Thursday, January 17, 2013

Depends On Your Perspective

The neighborhood where we lived in Barcelona, Poble Sec, was amazing. We had everything a person could need within a block or two (at most) and many of the businesses were open until very late. In addition, the whole world lived there. You can stand in front of our old place and, in about 15 minutes or so, hear probably half the languages spoken. Seriously. The downside was that it was busy, really busy, and noisy, all the time. But, to tell you the truth, I can probably count on one hand the number of times that I couldn't sleep or was awoken by noise. My guess is that I just had built up some kind of tolerance.

I can remember being awoken a few times by noise in Stuttgart though. Even though the neighborhood we lived in, Vaihingen, was basically deserted during both the day and night, it wasn't the people (or cars or trains for that matter) that woke us up. It was the damn birds that hung out in the tree outside our window each morning to welcome daylight. Yes, I could sleep through a couple of million people squeezed into a tiny square next to the Mediterranean but I couldn't handle birds.

So now we're in Bogota. And, this time? First, since you can read about the other places we were living in the blog archives, a little background is probably good so that you can have an idea about our current neighborhood.

Diana and her family used to live in another area of Bogota called Kennedy (yes, after JFK) but her parents bought a lot in the northern end of the city in Prado Veraniego a little more than 30 years ago and built a house. The neighborhood grew up around them and is basically now heavily commercial (mainly retail). It's not a bad area though. Mostly it's small, independent, and/or family owned businesses with many of the owners living above the store fronts. It's a mix of mostly car-repair and car-parts shops but there are also a bunch of "neighborhoody" shops like restaurants, bakeries, butchers, salons, etc. Much like Poble Sec, almost everything a person could need is within a couple of blocks

It really comes alive between 7:30 and 8:00 am each morning. This was taken about 3:00 pm on the street that runs in front of their house. In it, you can see a bunch of cars on the street, the businesses open, employees in the streets, a food cart on the corner (look below the no-parking sign to the rear of the red car), and cars being worked on.

The neighborhood is definitely not as quiet as Vaihingen but there's more to offer within a two-or-three minute walk. What's most amazing to me is what happens around 6:30 pm each night. The whole neighborhood shuts down. The cars and people disappear, the metal shop doors are lowered, everything goes silent.

For what it's worth, Prado's much more like Poble Sec during the day and Vaihingen at night. So, what's the problem? Occasionally, during the night, I've been woken up by someone walking through the neighborhood blowing a whistle. Not whistling. Using a whistle like a sports coach would use. A handful of nights went by and I was getting frustrated. One day when I finally remembered, I asked Diana's dad if he knew what was up with the whistle person making noise all night. He looked at me with even more confusion than he normally does with my not-so-good Spanish and asked "what noise?". I tried again and this time he got it. "That's not noise. That's the neighborhood association's security guard. We have him whistle so we know he's there."

Doh! My noise is his sense of security. Learning something new every day.

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