Such a good night’s sleep last night. And waking up in Mexico has its own nostalgic sounds. I’m up here on the rooftop patio and I can hear the rooster cranking it out in the lot behind our building. (It hasn’t been dawn for a number of hours – in my experience roosters crow all the time – and have never gotten the memo that they are supposed to fit it into a ‘dawn’ window.) This rooster is far enough away that it is easy enough to tune out as ambient sound. 

All the other morning birds are chirping and singing away. From where I am sitting, writing in my shady little nook, even though I can’t really see any birds, I know they must be everywhere. 

What, what, what? Hey-hey! Over here. Over here. Love it, love it, love it. 

They are singing and chatting from all sides. In contrast to a silent, steady stream of people I can see from up here on my perch. Other gringos, also staying just out of the super touristy part of town, carrying bags of fresh morning fruit back to their airbnb’s. They mostly wear brightly colored shirts and shorts and open toed sandals. The locals crossing the bridge, towards town, aren’t walking fast exactly, but they have more purpose in their step. Their well-worn clothing choices tend towards long sleeved shirts and long pants in muted shades of grey, brown or black. All the people are silent – or at least it feels like they are from where I am sitting. Not like the chatty birds.

It makes me think of the birds in Toronto at the start of Covid. The big mystery was why all the birdsongs and whistles were suddenly so much louder. Deafening, practically. Why were the birds shouting? This was the discussion for a panel of experts I heard on CBC one morning. It turns out it was because  all the traffic noises had abruptly stopped when everyone started staying home. The birds hadn’t suddenly gotten any louder at all. They had been gradually getting louder for years. Nobody had noticed. Those clever city birds had simply been adapting so they could be heard above all the sounds of traffic. It was like they were at a party where the music kept getting turned up and they had to shout to be heard. And when someone suddenly turned off the music they just kept shouting because that was just normal for them by then. 

The traffic noises, drifting up to me, feel unique to Mexico. There is the distinct sound of squeaky suspension. I think that is what it is but I could be technically wrong. It’s the squeaky sound that older cars make when they bounce up and down going over a bump. Not to be confused with the sharper, more high pitched squeak of reluctant old brakes. And then there are all the loose fitting manholes and grates. (Like my grandfather and his ill fitting dentures.) Every time a car drives over one of them there is a thunk-thunk sound. There are the pick-up trucks, a fraction of the size of the beasts we have in Canada, really no bigger than a car, but with a flatbed section at the back with rails and enough floor space for ten people to stand crowded together. Empty of people (for some reason in the morning), many of them seem to have loose pieces of metal in the back that roll around with percussive clangs as the trucks careen around corners. Motorcycles and scooters, with their un-helmeted drivers, whizz by, changing gears like kids blowing raspberries. There is the muted roar of an inner city highway behind me. Far enough away that I have to tune in to hear it – somewhere beyond the roosters – but loud enough to provide a constant thrum with the occasional crescendo of a truck gearing down to get up the hill. 

It all blends together into something surprisingly easy to ignore until the staccato burst of excited chihuahuas snaps my attention back to my surroundings. That’s the only sound in this morning symphony that sets my teeth on edge. I can’t seem to tune it out the way I can other sounds.  

There is a crispness to the air that isn’t at all cold. I can easily sit in the shade with just a short-sleeved shirt. Alexa says it is 14 degrees. I don’t think that can be right. It feels so much warmer to me. This window of time before around 8 – the air feels lighter. It hasn’t accumulated enough moisture to be humid yet and make everything feel like it should be done at a fraction of the pace. You’d think it would be gradual but it is surprisingly abrupt – this transition into heat and humidity. And with it, the sounds of construction start. Luckily where we are, there isn’t any major construction going on. Just the odd single hammer pounding away. 

We are at the outer edges of the Zona Romantica. A juxtaposition of modest 3-unit condo buildings, like ours, and tin roofed, grey bricked ramshackle buildings sometimes with multiple stories piled on top of each other and often with a missing wall or two. I’m pretty sure that there are some significant building code violations going on. The small-ish construction projects, which I think will end up being buildings like the one we are in, seem to be being built one slow brick at a time by one guy who has never even imagined having a sense of urgency. It’s the exact opposite of watching Rob and Craig build the cabin in Cape Breton on fast speed.  

A contractor somewhere in the neighbourhood has turned on his radio. It’s playing what I think of (and probably very insultingly and culturally insensitively!) as ‘the usual’. To my untutored ears it sounds like the same time-honored Mexican love song played on one unending loop. Lots of grandiose brass  instruments and a lovesick tenor. The narrative speaks of tragedy (I imagine) with a surprisingly cheerful undertone. An excellent description of day to day life, come to think of it.   

And now it is time to start my work day as well.