We had a wonderful time on the Big Island. Maggie was better than we could have dreamed, and saw amazing lava formations and some of the most diverse landscapes in a single geological formation that I have ever seen.

But first, a word (or several) on our lodgings.

Tom and I, being budget travelers, have stayed in some spare rooms. Not dives, just…plain. Stripped of amenities. On our trip to northern California we slept in a budget B&B, in a tent, in bunk beds at a budget hostel, and on the grass at Crissy Field with the Avon Walk. (Side note: the grass at Crissy Field is possibly made of magic, and was more comfortable than any bed we slept on in the city.) This B&B on the Big Island was no exception; rooms with gapped floorboards plopped down in a working farm, complete with corrugated roofs and windows with screens that can’t be shut. I thought it was charming and set about unpacking.

Now, I grew up in rural Maine, and I know that there is nothing noisier than the country. Insects, animals, you name it, it makes noise. I have heard moose rutting near my window and can tell you it is louder than any car alarm. More nasal, too. And there are insects. Tons and tons of insects that crawl on you and bite, and you just learn to deal and ignore them. But I forgot after years of city and suburban life.

Imagine my horror seeing a parade of wee tiny ants scuttling along the baseboards and through the floor, close to where my baby was going to sleep in her travel bed. As an immediate cancellation would cost us $300 and we’d still have to find a place to sleep, I decided to choke back my disgust out of cheapness. (Not once was my baby bitten by anything, by the way, although my legs are covered with various welts.) We settled down to sleep and enjoyed the cool mountain breeze figuring “Well, non-biting ants, no harm done, that’s not so bad.” Maggie slept like a stone in the brisk air.

There are worse things than ants. Oh yes. There are roosters.

Roosters are an aspect of Hawaii that most tourists do not experience. I can’t explain why they are so prevalent, I only know that they are everywhere: as pets, as part of working farms, as feral entities unto themselves. And they cannot tell time. And if a rooster lets off on one property, the NEIGHBOR’S ROOSTER responds in kind. And this goes on for hours.

In retrospect the ear plugs left by management ought to have been our first clue, but motherhood has sapped my once-formidable deductive powers. Six a.m. arrived and we were wide-eyed after waking every half hour or so to that unholy bird.

After two nights of this, we finally stopped panicking that the baby would wake when the rooster cried. Maggie seemed to be rather resilient. But the farm was not done with us, oh no. Late that night we heard the unmistakable moaning “Mrrrroooooooow” of the farm’s tabby. Clearly, her time of the month had come. Listening to a cat in heat provided a welcome break from the rooster…until the rooster chimed in. And the rain started. Between the cats screwing, the rooster crowing, and the rain on the corrugated roof, we had quite the symphony. A disturbing, unpleasant symphony, one that had us dreaming of deep-frying chicken.

Leaving the next morning to check out, the rooster crossed our path in the driveway. We decided to do the humane thing and not run it down, but oh, it was tempting.

But the farm was not yet done with us. For breakfast that morning they served a high-fiber baked oatmeal. Fiber and I have a complicated relationship, and soon I was running all over the airport in Kona looking for Pepto, Gas-X, anything to quell the gurgling reports from my belly.

See, it wasn’t enough that THEY are noisy. The farm’s final joke was to turn us into noisemakers too.

I kept a pair of the earplugs.