Immediately I remembered that if there was an earthquake you should get under a doorway or a table, don’t ask me why, I just know I’ve seen that somewhere. So I got up and made my way to the bedroom door. I opened it and before me was a corridor of people running up and down shouting.
I wasn’t sure what to do now so just stayed there hoping the building didn’t collapse. A few moments later it was all over and everything was intact. The people suddenly went quiet and their running turned to walking and the people slowly started returning to their rooms. I wasn’t a hundred percent sold on going back to my room. I went downstairs into the reception and asked the guys if we had to leave the building at all. I’d seen billboards all over the state talking about poorly built housing being a major killer in earthquakes and how many buildings were structurally unsafe, so I figured if they weren’t panicking I was fine, they seemed ok and said we were safe, so back I went to enjoy breakfast, slightly off centre about earth having a mild hissy fit.
That was my first ever earthquake experience, one which I hope to never go through again, there’s something extremely unnerving about something so solid as the ground beneath you, the earth, the steady ground beneath your feet, suddenly becoming the least bankable commodity in your current situation. What do you do when the earth under which everything you hold dear gives way, in every direction. I’ll tell you. Grab a door frame because of a vague memory of Japanese people screaming in a high-rise on a TV re-enactment telling you to and hope more than you’ve ever hoped that the building you’re in wasn’t made on the cheap. Something I never knew about myself was that I took the ground for granted!
That morning I left and at the end of the day found myself on a long road lined by houses whilst it rained torrentially. I sat next to a small tuck shop and bought a drink and some biscuits whilst I sat there thinking I’m definitely not moving from here until it stops… It didn’t look as if it was going to stop any time soon. Across the road from where I sat, was a unusually large church, unusually large because the houses on street were immeasurably smaller than it, it was like a mega structure amongst normal small houses, definitely not in-keeping with the local aesthetics. Nevertheless whilst being sat there I was curious about the amount of kids that were coming out to buy drinks and packets of crisps. Where were all these kids coming from? they couldn’t be coming from far, the rain was to heavy for someone to make the journey out to the middle of nowhere for a single can of coke, not even the lure of a foreigner has that kind of pull.
As I was sat there the old man who served me asked me where my bike was, this was a running theme in India, people would ask me where my bike was and I’d have to tell them I was walking, to which they would then say yeah where did you leave your bike? I would then have to explain that I never had a bike and that I’ve always been walking. I think they have this idea that I was in some sort of accident that had totalled my bike and was now walking. Once we past that stage we could have a normal conversation. I told him I was going to wait at his shop till the rain stopped. He said I’d be there a long time, and why not ask next door if I could stay. To my surprise I asked what was next door? He told me it was a hostel for students of the church opposite, suddenly the children buying stuff made sense. I asked him if he knew the owner, he said yes and agreed to ask for me. Moments after he went in to ask, he returned with an English teacher in tow and we began talking. He asked me where I was from and where I was going and after a few minute of talking he said I was more than welcome to stay the night.
He said it was currently school holidays and the majority of the kids wouldn’t be back for a few more days, so we went in and it wasn’t as I expected, the whole outside of the main building was made from a sort of mud like shell as if it were under repair maybe. I asked if he had felt the earthquake in the morning. “oh yesss!” he exclaimed, “we had to evacuate the house to be sure”… I was suddenly on edge, was it safe??? He took a moment and then reassured me, “oh but its fine”. The few seconds wait before answering did not reassure me. But in no time after having met the others teachers and student in the hostel and being given some food, he had given me some fermented rice wine to go to bed with, my worries of the roof caving in on me didn’t seem to worry me too much longer… it was strong.