A Little Anecdote … Oh, For the Love of Roosters

My fan whirred across the room, a low noise blocking the erratic hum of passing cars—my neighbors on their way to work. I shed the last moments of sleep and I could have been in any room, anywhere in the world.

And yet, I was home.

My bed here in Florida is more comfortable than many I have slept in over the past nearly five years on the road, but as I woke, the quietude overtook my thoughts.

sunrise

Sunrise on a farm in rural Thailand; Ana and I woke up early to for a 5K run and watched the landscape tinge pink in the morning light.

The sounds at home differ from the frenzy of life in other cities I have laid my head. Though I rise early and with great enthusiasm—I am one of those warily regarded by many as a “morning person”—yesterday morning I laid in bed and allowed my mind to transport me to the moments I have woken elsewhere in the world.

The image of a rooster flashed into my mind. Oh, the roosters. Five years on the road, five years I have shared spaces with these creatures and I haven’t yet come to terms with why no one ever told me roosters don’t crow at dawn. Or rather, they don’t only crow at dawn. They crow when it’s high noon on the other side of the world. Or at sunset. Or precisely when you decide to roll over and try to get a bit more sleep. If I had grown up on a farm I would have known this tidbit, but it wasn’t until I slept in the guesthouses of Southeast Asia that I first learned that much of the world lives alongside this noise.

Lots of kid and pet action

I happened upon this family (and their animals) on a day I got lost walking through the towns and rice paddies near Ubud, Bali.

I have been back in the states for the last three months and the longer I am home, the more my brain romanticizes this aspect of life on the road. You see, when there are roosters I know I am waking to a day that brings a culture apart from that of my youth, a language to challenge my mind, and the fun of the unknown. When I live in a new place, the mundane becomes the challenge for the day even in tasks as ordinary as hunting down a post office.

I am often asked what day-to-day life is like in developing countries. There are the fun things, like food and culture, that are easy to peg down, but travel goes deeper and the oddest memories surface at times, transporting me into past moments. Yesterday morning my mind wandered; in waking to near silence I realized how different minor moments in life are when you live somewhere else.

Traveling and the sound of roosters are forever linked in my head.

And this association stands even though the rooster is my nemesis. I’m a light sleeper and the moment the first rooster crows, my busy brain urges me to start my day. But a day rising to the sounds of roosters often means more. It means stepping outside the familiar at every step; even when I’ve been living somewhere for months (as I did in Thailand and Mexico), I wake with possibilities.

Baby chicks and their mom scattered around the village at Silico Creek, Panama.

One of my favorite memories of Thailand is the national anthem. Each day the Thai National Anthem is played at 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. on the radio, television, and on loudspeakers in many public spaces (you can listen to it here). When I lived in Thailand, the National Anthem became a quiet anthem of my mornings. I would wake at 6:30 a.m. to write, my hot coffee and breakfast cooling as I lost myself in the solitude of rooster crows and the waking noises of my Thai neighbors. Then at the very moment the clock struck 8.00, the first chords of the morning national anthem jolted my subconscious to the present. An elementary school behind my apartment blared the anthem through their speakers and the tinny music floated into my apartment.

Hearing it made me happy. I felt a part of the community each morning and I counted on the ritual as a part of my day.

Finding a ritual is a core reason I travel slowly, the reason I love renting an apartment for weeks or months. Though I have not become that true “expat” in the sense that I live permanently in a new place, the slow travel gives me a chance to allow daily rituals to seep into my routines.

hpa-an

The sun had just risen and yet the vendors were nearly done with their daily ritual of buying/selling vegetables from the countryside at the market in Hpa-An, Burma.

In my Mexican apartment, instead of a national anthem I woke to the garbled voice of passing pickup trucks hawking their wares. Loudspeakers affixed to the roof of these trucks blared out their cyclical mantras:

“Gasolina,” sung the gas truck

Camarones frios,” promised another, offering me good deals on cold shrimp, shrimp without their heads, jumbo shrimp … each time the truck passed I imagined the voice as a Spanish-speaking Bubba from Forest Gump.

The trucks circled town every hour, and the army of roosters prancing around the family compound I called home raised their voices in agreement throughout the day. It was a constant noise and the background to my day.

Yesterday though, I woke in my room and rose from my bed—and my memories— just as the street calmed from the workday evacuation from the neighborhood. I brewed my coffee, turned on my laptop, and prepared to write.

In silence.

And I thought to my self: today, today I miss the roosters.

Later this week I’ll share a post with upcoming speaking dates, travel plans and general announcements as I am getting antsy over here to hit the road once again. 

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26 Responses to A Little Anecdote … Oh, For the Love of Roosters

  1. Rebecca and the World November 9, 2013 at 3:13 am #

    Ahh, roosters! My nemesis as well! I just spent 8 days walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea and the best camps were the ones outside of villages – which meant no roosters crowing at 2am. I’m not sure what body clock they’re all on… But I do get your point – they certainly signify something different, a different culture and undoubtedly another adventurous day.

