Sunday, February 24, 2013

Literally earth-shaking experiences

The stone island called Horaijima at Tokyo's Rikugien
had its shape altered by the earthquake 
that hit northeast Japan in March 2011

Sign at Rikugien detailing earthquake damaged areas
and also what to do in the event of an earthquake  
(in imperfect English and presumably much better Japanese)

This past Friday morning, while I was at work, I felt my chair move on its own underneath me.  As I stood up to inspect the chair to see whether there was some problem with it, I happened to glance at a few of my colleagues and saw perplexed and disturbed looks on their face.  That gave me an inkling that I had not been alone in having felt something unusual.  

After going around and ascertaining that pretty much everyone in my area had felt unusual movement, my next question was: did we have a problem with our building or had an earthquake occurred somewhere over across the border in Mainland China?  And as we found it a bit later that day, it indeed had been the latter.  More specifically, an earthquake of magnitude 4.8 had occurred at 11.34am that day in Guangdong Province, with its epicenter being some 180 kilometers away from Hong Kong.

For the record: this is the fourth time I've been in an area that experienced minor tremors courtesy of an earthquake -- and something I found interesting is that each time, it's been in a different part of the world.

The first time, I was nine years old and visiting family friends in California.  Late one night, while I was in bed but not yet asleep, a picture hanging in the room fell down with a bang.  A few seconds later, my hostess ran into the room to make sure that I was okay, and to tell me that there had been a small tremor.  I still remember my relief at her telling me that -- because I had been inclined to believe that a ghost had caused the picture to fall down!

The second time, I was on a visit to Istanbul with my mother.  One evening, I was walking on a bank of the Bosphorus at Ortakoy with her and a Turkish friend of ours when waves splashed into our path.  We were inclined to chalk this down to a big boat having passed closed by until a friend of our Turkish friend phoned her to say that a small earthquake had just occurred!

The most recent time before Friday was on the last night of my 2011 Japan visit -- and the one where I felt the most movement.  Like in California all those years ago, I was lying in bed -- only this time, I was reading and the bed very noticeably pitched to one side before rolling back to its original position!  This being mere months after the Tohoku Earthquake (AKA Great East Japan Earthquake), I was a bit scared -- but when I mentioned it the next morning to a friend who lives in Japan, she was nonchalant about it, saying it really was not a big deal at all.

And that's the thing: all four tremors I've personally felt thus far in my life truly are the results of small earthquakes -- and yet, I remember the experience of their occurring so very vividly. All of this makes me really hope that I never experience a big one, and gives me some sense of how incredibly terrible it can be to be caught in a major earthquake like the one that occurred in Japan on March 11, 2011.  (And when one remembers that in that particular instance, there also were tsunami and nuclear radiation problems, it seriously is amazing how the country and many people have managed to recover as much as they have... )

The literally earth-shaking experience on Friday morning also reminded me how unpredictable life is, and how there is so much that we really cannot control.  Rather than be traumatized by this though, I'm inclined to think they serve as a good reminder of the wisdom of the first few lines of The Serenity Prayer: i.e., we need to accept the things we cannot change, have the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference between them.


Goodbye HK, Hello YVR said...

The words from the Serenity Prayer are so true!

alejna said...

That is really remarkable that you have felt earthquakes in so many parts of the world!

As for me, I have barely felt an earthquake, which has always seemed odd, given that I'm a California native. The bigger California earthquakes were always at times when I was living elsewhere, and the minor ones went mostly un-noticed by me. We've recently had a couple of small eathquakes here in New England, too, which is odd. But one of them was when I was flying back home from Hong Kong! I missed it entirely. The other more recent one was felt by some in my town, but not by anyone in my house.

YTSL said...

Hi The Fragrant Harbour --

The first few lines at least! :)

Hi Alejna --

Wow re your having barely felt an earthquake despite being a California native -- and wow even more re the idea of small earthquakes in New England (which I hadn't thought was an earthquake prone place)!

Dragonstar said...

The only 'earthquake' I've ever felt was in South Wales. I was making breakfast when all the jars rattled loudly on the shelf. My father was still in bed and felt a slight movement. That was it! Hardly - umm - earthshaking. ;)

YTSL said...

Hi Dragonstar --

Wow, South Wales is not where I'd expect to feel the earth trembling... but to me, your experience sounds earthshaking! ;b