Ack! Earthquake in Chile!…and I live here.

Sweet BeJeezus, that was scary!!

I’m not talking the “normal” kind of earthquake scary either … the kind I knew before today. After living in the SF Bay Area for over 29 years, I thought I was pretty accustomed to feeling the ground move every so often.

But no matter how accustomed you think you are … nothing prepares you for 2+ minutes of NON-STOP 8.8 ground movement and subsequent shaking, thundering, crashing and breaking that occurs with it.

Obviously we were in bed, G and I… and actually I had just gotten into bed after a bathroom break (TMI). I was commending myself and my dog for breaking the 3am barrier – i.e. the dog has stopped waking us up in the mornings whining from boredom. It was 3:15 am, baby was tired and we had a full day of wedding planning ahead of us…I closed my eyes, ready to enter my sweet lull.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaand cue in the earth rolling … like riding a wave, I imagine. Except being from an earthquake zone (SF Bay Area) one always first determines if the quake is going to stay put or suddenly get all agro on you.
In the most abrasive of manners I jolt G up with “It’s an earthquake.” He sits up with me to proceed with the analysis: is this going to roll along like this or is this going get ugly?

OH. And then it truly got UUUUUUUUUUUUGLY. Now, mind you, at this point we’ve been rolling along with the wave for a good 30 seconds and as each 15-second interval ticked by, the once-rolling motion proceeded to turn into sharp movements, jolting us back and forth. We live on the 11th floor, the topmost floor of our building, and since buildings in Chile are “earthquake ready,” on the top floor you tend to feel each and every roll and jab TIMES TWENTY. And the thing is, the quake didn’t stop… it didn’t ease up or roll into a slow sweep… it not only kept going but it kept getting STRONGER AND STRONGER as each second, then MINUTE, ticked by. One by one I could hear things from other rooms crash to the floor; glass breaking, water splashing; thud, thud, crash, thud, shatter…and alongside those noises you hear the immense, RAW POWER of this monstrous earthquake that’s taking you on this SOOOOOO-unsolicited ride.

I was at the door frame, holding on until my fingers hurt … G was across from me in the bedroom holding our TV in place so that it wouldn’t fall on our puppy below (who by they way, was FREAKING OUT.) I remember thinking “it’s going to stop… it’s going to stop, it HAS TO STOP, it’s been so long” and realizing that the quake just kept going and going and getting stronger and stronger. At which point I seriously, cross-my-heart-stick-a-needle-in-my-eye thought to myself “Oh my God, I’m going to die in this earthquake. This building is going to fall and we’re going to die.” And NEVER, EVER have I had a thought like that, where for a second it was this peaceful-type realization that “this is it.”

And then, of course, thank God, it did stop. And that’s when the panic set in.

Our mom’s live in the next “comuna” over, each in her own apartment but in the same building. Once I realized we were ok, all I could think about was my mom and her insane fear of earthquakes … and the fact that she was alone. Quickly, G and I got dressed, grabbed the dog, ran down eleven flights of stairs IN THE DARK, dove into the car and raced through disabled stop lights to get to our moms’ homes. Our moms where upset, of course, but once we got there and everyone was gathered outside, there was a sense of security. Unfortunately that security didn’t lend itself to the other issue at hand: mobile phone connections and land lines were collapsed and G’s kids were outside Santiago with their mom. For more than two hours G tried to get through just to make sure his kids were ok–> and NOTHING. No calls were getting through. He finally decided to drive the hour and a half drive to where they were – not that he had clear directions on how to get there (he was working off memory). 40 minutes later he calls me to tell me that he can’t get through… the roads were closed due to collapsed overpass pedestrian walkways and crumbled pavement that ran for stretches at a time. I can’t imagine the torture he was going through not knowing if his kids were ok …and it was torture for me to know there was nothing I could do to help… [Update: his kids ARE ok and yes, he was able to talk to them. They’re shaken and freaked out, but ok.] In the end he came back to my mom’s apartment … by then, none of us had eaten for over 12 hours and we certainly hadn’t slept. But the sun was up. It was morning. Electricity was back at my mom’s house. Those three things combined brought some feeling of security back. So we packed up our dog, his things, my mom (who came over to help clean up) and we headed back home, ready to face the mess that we briefly saw on our way out at 4 am.

