Friday, March 5, 2010

terremoto 2010

Well…I’m alive.

As crazy as it might sound, despite the fact that an 8.8 earthquake hit Chile, I am so glad I was here for those three minutes and x seconds. Chile doesn’t have a lot of stick houses built on mud, so it wasn’t nearly as destructive as Haiti, but nonetheless, its done a lot of damage. The epicenter was in Concepcion, the second largest city in Chile, which is about 80 kilometers away from where I live in Talca. By some sort of luck I was in Santiago that night so it was only about a 7.2ish and wasn’t quite as strong (although strong!).  We were at a birthday party that night and then a group of us exchange students broke off to go to a discotec. We had literally just gotten there and went up the escalators and were standing on the balcony trying to get in for free (because we’re gringos) when it started. At first, all of us looked at each other and said, “Wow. That music is so loud, it’s shaking the building!” Then, the tiles started to fall off the building, the lights went out, and everyone ran out of the door of the disco screaming. Across the street you could see the entire building flexing and some of the windows breaking. The ground level was just tons and tons of chairs and tables, and people were just running and shoving them out of their way. The balcony we were on felt like it was about to snap off the building or that the giant glass panels were going to fall down on us. So, another exchange student and I ran down the stopped escalators that had cracks in them and by that time, it had kind of “calmed” down, so we just sat down in some chairs and waited for the rest of our group. I think we were all more shocked than scared. It’s definitely not something you expect to happen…
By the time we decided we should probably go home, there were no more buses or taxis or collectivos or metro. Nothing. So, we just stayed on the sidewalk and waited. At about 5 in the morning half of the group left and when they came back, they brought bread and cheese and this 27 year old guy who then invited us back to his house so that we could get a little sleep. I thought it was incredibly sketchy, but we went anyways and just sat around his dining room table in the dark until the sun came up and we could go look for a way to get home. Of course, there was nothing. We waited for the bus for about an hour and experienced the first aftershock before some guy in a truck (sketchyyy) picked us up and took us home, to Andrew‘s house. The house had power so we just watched the news all day. We tried to sleep, but the aftershocks and phone calls were a bit preventative of that. For some reason, Andrew was drying a sock on a stick that was attached to his TV, and we used that as our  “Aftershock Detector” because it jumped so much. The news was crazy to watch. We didn’t really know how bad it was, especially in Concepcion and Talca and it was scary to see all of it. My host family was coming home from the beach that day, so they picked Sara and I up to go back to Talca. The ride home was ridiculous. The roads are so bad. There are just giant holes in them and huge elevated parts and ripples and the pedestrian overpasses all fell. At one point there was an hour and a half detour through hills and farms just to skip a 10 kilometer strip of highway. We got to Talca at night but we had to drive through town a little bit to drop off Sara. It was bad. Everyone was outside, either with fires or sleeping in tents or cars. We didn’t feel the earthquake like we would have in Talca, but it was pretty clear how bad it was just by how no one wanted to be near their houses. A lot happened to Talca, not just because it’s old, but because a lot of the houses are made of adobe.  On the way to my house there is (or rather, was) this long fence and giant house made entirely of adobe and brick and now its completely gone. My  neighbor’s house(who is also another exchange student) was pretty badly hit. He was sleeping when it happened but woke up to his host dad screaming his name out. So he ran out of his room right before his light fixture crashed down on to his bed, and made it down the stairs right as the books were falling off the shelf and finally out of the house as all the statues and glass knick-knacks shattered. Their fence fell down completely (rod iron and brick) as well as all the other fences in our ‘neighborhood’.  My host mom’s brother cleaned up our house before we got there, so I’m still not quite sure how bad it was, but they said that all the wine bottles fell in the kitchen and a few things fell off tables but nothing serious. The book shelves in my room broke, but everything was very fixable.
I went straight to bed when I got home, as I hadn’t slept in awhile and woke up the next morning to what they call an “aftershock”. It was totally another earthquake. It was like a 5 or 6 on the Richter scale. My family made fun of me because I jumped out my window.
That day they had to go visit a friend, so they dropped Matt and I off in downtown Talca. It was awful. Almost all the buildings were either on the ground or pretty badly hit. There was glass and bricks and rubbish all over the street. And there were police everywhere. Apparently they were shooting anyone they caught looting because the first night a lot of places got robbed.  There was another strong aftershock that night and I couldn’t sleep the entire night. I got about two hours of sleep and woke up sick and couldn’t eat anything. The aftershocks didn’t scare me at first. But they still haven’t stopped and its almost been a week. Monday and Tuesday we didn’t really do anything. The power still wasn’t on which meant no water either. That was gross. Almost 6 days without a shower…We had to go to a friend of Jorge’s house to take showers.  Wednesday I woke up early and went to Sara’s house so we could go help out downtown. I spent the night there with Chanel. We played Pictionary and Bullshit and made S’mores. In the morning, Sara and I went to help again. We went to the supermarket to buy hygiene products to send to Constitucion.

The stories are really hard to hear though. There were a few women that had babies during or directly after the earthquake. Nobody can communicate with people from Concepcion or Constitucion and a lot of people have lost family and friends there. People got hurt getting out of there houses. The Universities and office buildings are destroyed and no one can really work yet. Obviously, not a lot of good came from it. But things are finally getting back to normal, though. There aren’t mile long lines at the gas stations or overly priced food and water. The armed soldiers outside of the grocery stores are reducing and the buses are starting to run again. And we got power today! School still hasn’t started and for a lot of kids it won’t start for a couple weeks. Some schools are getting completely demolished. But for the schools that weren’t really damaged, they all start Monday.
I really don’t know what to say. Its been weirdly crazy. Yet fun.

Happy 1st Birthday, Sophia Marie. You have no idea how much I miss you.


  1. Wow quite a ride indeed. So happy you are all ok.
    Wish you were going to be home for the B-party tomorrow, that would be the icing on the cake.
    So you'll stay then? Has anyone from Rotary contaced you to let you know one way or the other? We'll keep you in our prayers. Be safe little one. Love you - Auntie Timi

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