    • Shannon O'Donnell November 9, 2013 at 11:59 am #

      I looked up pictures and it looks like it was a pretty hike! Glad some nights you got some sleep too, it can be so frustrating if it starts stacking up night after night. :)

  2. Travel Origins October 16, 2013 at 8:08 am #

    I love the picture of the feet. Made me giggle.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 16, 2013 at 8:57 am #

      I love that one too, so cute! Thanks for stopping in and reading! :)

  3. Karyn @ plasticsux October 5, 2013 at 1:37 am #

    This reminded me of how in “Eat, Pray, Love” Liz comments on all the roosters in Bali, and how they would strut around all day crowing, “It is so freakin awesome to be a rooster! We are the only ones who get to be roosters!”

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 6, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

      Hah! I had forgotten that scene in the book, but it’s one of those facts that is just so hard to leave out of a true travel story because the roosters are everywhere! Thanks for stopping by and sharing Karyn :)

  4. Hannah@GettingStamped October 4, 2013 at 4:01 am #

    This one is funny. This article made me remember about our incident of killing a chicken in chicken bus on our way to our destination. Thanks for the nice insights!

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 4, 2013 at 9:05 am #

      A chicken in a chicken bus! That should be a song. Thanks for stopping in and sharing your own experiences. Safe travels! :)

  5. Time Travel Plans October 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Roosters crowing transports me back to my husband’s hometown in the countryside of Westmoreland, Jamaica. Quiet nights were pierced with motorcycle engines and in the mornings we were greeted by barking dogs and annoying roosters. But like you, when I’m not there, those are the things I miss.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 4, 2013 at 9:15 am #

      In the moment that you’re there and sleep deprived it’s hard to stay zen, but roosters and dogs truly are the soundtrack of life in many places. Thanks for sharing your own memory of it here! :)

  6. Andi Perullo October 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    Such a beautifully written post!!!

  7. D Daniel October 2, 2013 at 10:34 am #

    Very good post! I love hearing the roosters. Late night music and barking dogs are my nemesis. I always have a bunch of industrial earplugs for locations with either.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 2, 2013 at 11:53 am #

      You’re right about the barking dogs — I think the trauma of them wiped them from my memory because they are often a soundtrack to the night! :)

  8. Gillian @GlobalBookshelf October 2, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    ALWAYS a rooster and a barking dog! I never thought I would get used the them but I find I can now find a place for a barking dog in the back of my mind so I can sleep a little more. The darned rooster though…he still gets my hackles up every time!! It’s true, they are the sounds of travelling.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 2, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      The barking dogs!! How could I have forgotten that one Gillian! We have the reverse problem, the dogs have almost brought me to tears after a long bus ride and all I want is to curl up and sleep. :)

  9. Lunaguava October 2, 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Here comes the rooster… I relate to the rituals in travels, and to the need of traveling slow – we planned to stay in Mexico for a month, and lo and behold we’re still here, going on four. But your rooster anecdote reminded me of another aspect of travel: how we are all different travelers, connecting to different things around the world. The rooster’s crow takes you back to distant lands and being on the road. Here in Mexico, the rooster’s crow reminds me of home and a childhood spent in a minuscule hamlet in Southern Europe. After many years studying and working in European capital cities, I’d nearly forgotten what it was like to wake up at dawn to the sound of mad roosters greeting the new day. I flew halfway across the world only to settle in a place with new challenges but familiar sounds – mnemonic links to a home that is long gone. I love that even while traveling through the same places, each of us travels through different mosaics of memories and experiences. They will look similar in photographs, but not in our minds. Thank you for a lovely morning read, soundtracked by the looping jingles of gas trucks and the crowing of roosters.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 2, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

      What a lovely tie to your childhood; each piece of the travel experience resonates in a different way for each traveler and it’s one of the reasons reading journeys and travel books can only take you so far. These places we visit have to be experienced in person to more deeply connect you with the moments and memories. Thanks for sharing your own connection to the roosters :)

  10. leighshulman October 2, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Love the roosters, too. So true that they don’t only crow in the morning. Oh, so horribly, wakefully true.

    Looking forward to hearing about your travel and speaking dates. xoL

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 2, 2013 at 11:48 am #

      Thanks Leigh! The roosters and the barking dogs — so very much the traveling life. Hopefully your house is rooster-free :)

      • leighshulman October 2, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

        Lol… We actually do have many neighbors with roosters, but they’re far enough away that I don’t hear them much. it was more an issue when we lived in Panama. There was an old rooster who sounded like someone was strangling an old man to death. Awful! Woke us up every couple hours, every night.

        • Shannon O'Donnell October 2, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

          Glad the new place is quieter, that strangled rooster sounds terrible!

  11. James Schipper October 2, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Looking forward to hearing the plans! We are too deep in the city here to get the roostery at our current spot, but looking forward(?) to it soon!

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 2, 2013 at 11:44 am #

      No roosters!? You guys are very lucky James, so very lucky :)

  12. Claire @ Vegetating Earth October 2, 2013 at 8:14 am #

    Beautifully written. Finding a ritual and experiencing small moments like the ones you describe are what I look forward to in travel.

    • Shannon O'Donnell October 2, 2013 at 11:49 am #

      Thanks Claire. And I always find it’s these moments that are hardest to convey — that though the UNESCO spots and iconic sights are wonderful, it’s the moments that make it special then, and later when you’re elsewhere thinking back. :)

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