Saturday, February 27, 2010


So it was a laid back day yesterday. It turns out my school orientation was changed from Friday to Monday since my school only starts on Thursday. I ran some errands and went with Ro to her school and we caught up over coffee. After that I explored the city more on my own and getting lunch with some people with the program I became annoyed with myself when I realized I had somehow lost my prescription sunglasses. After retracing my steps and calling the stores I was at they didn’t turn up.

I hung out at the hostel to see if anyone wanted to grab some dinner together but went home around 7. I was doing some reading on the internet and gorged on some cookies and then turned in around 10 or so.

Then around 3:30 AM I was awoken by some shaking. It started getting stronger, and I thought, “Shit, this is an earthquake”. I rolled out of bed and laid curled up with my knees and face on the ground. I heard things in my room clattering to the ground. I stayed that way until the shaking stopped.

I made my way to the doorway of my room, and it turns out that my roommate Fabiola and her boyfriend Gustavo were there too. “Daniel, ¡ponte tus zapatos y quédate en la puerta!” she told me. (Put on your shoes and stay in the doorway)

About a minute after that, it seemed like things calmed down. She told me to be sure to get my ID and money to take with me, as there might be a marremoto (tsunami). I fumbled around my room in the darkness to find them, since I still don´t have enough furniture to store or organize all of my things.

Gustavo asked me to try to call a number for him on my cell phone, but the nerworks were all down. Fabiola lit some candles and tried her internet and of course it didn´t work. She brought out some emergency bottled water in case we would need it.

At this point I was wondering what would happen if we had another earthquake. The house I´m living in is old, and as it is part of the roof is missing and is covered with some metal beams and some type of plastic tarp.

Fabiola then told me that one of the neighbors was very sick and she and Gustavo were going to help her. She told me that if the ground started shaking again to run outside since the house is so old and that there was the chance of the roof falling.
I almost didn´t pack it, but I brought a flashlight I got from Target before I left. It doesn´t need batteries, and it only depends on the energy you create by turning a crank on it. My brother showed it to me a few years ago, so I bought one and have had it for a few years in case of an emergency like this.

My thoughts then went to possibly having to evacuate and losing all my things. I even considered if I was going to end up in the hospital or if this house was going to survive. I thought about things that now I wished I had done differently: perhaps I was too strict with some of my students or too harsh of a grader, maybe I should have helped out at home more, etc.

I then snapped into action and packed my messenger bag with things I would need if we needed to evacuate: family pictures I brought with me, my camera, hand sanitizer, a first aid kit, my money and credit cards, IDs and my passport. I also realized I never backed up my laptop with anything on it, but I brought a few flash drives with me. Luckily I was able to back up all of my files (including all of my pictures) and added the flash drive to my messenger bag.

While they were gone I tried to check out for any damage to the house. Part of the wall started crumbling in various parts of the house, and we also lost the doorbell. Luckily it looks like the damage was pretty minor though.

About half an hour later Fabiola and Gustavo returned. They had a radio and batteries so we sat down and listened to the radio while Fabiola made us some tea and brought out cookies. We kept on hearing “La cosa importante es que mantengan tranquilidad. También quita el gas y eléctrico para evitar accidentes.” (The important thing is to stay calm. Also remember to turn off your gas and electricity to prevent accidents.)

Fabiola shared her experiences of the Chilean earthquake of 1985, and at that time she was pregnant with her 2nd daughter. This quake happened around 6 PM, and her husband and youngest daughter drove to see their new apartment that had been recently painted. Since her youngest daughter was asleep her husband stayed with her while Fabiola went up to the 2nd floor to see it. It started when she was up in the apartment, and it ended up losing an entire wall. Luckily she and the daughter she was carrying was OK.

During this time I was trying to get a text message through to my program director letting him know I was OK. It didn´t go through for a long time, but finally it did go through. Around the same time Fabiola´s son Fabian called to say that he was OK.

Tuning in to the radio, we heard that the epicenter was located about 5 hours south of Santiago, and that it was an 8.8 on the Richter scale there and an 8.0 for us in Santiago. Only the extreme south and north of Chile escaped this quake. We then heard that a famous church in Providencia (the neighborhood of Santiago where I was staying in the hostel) had lost its famous church and bell. Both had been over 100 years old. At that time (around 5:30 AM) we also heard that 6 people had died so far.

