Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Shake, rattle, and roll

Part of living in Taiwan is experiencing frequent earthquakes.

Often, they are so subtle you find yourself wondering is this an earthquake?

But sometimes, like today, they roar.

I first noticed something strange when I was walking past the second floor display board at school.

Student work is displayed behind glass cases, and they were all rattling.

Then, before I could truly comprehend what was happening, a roar filled the hallways.

It's hard to explain what a cement building sounds like when it's being rocked by a 6.1, shallow earthquake.

I heard more than felt this earthquake, oddly enough.

As soon as the rocking began, hundreds of students' footsteps thundered above in the third and fourth floor hallways.

We recently had an earthquake while school was in session and no one batted an eye or evacuated the building.

The suddenness of the students' evacuation, before an announcement to do so even sounded on the intercom, told me everything I needed to know: this was a big one.

Leave.

Now.

When we first started school in the fall, we all joked about how many earthquake drills we were forced to practice.

But then, upon learning about September 21, it made sense.

You see, 15 years ago a large and shallow earthquake struck the middle of the island. Thousands of people died when cement schools, temples, and apartments collapsed. Hundreds of thousands of people were very seriously injured.

Any time there is an earthquake, my first instinct is: leave.

Now.

Everything in Taiwan is made out of cement and the cracks running up and down the walls do little to comfort me regarding structural stability.

All it takes is one look at the pictures from all over Taiwan after the 1999 quake to understand:

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