Peace and quiet can be elusive within the borders of our paradise. Neighborhood noises such as vehicles, construction, loud music, and barking dogs frequently disrupt the tranquility many seek here. Escaping to the countryside does not guarantee a noise-free refuge.
Let’s start with my neighborhood. On a typical day where I live, I will hear one or more of the following:
- A mobile loudspeaker, selling bread or eggs, or collecting scrap metal and junk electronics, or advertising a dance or the grand opening of a bar.
- The pneumatic pounding of jake brakes from the tractor trailers coming down the mountain highway a kilometer away. ● Weed whackers whining away as a neighbor’s yard is getting the grass cut. (I miss the gentle slashing sound of grass being cut by a machete-wielding peon).
- Motorcycles and cars lacking effective mufflers.
- My neighbors miniature-sized dogs yapping away at anything that moves.
- The squealing brakes of the beer delivery truck as it approaches the corner near my house. (No, it doesn’t deliver to private homes).
- The rumbling of road crew machinery as they fix all the potholes and resurface the streets in my neighborhood. (Okay, that one is a lie.).
Those are all human-made noises (except for the dogs) typical of most any barrio in Costa Rica. There are other regular sounds I can hear from my house, that I categorize as Happy Sounds. I live around the corner from the barrio soccer field, and every Sunday morning there are games. Friends and family members gather to watch.
There is food and drink and cheering when a goal is scored. Everyone has a good time, and the occasional soft roars that drift my way bring me happiness.
Likewise, a neighborhood birthday party, with Cumpleaños Feliz ringing out, and the laughter of happy children as a piñata is beaten into submission also brings me joy. Even the adult birthday parties, which may include loud conversation and louder amplified music well into the night is tolerable, as long as the music isn’t reggaeton.
A long time ago I lived on a farm where there was true peace and quiet. The nearest neighbor was the farm worker, who lived with his family about a kilometer away. The nearest rural village was 3 kilometers.
The nearest pay phone (this was pre-cell phone) was a fifteen-minute drive. The highway was 5 kilometers away. Bird songs accompanied my morning coffee. The peace and quiet was only broken by my shouts of anger when the car broke down, and I had to hike everywhere, or pay a taxi a hefty fee to haul me in and out of the farm.
Distance from civilization may seem like the solution for avoiding annoying noise levels, but there is another factor in this equation I previously mentioned: Good old nature. The reason so many people visit. In the early evening, the drone of grillos, later the chaotic noise of the dozens of frog species, each with its own specific croak.
Macaws and parrots with their distinctive squawking calls. And of course, the howler monkey filling the jungle air with its deafening roar.
So which is louder? Here are some decibel readings:
Jake brakes 105 db Weed whacker 95 db Amplified music at rock concert level 100-120 db Howler monkey 140db Macaw 140db Parrot up to 150db
Conclusion: When the decibel levels are products of nature, they are less annoying. Which may explain why I will close my window to muffle the sound of a weed whacker but open to enjoy the caws of a bird.