New Post from Heather!

Although Chile has international fame for its wine, most Chileans pride themselves more on the ‘terremoto’, an alcoholic drink whose name literally means ‘earthquake’. This drink is very misleading because it has a sweet, fruity taste due to the combination of juice and ice cream, but is actually one of the strongest things you can order in a bar anywhere in Chile. I had never really given much thought to the name before, but this week I unintentionally learned why the terremoto has the name it does- trust me, it is definitely not arbitrary….

Yesterday afternoon, around 1:00, my friend Caroline and I were sitting there calmly in one of the cafés at our university. Actually, I guess I should say that Caroline was sitting there calmly. I was frantically trying to finish memorizing my presentation for the next class. But either way, there we were, sitting in the café, minding our own business. Then, out of nowhere, BAM. EARTHQUAKE. This sounds like a joke or something out of a movie, but it is not. One second we are sitting there in our chairs and the next instant the entire building and ground is shaking- talk about a strange sensation!

Naturally I froze up and had no idea what to do. I don’t mean to say that I have been roaming around Chile without the slightest idea of what to do in case of an earthquake. I have been advised by my host mom, my host brother, my Chilean friends, my program directors, and many more people what to do if I find myself in an earthquake: get outside and away from buildings if possible, go into a doorway or under a table or in a secure area if you cannot get outside, and no matter what, GET AWAY FROM THE SEA. You might be thinking: What? If the ground is shaking, wouldn’t the sea be a better option? NO. In 2010 there was an extremely powerful earthquake in Chile about an hour away from Santiago. Tons of damage to the entire country and tons of people dead. But what was really interesting to learn is that the vast majority of the deaths were not from the earthquake itself, but from the tsunami that followed. Yes, that’s right, the tsunami. Since pretty much all of Chile is on the coast, if the earthquakes reach a certain strength it often triggers a giant tsunami which is nearly impossible to prepare for and often very deadly. In 2010, for example, the earthquake lasted almost 3 minutes and many people panicked and ran towards the sea to try to get off the shaking land. Not the best decision. 3 minutes of shaking is nothing compared to a giant ocean suddenly rushing towards you.

So anyways, I knew what to do in theory, but it is a lot harder to remember all the specific little rules when you are actually in the moment. On the bright side, Caroline has apparently been in earthquakes before because she instantly jumped up, grabbed all of her stuff, and booked it outside, with me following close behind her. The ridiculous thing was (in my mind, at least) that the Chilean students in the café barely reacted! They all sort of looked up from what they were doing for a few seconds and then went back to their reading or coffee drinking! A few of them casually meandered outside, but that was all! Crazy! I understand that they have earthquakes here all the time, but in my mind it makes sense to be alter and at least semi-concerned every time one happens, because there is no way of knowing how long it will last or how strong it will be. Maybe the Chileans just have some type of earthquake-detecting instinct or something that I am lacking? Something I will never know….

So it turned out that our panicking probably wasn’t necessary because the earthquake ended by the time we got outside (it probably lasted around 5 seconds) and there was no damage or injuries. The earthquake happened about an hour away from Santiago, but in the city it was a 5.7 on the Richter scale. In any normal country, this would be considered a pretty big deal, but in Chile, it pretty much just went unnoticed. In fact, a lot of Chileans didn’t even refer to it as an earthquake- the said it was just a ‘temblor’, which is pretty much just a small little shake of the ground. They can say what they want. I have officially survived my first earthquake no matter what anyone says!

When I first came to Chile, my host brother Felipe told me I was not allowed to leave the country until I had experienced an earthquake. So now that it has finally happened, I guess I am officially allowed to leave, even though I still have 2 months of my adventure left. It seems ironic to me that this next story happened to me the very same day as the earthquake. Read it, you will know what I mean.

So when I first started living with my host family, Javier, a friend of Felipe, was living with the family. He left, and then Nina came, Felipe’s girlfriend. She came and went. So now it is just actual family and I. The funny thing is that both Javier and Nina had used the same bedroom when they were staying with us. It was kind of like the guess bedroom, I guess: the next person who was leaving the house stayed in the room next to mine.

I came home from school on the day of the earthquake, and the maid started yelling my name in a really excited voice: ‘Heather, Heather (or Heder, Heder, as I am called), I have a surprise for you!’. I was thinking maybe someone had sent me a postcard or she had a cup of tea for me or something, but no. I was mistaken. My ‘surprise’ was that I had been moved into the other bedroom- the ex-bedroom of Javier and Nina! I have no idea what randomly inspired her to switch all my stuff into the other bedroom one day, but here I am, chilling out in my identical room on the opposite side of the attic. The funniest thing was the maid was genuinely excited to see my reaction when I saw my ‘new’ bedroom! So I told her I absolutely loved it about 1,000 times, and she finally seemed convinced after I told her I liked it even better than the last one. Honestly, it is pretty much the exact same as my other room, but the whole time she was showing me it, I was just thinking ‘WHAT?’!?!’ It reminded me of when I went to college and got exiled to the basement bedroom, but this time I was still here!

With that being said, I am off to explore some more parts of Chile, because apparently I only have a limited time here! ¡Chao!