in the dark and in a foreign city and country, I was a bit freaked out. I quickly realized what I was listening to and grew accustomed to hearing this wake-up call during the remainder of my stay. I've heard the call to prayer while here in Albania but never from our house at the crack of dawn.  Have I been missing it all along or is it like the peacocks, a totally new noise?

I suppose I could close the windows at night in order to create a barrier between myself and the outside world.  However, I'm going to enjoy the cool breezes while they last.  All too soon the temperatures will soar and the windows will once again be shuttered tight. And with them the wild and varied noises of the Albanian night.

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