Neighborhood sounds

Here are some of the sounds I hear from my apartment:

Women pounding their clothes, washing them in the watering hole in front of my apartment. They use a flat wooden paddle, that looks like a weapon. The pounding isn’t a continuous rhythm. Just 5-8 beats, a pause to dip the clothes in the water, turn them or examine them, then a few more beats. Sometimes I hear a couple women pounding in alternating beats, like the “I’ve been working on the railroad” style. Then, it’s the voices of the women. Elderly Korean women are known as being strong, and pretty pushy. So their voices often sound like they’re giving each other a piece of their mind, but I can’t really tell.

The washing pounding sounds a lot like the pounding that Buddhist monks do, as part of their rituals. Out walking, you can tell you’re near a temple, when you hear a sharper sound than the washing pounding. The monk taps on a hollowed gourd, with a rhythm unidentifiable to me, but not Western 4/4 time. On a Sunday morning, a few neighbor ladies were chanting, beating the gourd, and holding what seemed to be an impromptu Buddhist ceremony in the shade of the garden shed, looking out to the garden adjacent to my apartment building.

There’s another sound that I hear often. When I first hear it, it always remind me of the “Call to Prayer” that I first heard regularly in Niger. It was so hot, we slept outside on the patio, and at 5am, the neighborhood mosque’s Iman would come over the loud speakers posted throughout  the neighborhood.

So, when I hear the trucks rolling through my neighborhood with their loudspeaker announcements going, it sounds like the same rhythm. But, I realized, with an entirely different purpose. The announcements are usually recorded (poorly), so you will see a man driving a truck, and hear the recording of his voice maybe?, again and again. He is selling produce or fish. The call sounds like umdumdadumbadadidum, kamsamnida. (Selling something, thanks!)

I’ve heard some trucks are selling dogs for meat, but haven’t seen this myself. I have heard the barking from a few dog farms, when out walking in the hills. People enjoy dog soup here. I’m a speciesist. I can’t even enjoy lamb because of the cuteness factor of the live animal,  I guess.  I have no desire to try dog soup.

Changing the subject, the other sounds are often the wind and rain. Island weather, I guess. Though, I’m next to the water, it’s rare to hear the waves crashing. Samyang Beach is on the side of the island facing mainland Korea so there aren’t big waves here.

I do hear a big ship blowing it’s horn once in awhile, and I wonder, is that a real means of communication these days? What does it mean? “Hey, I’m a really big ship and I’ll be there in an hour.” I hope there’s a more sophisticated communication scheme behind that horn blast.

Crickets and locusts are also pretty constant, at least at this time of year. And it’s pretty common to get a cricket in my apartment. My own personal Jimminy Cricket.

The most striking sound is what’s not heard. There is no background traffic noise here. I’ll hear a car or truck drive by, or several, but there’s no traffic hum. That part is really lovely!





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