Thursday, 17 March 2011

When the Earth moves

The other evening a friend was telling me about the first time she kissed her fiancé (boyfriend at the time). He's European, and had been living in Chile for only a few months before they started dating. As they stood outside the cinema and passionately locked lips she said she had butterflies in her tummy and the earth began to tremble. Literally.*
"did you feel that?" she asked,
"feel what?"
"That." It happened again. "The earth is moving"
"Yea, baby, the earth is moving..." he replied, moving his face closer to hers once again
"No, seriously," She insisted, pulling back, "The earth is moving."
"We're experiencing and tremor."

Ok so maybe she didn't describe it to me in that much detail but that's I reckon that's the way it should have happened, at least to make it an anecdote worth retelling.

I looked forward to experiencing my first tremor, but during my first months here I began to worry that I was immune to them. My lack of experience in the movement of the earth's plates had somehow dulled my spidey-sense to detect tremors. I blame my parents for raising me in countries devoid of any natural hazards. In Mauritius the risk of cyclones is still very much an exterior one. In the UK you aren't really at the mercy of mother nature, (more at the mercy of the coalition government). And in the DRC, the dangers are definitely potent, but mostly manmade.

In the middle of one of my classes the students looked up at one another from completing an exercise in silence and announced "¡Está temblando!". I felt nothing. They advised me to sit down on a chair to better feel it. I felt nothing. One of my students told me to crouch down with my palms flat on the floor to feel the vibrations. I felt nothing. I leaned up against a supporting wall. I felt nothing. Disappointing.

The first tremor I actually experienced was in my sleep. Well, I say "experienced"...

I was napping (a habit I have cultivated since arriving to the point of making it a talent) and had fallen into that light, half-sleep stage where your subconscious somehow translates whatever is going on around you into your dream. I began dreaming that there was an old man trapped under my bed trying to get out. (I think I should take a moment here to thank my older sister for the one horror story she told me when I was 13 that to this day evidently haunts my dreams. Love you C.) He was writhing about under my bed shaking it violently. I woke up to find my whole room shaking but, believing I was still dreaming and it not being an unpleasant sensation, I turned over and fell back to sleep.

I woke up half an hour later and stepped out of my room to find Daisy and her husband waiting for me right outside my door, which was odd to say the least. Apparently they had been hesitating whether or not to knock on my door and see if I was OK and hadn't been too frightened by the tremor (bless 'em!). They found it very amusing that I had, at that point, no recollection of feeling it whatsoever. It was only hours later when thinking my dreams over that I realised that in fact my bed had been shaking, thankfully not because of a writhing, old man but rather because the 14 floors below me were jiggling about from the tremor.

There have been 3 tremors in the past 24 hours. For all 3 of them I was in the apartment, on the 15th floor. It's quite a pleasant sensation if I'm honest, kind of like the beginning of a ride in Disney land or the first few moments of take-off in an aeroplane. For the most part these tremors are small, and happen all the times to the extent that some people tell me they hardly notice them anymore, although the one this morning did knock a few things off my nightstand, but that may be more the fault of how precariously they were perched on the mountain of books, papers, chocolate boxes and hair-bands that ever adorn my little bedside table.

I've been told that lots of little tremors are a good sign, it means that the plates are moving about in a quiet but regular way. I'm no geologist, or geographer, or seismologist (just in case anyone had come to the conclusion that I was), and have yet to look it up for myself.

*About the earth trembling. She didn't literally have butterflies in her tummy as far as I'm aware.


  1. lizzie! en conce si que se mueve la tierra jajaja si cuando son despacios nadie se asusta pero cuando toman vuelo ...ufff histeria colectiva :P
    Un besooooo

  2. Pray for the little tremors as you rightly say. We can see what happens when the Earth decides really to flex its 'muscles'... once in a thousand year event like in Japan.