Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sounds of Haikou

I guess any time you find yourself in a new setting, your senses are sort of overloaded. New sights, new smells, new tastes, new sounds. So I thought I'd dedicate a post to the sounds of my new home. I live in a city called Haikou, which is pronounced HIGH-ko, and is the largest city in the Hainan Province, which is the little island off the southern coast of mainland China. I live on the third floor of a big apartment building, and because I am in a busy area of the city, there is constant noise around the clock.

Lots of horn honking. And it's not so much that the horns are honked out of frustration, anger or road-rage. It's more of a "hey I'm coming, please don't hit me, because I know you're not looking when you zoom across 4 lanes of traffic."

There's also this really weird car alarm, or some sort of alarm, that goes off at least a few times an hour. It might be the most annoying sound in the world, so I'm training myself to tune it out.

I can also hear my closest neighbors, the ones just next door. They are pretty quiet for the most part, but once in awhile they start speaking very loudly at each other. I think a large family lives, dad, son, grandma, grandpa, maybe even aunts and uncles. So sometimes it sounds like things get a little heated. A funny side note, our front doors are directly adjacent to each other, and they open outward. So if we both try to exit our apartments at the same time, our doors smash into each other and we're trapped inside. And it's already happened. We got stuck for a couple of minutes because they didn't understand me saying, "Ok, you go first" and I'm sure they were saying "Ok, you go first" in chinese but I didn't understand. So finally I went.

I noticed a funny sound the first time I did laundry in my cute little Chinese washing machine. When you start the washer it plays Beethoven's "Fur Elise" and I love it! That was the first song (besides Mary Had a Little Lamb) that my grandma taught me on piano.

At the coffee shop next door, which is quickly becoming my home away from home, they play some sort of CD on repeat. Instrumental versions of the following three songs are played constantly, and I love it…
1. Can You Feel the Love Tonight (from The Lion King, yes!)
2. My Heart Must Go On (from Titanic, yes!)
3. Ave Maria (which reminds me of the Chris Botti version, yes!)

Another sound I've noticed makes me very curious. I hear some sort of trumpet song at 6:45am every morning from somewhere far off in the city. It makes me think of someone playing the trumpet in the military to tell everyone to get up and eat breakfast, it's very strange.

And last but not least, one of the sounds I hear nearly everywhere, is that of a huge loogie being gathered in someone's throat. On my first visit to the coffee shop next door, I noticed a man constantly making the loogie noise, and as I peeked over at him, I saw him spit the loogie into the corner of the coffee shop! I was like oh no no no surely I am seeing things. But he kept doing it! So then I tried to see if there was a potted plant or some sort of loogie receptacle in the corner, but nope, none. He was spitting onto the floor. And then at a different cafe yesterday, I noticed another man do the same thing…just spit a big 'ol loogie right there onto the floor beside his table. I guess it's totally acceptable here. And now I know never to set my bag down on the floor in any public areas. Lesson learned.