New year’s is a very big deal here. It’s a very noisy deal, as well. In the days and maybe weeks leading up to New Year’s you can buy your own noise-makers from any of dozens of street carts dotting the main thoroughfares as well as a number of by-ways. One of them is a long plastic horn or trumpet (like the Angel Gabriel, if he were using a plastic trumpet).
A few days after New Year’s, in the middle of a damp, hot night, we had a power outage in our neighborhood. With the air-con and fans off, we could hear every single noise in our not too quiet neighborhood. There are over half a dozen dogs around who seem to have a raucous conversation every single night, for a couple hours at least. There’s music, usually, up the road a bit. There’s an occasional lonely cat as well as passing motorists, and honking your horn here is a courtesy. And that night, as the darkness continued and the damp, uncomfortably itchy warmth increased, one of the neighbors a few houses up the road pulled out one of those plastic horns and blew it, a long, low blast.
“What on earth?” I thought.
And then another neighbor, slightly further off, answered with a blow on a horn of his or her own. The first one blew again, a deep and unmelodious noise. More neighbors replied with their own horns. I was baffled. Why would they do this? Was this some sort of signal the neighborhood had devised of which we knew nothing? Some Filipino custom nobody had ever told us about? It was midnight, did they not worry about sleeping children trying to get enough rest for school the next day? Did nobody have jobs to go to? I have never yet been even mildly annoyed by a local custom here thus far (and I know we’ve been here a laughably short time), but this, this was more than an annoyance. I was becoming outraged. I was tired. I wanted to sleep. And this NOISE just continued, as around the neighborhood horns tooted back and forth in some forlorn sounding call and response.
“The bullfrogs sure are loud,” said my husband, beside me, also not sleeping. The mosquitoes were also bothering him- they never bother me if he is around to feast upon. “I wonder if they are this loud all the time, and we just don’t hear because we have the aircon on?”
“Bullfrogs?” I asked. “These are bullfrogs? How do you know?”
It turns out, when we were still in the guesthouse and sometimes he and our son would leave late at night to go to the coffee shop or to shoot hoops and I stayed in the room with a sleeping Cherub, they would hear the frogs on their way back. The frogs are huge- as big as two of my fists. They are loud. And while they are also my neighbors, they were not the neighbors I was growing irritated over. I was embarrassed, even though nobody need ever know my unjust assumptions and irritation. My neighbors were neither as annoying nor as inconsiderate as I had imagined. I had been incredibly unfair to them, if only in my thoughts.
I was relieved I learned about the frogs before I had been even more unjust and made a huge fool of myself, perhaps complaining to somebody, or glaring blearily at one of them in the morning for no good reason.
I was ignorant and very tired and uncomfortable, but I should have withheld judgment, I should have exercised a bit more imagination in wondering what else that noise could be besides inconsiderate neighbors. I jumped to the first conclusion that come to my tired, somewhat grouchy self.
The air-con came back on, mercifully before my husband was eaten alive by the mosquitoes. Physically comfortable again, I rolled over to go back to sleep reminding myself as I dozed off, “Self! Shame on you. Let that be a lesson to you!’
But it probably won’t. I will probably make other mistakes, misjudgments, false assumptions. Probably not many as silly as this one, but possibly far more serious. I will make them because I am human, and a slow learner. I will be subject to those same mistakes made by other humans in my direction. It’s part of life. We all rub along as best we can in this old world, making mistakes, being done wrong and doing wrong, learning, moving on. What’s important is that we extend the grace to others we’d like to have extended to ourselves, to overlook those errors others make in our direction while trying not to be the one misjudging others.
I tried to record the frogs earlier this week, and I posted it here. You can’t hear the bullfrogs as well here- you have to listen to pick up the lower, longer notes in the background. Most of what you hear in the recording is the smaller frogs with higher pitched croaks. They were silent the night I thought my neighbors were blowing horns. It was just the bullfrongs, one at a time, resounding through the neighborhood.