Working in my home office in Calgary there are distracting noises constantly around me. I hear the beep, beep, beep from construction equipment, I hear police and fire sirens in the distance, I hear magpies chattering, I hear a man talking with an Irish accent to his buddies while they walk under my window, I hear the squirrels scaling the trees near the balcony and I hear the steady hum of traffic on the busy street.
These are all normal urban sounds but my ears have been craving a different tone lately. Especially when times are rough such as now when my business is struggling and I’m searching for alternatives. It’s a pitch I sometimes evoke in my memory and play for myself. It’s in the babble of the city that I’m listening for an orchestra from Gambia.
When I was 25 I was part of the Canadian Youth International Internship Program that sent me to The Gambia, West Africa. It was a great experience but not because everything was fine and dandy. There were some definite bad times while I was there acting as the publications officer for a human rights organization – The African Centre for Human Rights and Democracy Studies.
Two of us were sent to the centre. My roommate and colleague, Chris, was from New Brunswick and she took the position as the finance officer. Together we weathered the hot weather, took on termites and learned a bit of the local language. We also supported African human rights through our work in Gambia, a country which is facing major violations right now.
There’s no average day in Gambia. No day where anything goes smoothly. No day where there wasn’t a high and there wasn’t a low. Nothing was ever in-between. Everything was in constant motion, constant flux, constant change. Except for the birds and the crickets.
No matter what was happening we could always expect the birds and the crickets to carry on the same song. To drown out anything that was going on in our brains. To be the one thing for certain.
I’ve played that melody in my head so many times since. The other day I went online and searched “African bird songs”. And I found what I was looking for. It’s the sound of the laughing dove calling through the din of crickets and other singers. I was immediately transported from my noisy office to a place of peace – an acoustic bit of serenity in my otherwise loud reality. Click here to listen.