One thing I really miss about home is…

TURN OFF THE &#$&^% PAGODE!!! Image source

…silence. It is never quiet where I live.

For the past 3 weeks, I’ve been struggling to make the audio recordings for Espresso English. We’re not talking 30-minute monologues here – just 90-second clips. I don’t even need a continuous period of silence, just various fifteen-second bursts so that I can record each sentence.

And at most times of the day this is not possible. Not five seconds – FIVE SECONDS!!! – goes by before:

  • Dogs bark
  • Cars honk
  • Some guy keeps randomly revving his motorcycle outside
  • The gas truck passes
  • A low-flying plane passes
  • A car alarm goes off
  • A man sits on the steps of the hotel across the street and starts hammering a piece of wood
  • People yell in the street
  • Random daytime fireworks go off
  • The popsicle-seller walks by yelling “PICOLE! COCO, AMENDOIM, MANGABA, PICOLE!!!”
  • The construction workers in the houses behind ours start drilling
  • An argument breaks out in the bar on the corner
  • Somebody parks their car down the block with its speakers blasting

…and at that point I have to give up for the day.

How have I gotten the existing audio recordings done, you ask? By doing them sometime between 1:00 AM and 6:00 AM. Unfortunately, as soon as the sun rises there’s a rooster somewhere in the neighborhood that insists on making his presence known. (WHY is there is a rooster in the heart of a city of 3.5 million people???)

As I write this, I’m trapped between two sound sources – someone’s crappy pagode music out back, and a show in the lower city that’s a quarter-mile away and 16 stories down, from which I can hear the constantly booming music. That’s in addition to the cars passing, doors slamming, people on the street having conversations with a friend leaning out of a second-story window, and noise from a nearby restaurant.

It’s been nearly 13 months since I’ve had 10 consecutive seconds of silence during waking hours, and now that I’m aware of it, it’s starting to bug me. What I wouldn’t give for a weekend at my parents’ suburban house on a dead-end street! In Brazil, there are no suburbs. There is city, favela, and farm. Oh, and those closed condominium complexes, which are bubbles of wealthy isolation in the midst of the urban jungle.

Mom, can I get a pack of these in the next care package?  :-/

  • Sure, downside is that you can’t record something. Upside is that – your neighborhood sounds like it’s HAPPENIN’!

  • Noise pollution is pretty awful. We have enough of it here to bug me, but not enough to make life hard.

  • I’d be glad to get you ear plugs – but that doesn’t solve the problem of finding a “silent space” in which to record your lessons. This morning I was awakened by a bird perched on the bedroom window sill – he was singing his little heart out – perhaps he forgot that most of his friends have headed south for the winter. We also get the occasional “crow symphony,” but otherwise there’s plenty of bucolic silence. Wish I could package that and send it to you.

  • My only option to you is to remove your eardrums. Just kidding.

    Yeah, but like Born Again said, sounds like you’re in a pretty happening neighborhood!


    • Shayna

      Yeah, I just wish the neighborhood didn’t “invade” my house, you know? I like being close by to interesting things, but as an introvert I need to feel like I have *a* place to retreat for some peace and quiet!

  • Hear, Hear. (no pun intended, really!)

    I have fantasized about building a sound-proof room or space in the house that I can retreat to, or making a canopy bed with heavy felt for soundproofing, etc. etc. Of course, in the age of subwoofers, those low frequencies will cut right through all of that, the sound is literally inside your body and you can’t get away from it.

    In extreme circumstances, you can call Sucom at 2201-6660 and make an anonymous noise complaint. The noise ordinance is actually pretty strict, but like so many things here it is rarely if ever enforced. I’ve called several times and waited for hours for the car to show up, don’t actually know if they ever sent one over. But for those !@#$ cars full of speakers I will keep trying.

    I can’t stand pagode.

  • I hear ya! 😉 At 3:30 AM this weekend, my (usually very nice and friendly) neighbours were having a party with all that music we love to hate blasting from the car speakers. Usually, it’s just me who is bothered, but this time, it exceeded even Brazilian standards.
    Mid-morning, everything is now quiet, except for doors slamming, kids playing, and random construction….

    • Shayna

      Why is it always the worst music that catches on???

  • luasol

    Welcome to my world! Lol. In hicktown, when someone dies, the loudspeaker vehicles go around town blaring loudly. All due respect, I feel bad for those who lost someone, but does the whole town need to know???

    • Shayna

      Wow, I’ve never seen a funeral sound-car! Although the other day one went by advertising a church service. The ad made it sound more like a Holy-Spirit inspired party, though :-p

  • It’s funny – your neighborhood is actually just a giant freshman college dorm!

  • Cecilia Butcher





  • If there is something I don’t miss in Brazil is the noise. People there just don’t seam to respect each other. “Someone is sleeping? Whatever!” My neighbors would party till the morning and it wouldn’t help calling the police.
    Here in your country I just love the afternoons that I can sit outside to study or read and the only thing I hear is the birds. I can even take a nap in the middle of the afternoon!? OMG!!!
    Take care!