We turned in around 6 AM, but we had our emergency bags packed in case if we needed them. There was an aftershock sometime an hour or 2 later, and I woke up to use the bathroom.

It is now 9:30, and I made myself a bowl of cereal for breakfast. Fabiola just popped out of her room and got a call that her daughter is OK. I´m trying this up in Microsoft Word since the internet isn´t working but will post as soon as it is up and running again.

I went back to sleep for a while, and around 12:15 our landlord Mario arrived. We showed him the damage, and he told me that he was trying to call all of us on our cell phones and on the home line but wasn’t able to get through at all. As of now he doesn’t know where Brenda (his girlfriend or wife) is. We also haven’t heard from Claudia (my other roommate who is a nurse), and we are hoping that she is OK either still at the hospital where she works down the street or staying with her boyfriend.

We turned on the news, and the pictures of up north in Concepcion are downright scary. Buildings were completely destroyed at the hands of a 8.8 on the Richter scale. Fabiola and Gustavo went out to do some shopping or walk around, and after chatting with Mario for a bit I decided to brave a trip to the supermarket to stock up on food.

I wanted to bring my camera to take pictures along the way, but Mario said that it would possibly be dangerous so I decided to leave it behind. People were out and walking, and the busses were running. I went to Lider, which was near the Metro and was hoping that it would be open. When boarding the bus a guy told me “Es claro que esté cerrado.” Rough translation: It’s going to be closed, are you stupid?

I got off at the bus stop and was relieved to see people walking out of the supermarket with bags of food. It was packed inside, and I wasn´t even able to get a shopping cart or basket. I simply decided I would carry whatever I got with me until I got checked out. After getting milk, orange juice, eggs, bread, ham, turkey, cheese, and a few other things I got into line. It stretched almost to the back of the store, and while I was waiting I spotted some candles. I grabbed some of them in case if we would need them again. About halfway through waiting my arms were starting to give out. I asked a couple behind me if they could watch my things while I got a basket. Luckily a young bagger ran and got me one. Once I got back in line we chatted a bit. I ran to get some Coke Zero, and they smiled at me. I told them jokingly “Coke es muy importante para los gringos.” (Coke is very important for us Americans). The guy lifted up his 6 pack of Escudo beer and said “Y la cerveza es muy importante para los peruanos.” (And beer is very important for us Peruvians).

After checking out I was able to catch a bus back without a problem. I ran into Mario leaving on the way back, and we chatted for a short while. I checked with him that I had my keys with me before we parted ways.

By this time it is about 2:30, and about a minute after I got back Fabiola and Gustavo showed up. They went to his apartment and it is fine. They also got to chat on the internet with family, and when I heard that I told them I needed to go to talk with my family and let them know I was fine.

Around 2:45 or so I got to call my dad and talk to him. Everyone was relieved to hear from me, and I also updated my Facebook to let everyone know I was ok. It was a relief to get to talk to my dad and brother and let them somewhat know what happened.

By the time I got back Fabiola had cooked some lunch for us. I´m glad that I went to the grocery store, and we had pasta with hot dogs and tomatoes and some bread. I shared my Coke Zero and we had some melon for dessert. While we were eating we felt another aftershock.

I got some extra water to be on the safe side, and on the TV now they are talking about a tsunami that is going to hit Hawaii and that there was an earthquake in Japan also. It is pretty scary seeing all of these pictures of what has happened at Santiago´s airport as well as all of the areas that have been destroyed. It´s even worse seeing that this is affecting other parts of the world.

Fabiola mentioned conserving lights and water to be on the safe side too, and I agree that it is a good idea. I still have my emergency bag packed and ready to go if need be.

It is now 7:15 on Saturday night, and I dozed off in front of the TV for a while. After I woke up I cleaned up my room a bit and took a much needed shower. I got shaved too and feel much more relaxed after everything that has happened. I also put in some laundry since I will be staying in tonight.

It is a littler after 8 PM, and Gustavo has got the phone line working as well as the wi fi connection. I am going to post this now so everyone can read all of the details of what has happened so far.

People are saying that things are going to get back to normal by Monday.  I will keep updating if anything else major happens.

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