My adopted home of Tortola is a mere 12 miles long and 3 miles wide and has a population of 23,000 – it very much looks and feels like the land that time forgot. With its green mountains, thick foliage, and exotic flowers, it often reminds me of a real life Jurassic Park.
At times, I half expect to see a pterodactyl swooping down from the mountain tops or a velociraptor running past the overhanging palm trees. For a while I was convinced that Jurassic Park was filmed on this very island but to my disappointment, Google revealed that the movie was actually shot some five thousand miles away in Hawaii.
While there are no deadly dinos roaming the island, Tortolans are coping as best they can with a distant cousin of these prehistoric beasts: the chickenosaurus, a pesky but not exactly life-threatening beast. A descendant of dinosaurs, chickens have taken over this small island. They are everywhere – my front garden, the side of the road, outside my office, parking lots, even the beach. I once found a baby chick in a flower pot. Tortola is positively overrun with these modern day Mesozoic creatures.
I was never one for paying attention in science class, so it was only recently that I discovered that modern day birds evolved from dinosaurs. This piece of information came to my attention because I follow Uber Facts, a not-so-high-brow source of information on Twitter. Thanks to Uber Facts, I now also know that before toilet paper was invented, Hawaiians used coconut shells and that masturbation helps clear nasal congestion. This is what happens when you live in the Caribbean for too long – you rely on useless, yet hilarious, information as a source of your news and entertainment.
Since I moved to Tortola, I have started waking up at 4am to the high-pitched crescendo of cockle-doodle-do. I recently evolved to the stage where I now actually wake up a few minutes before the roosters even start their crowing. My body clock is now set to rooster time and I no longer have the need for the battery-powered version.
Before I became accustomed to the fauna of the islands, I had wrongly assumed that roosters were strictly barnyard animals and I didn’t expect to find them wandering the length and breadth of my rock. I was also under the impression that roosters simply sound off at dawn and give a gentle wake up call. To my horror, they continue to cock-a-doodle do all day long. I thought I was moving to a tropical paradise, but instead the real-life Jurassic Park that I’ve found myself in has left me with no escape from the omnipresent chickenosaurus.
I’m not the only person struggling to live in harmony with these creatures. I have a friend living on island who is easily one of the nicest people in the world. She always has a smile on her face and something kind to say. It would never occur to me to describe her as a raving lunatic, yet the chickenosaurus has managed to turn my sweet friend into an animal rights activist’s worst nightmare.
After months of rooster-induced sleeplessness, she finally snapped when a startlingly loud cockle-doodle-do woke her from her already scant slumber. In an uncharacteristic rage, she jumped out of bed, raced outside, and chased that rooster down. She eventually caught the noisy creature and gave it a smack. The rooster scurried off and kept on crowing. Now, if this docile twenty-something is capable of being driven to actually raise her hand to a rooster, I’m genuinely surprised that most Tortolans aren’t roaming the island with a pellet gun in an effort to commit rooster genocide. But perhaps it’s something that the years deafen and eventually make unnoticeable. Though it’s hard to imagine.
Whether you intend on living or visiting Tortola, be prepared that no matter the time of day, there will be a rooster crowing. This will become the soundtrack to your life. You will live in a constant state of exhaustion, care of the rooster. Psychotic breakdowns and sudden, uncharacteristically violent behavior is also a potential outcome. Short of serving up a noisy rooster for dinner, there really isn’t much you can do to drown out the noise of these modern day dinosaurs. For me, it’s just another day of surviving life in my own little Jurassic Park.