Of all the cities I have lived in over the years - including Shanghai - Cuenca is by far the loudest. It seems like there is always something in this city going on to assault your eardrums.
I don't know how to describe it in a way that you can imagine, but here's a start. Imagine a world in which almost everyone who owns a car has a car alarm for it. Imagine that alarm is a multi-part siren capable of running a 60 second loop. Imagine that the sound of this alarm is not unlike a rhythmic air raid siren, and that for a 100 yard radius it will feel like you are standing next to the Keith County Courthouse when they are testing the tornado sirens.
Imagine that in this world, NO ONE KNOWS HOW TO TURN OFF THEIR OWN ALARM.
That's right people - whoever sold the population of Cuenca their car alarms neglected to instruct them in basic courtesy features, like the ability to turn off the alarm on the car while you are sitting in it. Or how to lock the car without setting off the alarm. That the children of Cuenca have not been permanently deafened by the echoing wails of their parents' alarm systems going off every time a door is opened while the engine is running is beyond me.
Today a guy parked across the street from my apartment block, and went into the restaurant there to pick something up. He left the alarm going full blast and the door hanging open. Two floors of us leaned out the window to yell at him, it's gotten that frustrating. I think we shook him up a little.
Horns honking, mufflers rattling windows, people playing their music too loud ... I can be on the phone in my bedroom and my parents will ask where I'm at that it's so loud. I know it's partly the season - Carneval is coming, all the schools are on break - but seriously, my nerves are fraying. I had a dream last night that a massive earthquake reduced the city to rumble, and I remember being happy because it was quiet at last.
A car alarm woke me up.