Enough clutter. Enough confusion. Enough complications.

26 June 2010

Dieciocho Pesos

Eighteen cordobas (about 85 cents) entitles you to an experience and a show. It is interactive and ever changing. You could watch it everyday and it would never cease to be different. Like many good shows, it starts with a good hype man, spinning his tale and luring the audience into his orbit. He calls out and gestures, the tone of his voice rising and falling, his hands gesturing, sometimes subtly and sometime wildly. Whatever his method, he is good at his job, for soon the theater is full, to full usually, leaving many patrons standing in the isles and cramming together. They lean on each other for support, clutch their bags and children as to not lose them in the fray. Closer and closer they pack together as more and more people are lured in by the hawkers cry. Vendors filter through the throngs of people, selling refreshments which they carry on their shoulders or their heads to keep them out of harms way. Many people avail themselves of the refreshments. After all, it's hot in the theater, really hot now that there are so many people. Many of them are starting long days, or finishing long days, and so the lure of a plastic bag filled with sugary fruit juice, or milk, cacao and cinnamon, is too much to resist. But with so many people there is no room for garbage cans, so most of them just throw the spent bags out the window of the theater.

As the show gets going the music begins. It is obvious that the speakers were added well after the theater was built. Sometimes you can even see the wires, but they sure are loud. One cannot predict the soundtrack of the show any more than the action. Sometimes you're treated to reggaeton, sometimes it is a collection of English-language music from the eighties, sometimes it is worship music, and sometimes it is the stylings of the romantic-pop-sounding group known as Aventura. It changes every day, but it is usually loud. With this backdrop the drama of the show unfolds. In any showing countless short friendships are developed and then left behind forever. Sometimes screaming school children make appearances. More often than not a fair number of chickens make an appearance. Sometimes the script is a comedy, be it slapstick or something more subtle, like citizens wearing clothes that say funny things in languages they don't understand. Other times the script is more solemn, full of beggar children that ought to be in school looking for money to buy food, or older people sick or stricken with a deformity seeking some spare change to go toward medication or an operation. Regardless of the script, it is always accompanied with an equally varied collection of images flashing across the many screens lined up behind the players: beautiful images of fields and cloudy skies, of volcanoes and lakes, as well as sad images of emaciated horses and mud-floored huts. Only two things are certain. The first is this, that the show and the experience are never exactly the same twice. The second is that the hawker will continue to pull more people into the show as it rolls forward: ¡ Managua, Masaya, Masaya, Managua!

For there is always room for one more person in this traveling show.

Eighteen cordobas will also buy you a bus ride from Nandasmo to Managua.

17 June 2010

Hay Bulla

Noise is part of life everywhere. The more accustomed to a place we become, the more all the noise fades together to form a backdrop that grounds our daily activities in something familiar. Eventually, we stop noticing many of the sounds, but they're still there.
At night I like to try to tell time based on sound. Life in the street— moto taxis and buses passing, children screaming, people talking, hawking their food products, houses blasting music out into the road— starts to die down around 10:30 or 11:00. 11:00-2:00 a.m is the dominion of drunks and dog fights, of cats running across roofs, all of which give way to a brief period of near silence around 3:00 a.m. Sometimes the silence is broken by wave-like rounds of rooster calls. The people here say that when an animal is making noise at a time that isn't its own it's because someone is going to die. The roosters' time starts around 4:00 or 4:30. That gives them an hour to themselves, that they only need share with the early bus that honks its arrival, before the tortilla man, the egg lady, and the trucks sounding the day's advertisements through speakers piled in thir beds fill the morning with their messages.
The day is harder to classify because there are so many sources of sound. The clip-clop of ox hooves compete with cars and taxis, whistles, music, dogs chasing bicycles, trucks buying scrap metal, selling cheese, pigs squeeling, recess at the instituto, bombas launched from metal tubes to celebrate...something, thunder in the distance. Sometimes, however, it rains and the rain washes away everything else. It washes away the dirt and trash in the street, all the animals run and hide, the people retire to their houses and the myriad sources are replaced by the snare-drum cadence of raindrops on a tin roof. Even conversation stops when it gets too loud to talk in the house. Then the rain stops, as quick as it began, and all the noise begins to rise again to fill the void.
Hay bulla. Siempre hay bulla.