When we moved in with our host family, we took a couple of days to get to know the family, adjust to our accommodations, learn some routines and just settle in. After a couple of days everything seemed just fine. Then, it was early Friday evening and John and I were walking home from class and heard loud music coming from the direction of our house. We originally thought it was a boom box on a wagon that had just passed by headed that direction. Much to our horror, it was coming from a bar/tavern located about 100 yards in back of our house. I cannot even begin to describe how loud the music was other than to say that in our room, John and I could not have a conversation with each other without yelling. Additionally, the window panes and metal roof were vibrating from the bass noise. We asked the family about the music and they said yes, it’s a problem but that it happens every Friday-Saturday-Sunday night and that there was nothing that could be done (zoning in a residential is not so strictly adhered to). I would say we suffered in silence but but it was anything but silent until 3am Saturday morning. This happened again Saturday and Sunday evenings. We were zombies in class on Saturday and by Monday, we were totally “out of it!”
We, of course, told our Peace Corps officials and they were sympathetic and they and others suggested that this was “just the South African way of life”. Nonetheless, PC indicated that they would look into the situation. As we were growing quite fond of our host family and did not want to leave them, we were hoping against all odds that the PC folks would find some way to deal with the errant tavern owner and get the music down to an acceptable level (just to note, the tavern had HUGE speakers stacked outside and these just happened to be directed straight in the direction of our house). On the following weekend, it was the same situation all over again and we began to feel ill from both the horrible noise and lack of sleep, and also the realization that we were going to have to move to another host family. We were told on Tuesday that another home had been found for us and that we would move within the next few days. On Wednesday evening we got the word that we were moving, and we had to throw everything together and leave. On one hand it was a relief to avoid another weekend of unbearably loud music but on the other hand, it was very emotional leaving everyone in the family. They are wonderful and kind people and we will miss seeing them every day. Of all the problems that we might have anticipated having in SA, we never dreamed that noise would be such an issue. Some other PCVs have indicated that they, too, have to listen to bar music throughout some evenings. Either their music wasn’t as loud as ours, or these younger people don’t mind staying awake until 3am listening to music!
Note: Where we moved to is about 1 kilometer away and we can still hear the bar music on the weekends … loud enough to even know which song is playing! Our building is not vibrating, so I’m going to ignore it.