The sounds of a town

Amsterdam sounds like bike chains. You can always hear it – people use big, heavy chain locks and unlocking and locking a bike is noisy. It’s the distinct sound of Amsterdam.

Cholula sounds like fireworks. Like church bells and barking dogs. Like music and gas trucks and tamales and guys selling and buying furniture. There are so many more sounds here, but the most distinct sound of Cholula is fireworks. Two days ago was December 7th, a Wednesday. I have no idea what was special about December 7th, but the church bells rang constantly from about 8pm-midnight, and the fireworks were extremely loud and constant, rather than scattered. From inside my daughter’s bedroom it sounded as though someone was bombing our front yard. I mean, they were really, really loud. I was convinced at some point the noise would wake her, either in the night or when they started again at 5am. I mean, they kept me awake. But she slept straight through the night, along with her father. Will I eventually be able to sleep through massive firework explosions? How many years will that adjustment take?

My daughter knows the song from one of the gas trucks now and will say “Gaaaaaas” if I hum the song. She shakes her arms and head to “dance” when music comes on, no matter from where. When we cycle along and fireworks are going off so loudly it’s impossible to have a conversation, she happily says “bang bang bang!” When dogs bark at her, I told her that means they’re saying hello. So when we’re sitting outside eating at a restaurant and three dogs go running around, barking like crazy, Ayla waves hello to them. She’s adjusting well to her life in Mexico, and I’m thrilled for that. I’m also thrilled that every single day, we go outside and play at one of the nearby play areas. We never look excuses for places to go that are child-friendly, because the weather is always perfect. With perfect weather and plenty of green, open spaces to play, having a young toddler all of a sudden becomes pretty easy. Literally the only thing this girl needs to be entertained is to play outside. A playground is great, but she’s also ecstatic to go to the soccer fields and watch the people practicing, or to try and run and collect the balls that get kicked beyond the goals.


The playground at the base of the pyramid in San Andres Cholula

Ayla has been in daycare for about a week now, and we are easing into it very slowly. Today we left her for 1 1/2 hours, and Enrique and I did something amazing: we went out and ate breakfast. Together. Without our daughter. We didn’t bring a diaper bag or toys. We just sat, talked, and ate slowly. It’s the first time in over two months that we’ve been out of the house together, alone.

We don’t have internet yet at our new place, so a couple times a week I go to cafes to work. When I entered today at 9am there was one man sitting and eating his breakfast, and the first words that came out of my mouth (without thinking) were “buen provecho.” It’s spanish for “enjoy your meal” or “bon appetit”, but here in Mexico (and other spanish speaking countries) it’s not just something the waiter says to you when your food is being delivered. It’s what you, the customer, says to all the other customers as you walk into a cafe or restaurant. Or when you walk out. And here in Cholula – maybe because it’s a town, it’s not a bustling city – but especially during the day, we all greet each other. We all say goodbye. The baristas and cafe owners ask me how my daughter is adjusting to school, congratulate me on finding a place to live, compliment my bicycle, etc. When the man who was eating his breakfast finished up, he paid, said goodbye to the cafe owners, and then wished me a good day. The difference in the niceness of people in Cholula vs. Amsterdam is night and day. Two days ago I was in a big chain store, in a mall, buying a rug for Ayla. I had searched for days for the right rug, and finally found it – but the only one available was the one on display, otherwise they could deliver one to me in two weeks. “I really want to buy a rug today, now. Is it possible to get the one from the floor?” Of course it was. Three people came out to help clear the rug and package it up. When I thank them all profusely, the response was “no problem, we’re here to help/aqui para servirle.” I hear this all the time.


There is still so much to do to settle in. I am exhausted. I want to snap my fingers and just have my house be furnished, have the curtains hung, the dishes done, the food purchased, and my hair cut. But through the haze of exhaustion, two invitations for posadas came through. Considering we only know about 6 people here, that’s a pretty amazing feeling. The holiday season is very much here, though it’s still hard for me to realize it’s almost the middle of December when I’m wearing flip flops every day. The nativity scenes have palm trees, and the Christmas markets are punctuated with sounds of music and, of course, the bangs and explosions of color from the fireworks.




1 thought on “The sounds of a town

  1. Thank you for this great post! Me and my sister from Ireland have been traveling around Mexico for two weeks and just arrived to Cholula this afternoon to spend our last few days before going home. We decided to have an early night so that we could get up early tomorrow to explore the town, but the sounds of banging have made falling asleep pretty tricky. That plus the recent news articles about ‘insecurity’ in the area had me pretty anxious, but your post about the sounds of the town (and the fireworks!) have calmed me quite a bit. Hopefully I’ll get to sleep soon! If you have any recommendations of things to check out, places to eat, etc, in Cholula it would be amazing – we both love food, crafts (I love printmaking, bookbinding and photography and my sister loves pottery/ceramics and textiles) and music! Buenas noches! Kasia


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