Considering how fierce the earthquake was and how intense it felt, I’m surprised we didn’t have more damage. At most we lost some cool picture frames. At best we have a crack going down the wall of our apartment’s foyer to forever remind us of this atrocious event. We have friends here in Chile who live waaaaaaaaaay higher up than we do and the damage to their apartments was far worse … not so much in terms of structure (like I said, Chilean buildings are “earthquake ready” thank God) but in terms of stuff thrown everywhere! We were spared, I think. In more ways than one.

The table in the front foyer, as you walk into the apartment. Plant and picture frames on the ground; area rug soaked. The crashing of this vase to the floor was not a welcome sound during the ‘rolling-with-the-homies’ episode.



The scene as we walked in to the dining room/living room area. Picture frames, meet the floor. Charmed, I’m sure.

This was a fun sight … our yet-to-be-thoroughly-paid tv toppled over. That’s the center table leaning in to kiss it hello. [Btw, we now know the tv is fine. And she’s ok!]



And my office… which actually, now that I think about it, kind of always looks like this. Maybe slightly less messy.

In the end, my review for “Earthquake Chile 2010” is a big, fat, thumbs down. Please don’t ever let me/us have to go through another 2.5 minute event that has us literally holding on for dear life. I’d like to take a “pass” on the aftershocks that continue to shake the city (and the country for that matter), most of which feel as if they’re 5-6 points, given how high up we are. But on the other hand, I was amazed at how the Chilean people came to one another’s aid in this crisis – even if it’s to merely ask “hey, how are you?” (Which, by the way, is precisely what our neighbors did after the shaking stopped.) There’s security in talking about what you went through and a feeling of safety in knowing that others went through the same thing. And I do have to say that the outpouring of concern and well wishers on my Facebook page was humbling. While I would rather never again have to go through what we went through at approximately 3:30 am Chilean time today, it serves to remind me how forever grateful I am… and in this case, I’m grateful that we survived.

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Oh year… don’t ever start out so romantico

Perhaps romantic isn’t the right word but if 2010 was going to be *the* year in which I focused on me and G, I’ve started out on the right foot. We’ve spent the first evenings of 2010 at home, cooking, laughing, drinking wine and finally playing with our new Wii. (We’ve played before but NEVER alone. Always with guests.) Incidentally I’m convinced the Wii is sexist because I can’t FOR THE LIFE OF ME beat G in wakeboarding (Wii Resort). On the other hand, my golf game is amazing in the Wii world and G just ends up kicking things because he can’t score below +23. Silly rabbit.

Anyway, last night we were on our balcony, eating outside, enjoying his amazing just-off-the-grill bbq chicken, drinking wine from the winery where we’re getting married (Casas del Bosque) and I was loving the simple fact that there we were, cooking, eating and gazing out our balcony to the stardust of lights from the vast city of Santiago. At night it truly looks peaceful, and dare I say, beautiful … we even have a clear view of Cerro San Cristobal and the statue of the Virgin Mary which is perpetually illuminated.

And though I still can’t, for the life of me, find the list of goals I made for myself back in the day which listed what I wanted to accomplish at specific points in my life (i.e. “A month from now,” “Six months from now,” “five years from now.”) I was recalling a point in my life, about nine years ago when there was nothing I wanted more than to move to Chile. I would come three, four times a year and stay for two, three, four weeks at a time and all I wanted to make my life PERFECT, was to move here. I applied for job after job after job and even had an interview with the winery Concha y Toro, which I ultimately didn’t get (hrmph. See if I ever drink your less-than-mediocre wine again, C&T!) I was so depressed! I had this crazy, idealistic view of Chile as a place where the food was better, the people were more carefree and loving, and that life was in essence, more wholesome here. People had the right values and it wasn’t a work-obsessed country like, say, the U.S. Very idealistic but then again, I always came here on vacation and of course it was ideal! I ate food I never had a chance to eat back home (ceviche, meat, empanadas, manjar, pan amasado, mote con huesillo, and the list goes on and on), I spent days upon days at the beach when I wasn’t running around Santiago dancing or eating out!

