Drowning Out the Neighbors

By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times

I’ve always thought of myself more as a kampung-type of girl, than a luxury villa-type of girl. I like the sounds and smells of farm animals. I like the traditional village life. I befriend cattle easily. Some day, I’d even like to have a couple cows of my own. So when I decided to buy a place in Bali, I looked for a house in the countryside. It’s not that I would necessarily mind living in a villa; it’s just that I don’t think the cows would appreciate the infinity pool.

In my house in the Balinese countryside, I wake up to chickens, ducks, birds and the occasional cow “moo.” It’s lovely! Every morning I watch one of my neighbors as he carries fresh grass, balancing his load on top of his head as he picks his way through the ricefields to the small enclosure in the trees where he keeps his cow. And in the distance, the sea.

My favorite neighbors are the animals. I just love waking up to chickens crowing in the mornings. I almost feel as if I am living in my childhood dream: to be able to move into my Fisher-Price barnyard play-set, the one with a plastic Farmer Brown, Mrs. Brown and their farm animals. Maybe you had one of these barnyard sets, too.

But what I didn’t expect to wake up to was the sound of a different kind of animal — the human species. Children driving toy trucks and making high-pitched siren sounds as they chase each other around the gravel yard next door. Drives me crazy. Nothing like a bit of chaos at 7am. These kids, all five of them, were not included in my Fisher-Price barnyard set. Makes you wonder if the barnyard sets in Indonesia come with the entire Brown extended family, plus babies and Hindu offerings.

I was surprised to learn that not only do my Balinese neighbors wake up early and go to bed late — so do their children. There is no early bedtime for the children or quiet time during the day. The children wake up and, just like the adults, get into their cars. There they work at playing all day long and only stop when they are called to eat. And they eat outside. And the babies cry outside. And the parents argue outside.

When I looked at this house to buy, I was told the owner lived in Singapore. I can see why.

Remind me when I am reincarnated to come back as something nocturnal. But you have to wonder how nocturnal animals manage to sleep in the daytime with all the noise.

The only time I don’t hear noise is when I’m not home. Even Kuta traffic is a pleasant respite. And to think that I paid many thousands of dollars to live next to this racket.

In the West, children play quietly inside with their Game Boys and video games. After school, they watch their favorite programs on TV. We think kids these days don’t get outside and play enough. But Balinese kids are outside constantly, getting exercise and staying healthy. My question is, do we really need this?

What happened to the Balinese who see the spiritual in everything? Or maybe this is spiritual — the bad spirits have united. My aling-aling that stops evil spirits from entering is not doing its job!

When I was riding my motorbike the other day, I kept hearing this high-pitched siren-type noise every time I slowed down at a traffic light. I kept looking behind me to see if those kids were following me, but no one was there.

The neighbors also have a puppy who yaps at night. I don’t mind this so much, but one night the puppy’s yap entered my oscillating fan. All night long, every time the fan panned, I could hear the puppy’s bark inside it, even though I knew he had stopped barking.

It was clear that our neighbor’s life had become our life, creating this extra, ambient life that was omnipresent when we were home and sometimes even when we were not.

So I developed a plan. First, I accumulated one hell of a CD collection, most of which are only heard at very high volume. I’m even considering hiring a DJ.

Next I called someone in to build a mini-Niagara Falls water feature in the backyard. This would drown out the neighbors, so to speak. Then, all I would need is a few chickens and some cows. I’d have a chorus practice every morning to get the chickens and cows in sync and then just let them play their cockadoodle-doo moo-moo moosic all day long.

And, as an extra precaution, I’d buy one of those ocean wave machines that I could set in the corner nearest the neighbor’s house. You know the machines I’m talking about. They go: shhhhhhh shhhhhhh.

But just as I was organizing to have the animals delivered, a miracle happened. A man arrived at the neighbor’s house and installed a TV antenna. This got me to thinking. A few Game Boys as gifts, and I think we’ll soon have very quiet neighbors.

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