Friday, November 11, 2011

Shaken awake by mother nature

There was an "earthquake" the other night.

I say it with quotations because, according to the Chileans, it wasn't--at a mere 5.8/6.0 it only qualifies as the lesser "temblor." We live on the tenth floor of an earthquake-safe building (read: a building made to wobble) so we probably felt it more than most. But even ground-floor Chileans agreed that it was particularly violent for a temblor. It started about a half hour after I fell asleep and jolted me into consciousness (a friend of mine who lives further North, closer to the epicenter, said he actually fell out of bed). I sat bolt upright, thinking someone had shaken me awake, and spent a very disoriented few moments trying to work out what was going on. My host mother burst into my room, assuring me that everything was all right before hurrying out again to secure things in the apartment. I thought she was just being sweet, but I learned later that the first thing you're supposed to do in an earthquake is open all the doors so that you don't get trapped in rooms by warped door frames. Huh. Anyway, after about thirty seconds, the shaking had become a mild rocking, and in a few more seconds it died away entirely. Like everyone else in town, we switched on our tvs and kept alert for the tsunami warning, using Facebook and cell phones to ensure that our loved ones were OK. We waited for another quake. Nothing came. By 5am, fatigue won out over stressful anticipation, and I fell asleep.

We continued to find little reminders of the tremor for the next few days. While eating dinner one night, my host mom looked up, laughed, and stood to adjust a crookedly-hanging painting on the wall. I found a few nick-nacks that had fallen from the top of a dresser behind my TV, and my host grandparents had a few broken terra cotta pots from their large house plants.

All in all, the effects were minor. However, I have no desire to experience that again. I found out later that there had actually been a series of almost imperceptibly small tremors leading up to it this one--and one 4.0 following it, and they warn that there may be more coming. All part of a normal day in life on the Ring of Fire, I suppose.

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