The reality of Chile is slightly less whimsical, as you all know by now if you’ve kept up with your blog reading, but that’s the case with ANY place that ceases to be your vacation spot and all of a sudden becomes your home. (I loved St. Thomas but if I had to live there, I think I’d choke half the people for moving as slow as molasses. I’m just sayin’,)

But one thing remains ideal: nights on a balcony, looking over the city of Santiago, while drinking amazing wine and eating amazing food. At least where I’m from in the U.S. most apt buildings don’t have balconies, or I just didn’t know of many. And even though we lived in one of those ever-elusive apartments with a balcony, NEVER did we just decided to take the evening outside to sit and talk. And one thing I can say GENERALLY about Chileans and their ways of doing things is that they truly like to take it outside and just chill, whenever the opportunity presents itself. It’s so simple but seriously, one of the most ideal things about living here.

Maybe it’s because I was from a pretty hectic place back home (Silicon Valley) … or maybe it’s because the taking-it-outside bit was done by those who owned homes and not by young 30-something couples who lived in balcony-less apartments … but it’s the simplest of things I treasure about Chile and one of my favorite summertime activities with G.

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People like me!!! (an overwhelmingly joyous discovery)

I literally just spent about an hour freaking out on skype with Gonzalo about not being able to find “American” friends in Chile…what if I NEVER find someone who GETS “I totally paused” or “I can’t believe this, they f*^king forgot my birthday?” Call me crazy, but this kind of understanding among my social networks is CRUCIAL to me.

And then I decided to google bikram yoga in Chile… and I am directed to a blogspot of a woman who – get this – married a Chilean and relocated to Santiago from New York City. What, what, what??!! Did I stumble into a miraculous pot of Expats who will feel my pain??!!
Yes. Yes I did.

All of a sudden this move is no longer filled with paranoid thoughts the likes of “OMG I’ll be the only person who misses the salad bar at Whole Foods.” I realize now that there JUST MIGHT be a possibility of finding a social network (dare I say, friends) who GET what I’m going through. And right then and there – full speed ahead doesn’t feel so scary.

My Tio Pato and Tia Lucia came over to help me get rid of the “For donation” pile of stuff that doesn’t make sense to take with me to Chile (i.e. kitchen appliances, etc). My apartment is slowly becoming a skeleton of a home, with just a few remnants of the former single life I am now willingly leaving behind. My once

amazing apartment, which I personally think should have been an example to all single women everywhere, has been dismantled as of about two months ago. So though I’ve been living a hobo-ish existence for some time, now it’s in the most pathetic state ever. Boxes have become my nightstand, dresser, tv stand and kitchen table. It’s pretty hot.

In short, my life has been either donated, sold on Craigslist or packed into 18x18x24 boxes. Today I spent the good part of the afternoon boxing the plethora of random Target buys I realized yesterday. I think I’m taking about 7 boxes of toothpaste because, it would seem, I think I’m going to a country where people brush their teeth with a little spit and a side of mint for taste. I also bought three of the SUPER SIZED Tylenol fast action! Those were indeed key buys – call me crazy, but I think I’ll appreciate it come two months from now when I need something and can’t make heads or tails of the Cruz Verde’s in Chile (have you BEEN to a pharmacy there??!! I’m just saying: there’s a learning curve with the meds.)
Anyway, my point here is that after complaining to the point where I am pretty sure that Gonzalo was about to ask for the engagement ring back (I kid), I stumbled across a blogger’s site and it was like the answer fell from heaven – THERE WILL BE PEOPLE LIKE ME IN SANTIAGO!!! It’s the little things that make me go ’round and believe you me, this was a HUGE little thing. The sequence of events that followed are 1) I found this blog spot and 2) I may have found a wedding photographer that suits our “urban/sharp/modern/simple” wedding plans!!

ALL THIS from simply typing “bikram yoga santiago chile” in the Google search bar.
I almost feel that all of you should type this miracle phrase in the search bar… I mean, who’s to say that the lottery numbers won’t fall in your lap? What what?! ;o)



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