Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Shake, Shake, Shake
Well, it's been an interesting day out here in the Sandlands (not that it hasn't anywhere else).
There I am, more or less on the mend from my pulmonary nonsense, having a quiet afternoon at home (having ducked out of the office with what seemed, and may yet be, a migraine). A little nap seemed in order, but I had no sooner gone into the lightest of dozes when the dogs started annoying me; something they were doing was shaking the bed.
I woke fully up just in time to realize that it wasn't the dogs - who were frozen at the foot of the bed, watching the curtains sway and the pictures lightly rattling on the far wall. And the bed continued to shake, although now with a rather sickening lateral sway in additional to the shaking. And then it stopped. It seems the earthquake - apparently an enormous one - that struck in Iran this afternoon was felt all this way away on the other side of the Gulf. As with the previous earthquakes I've experienced - in Egypt and Japan, on the exotic side, and in suburban Philadelphia, of all places, on the other - there is a surreality to the moment you realize what's happening, as well as a sound - a low rumble, primordial and relentless - that you can never afterward quite explain or describe, but that, given a choice, you'd opt never, ever to hear again.
I called downstairs to Mrs. Gallapatti-Da Silva, who was serenely washing dishes and had apparently missed the whole thing (she suffers from vertigo and likely just thought it was one of her Lucile Austero moments, although I doubt she thinks of them in that way exactly). I thought it might have been a dream, but then the stream of calls and texts started coming in: the office was evacuating (we're on a high-ish floor, and apparently I missed a festival of screaming in the tongues of many nations); people saw the shelves swaying at this mall or the chandelier doing a little dance at that hotel. And a few hundred miles away, much, much worse.
But here, my Africa training kicked in, and I grabbed the passports and threw them in a bag filled with useful things that we keep for such purposes slung over the back of the bedroom door. I headed downstairs and outside with the very clearly freaked dogs and by now hardly less freaked tiny Sri Lankan lady, and we sat for a while in the shade of the terrace, me be-laptopped and regularly hitting "refresh" on the U.S. Geological Survey's invaluable real-time earthquake monitor. The aftermath of an earthquake, a mild one that is, is a funny moment. You know that something else - and presumably worse - may happen, but that equally it may not. In the moment, you feel rather foolish.
So that is where we are right now: anticipating aftershocks, nothing worse. But unnerving all the same. Perhaps we're getting out of here at the right time...