Monday, September 7, 2009

The Earth Moved

We had an earthquake last night. My husband & children slept right through it. Perhaps I should say a tremor, sounds less dramatic, but it felt quite dramatic at the time. It was 6 on the Richter scale at the epicentre about 60 miles away, & a 5.4 in Tirana. Houses collapsed even.

I have lived in Albania for the last 21 mths of my 43 years. In that time I have experienced 3 tremors. Never before. And probably others whilst I slept. For some reason it's not what I expect in Europe somehow. Yet the Balkan area is very seismically active, & certainly the most active of Europe.

There hasn't been a really bad one for 30 yrs though. Mostly we just get tremors.

I was struggling to get to sleep last night, my husband had passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow. Suddenly 10minutes before midnight, the whole bed started shaking more & more, & furniture was rattling. I woke my comatose husband (or thought I had) & said,
"Can you feel that? The bed's shaking, it's an earthquake."
My husband's reply was, "You're just moving your legs about, it's nothing" (??)
How could he not feel it? It went on for several minutes with several aftershocks.

It was the worst one I've felt, and I have to say it is one of the weirdest sensations I've ever had. Somehow you take it for granted that terra firma is... just that. My brain was finding it very hard to process the fact that the solid ground in which I had trusted for 43 yrs was moving about & clearly not to be trusted at all.

My cousin who worked in Japan for many years said they were very common there. In her (high rise) office the Japanese immediately made for the door - to stand under it. The door frames are evidently the strongest part of a building so that's where you gather.

The last tremor (I felt at least) was in May this year, round about the time a friend came to visit us. He was our 1st non family visitor, the only others have been my In-Laws who faithfully visit us wherever we are.

Anyway this friend is a history & politics teacher who just loves 20th century history. So he was very excited to be visiting a post-communist Albania, which being a historian, he knew more about than most.

The1st disappointment was that the one interesting section of the National musem- 'the communist era', was closed (for refurbishment one hopes...) Still that was par for the course of life in Albania, with unexpected closures, power cuts, shortages etc.

I don't know whether anyone else living abroad feels this, but I find we rather want our visitors to have a taste of what your daily life is like, with all its exigencies, frustrations & anomolies. Just to get a small feel of it really & to highlight the differences.

So it was with something not unlike a smirk of satisfaction that I realised our road wouldn't be tarmacced in time for his visit, so mud and/or dust , potholes & bumps would prevail.

On our return from picking up G from the airport, we had another such occurrence. As the whole of one side of the dual carriageway was closed for repairs, & road signs & forewarning are not strong points of the Albanian road network, a car (possibly accidentally,but not very likely) had duly driven on the Off Ramp & proceeded to drive towards us into the oncoming traffic, going the wrong way up our side of the dual carriageway (Maybe he just didn't want to use the bumpy service rd) He wasn't even driving slowly. Fortunately everyone else was (for once) as there were a lot of cones around to slow us down. It was mad, & quite hair raising.

Of course there were also plenty of mad drivers doing their normal thing, driving the wrong way up a one way street, shooting past me on Red as I sat patiently at the lights, cars doing three point turns in the middle of busy streets, vehicles suddenly pulling out of side roads into your path & parking on the pavement, half on, half off etc.

Then there was the 'power cut hassle'. I said I would be popping out to the local supermarket for 10 minutes max to get some bread & salad for lunch. I was gone 45 minutes, because the power went off, then the back up generator wasn't working, so we stood in the shop in the dark, as we do, waiting for it to come on again. I then asked to pay but the tills, of course, weren't working so they told me to go & have a coffee & wait. Eventually I persuaded them to add up my few items on a calculator & tell me what I owed them.

We also took this friend hiking in the mountains. Took 6 hrs to get there even though it's only about 150km away. Dirt roads & mountain passes. We stayed in a farmhouse with local peasant farmers, and we decided to do a recommended walk, with the help of a local. So we all got togged up in walking boots, with camelbak hydration packs on, only to feel rather foolish when our guide turned out to be the granny of the house who proceeded to do the whole walk, in her slippers, including negotiating fallen tree trunks over streams etc. You can imagine who felt the sartorial fool in this situation.....

But the piece de resistance was back in Tirana as we were sitting on our balcony having coffee, Albania kindly threw in a full blown earth tremor. My friend looked up, then looked at the handles of his chair, then around, looking slightly disconcerted. A first for him. Well done Shqiperia.

As nonchalantly as I could muster I said, "Don't worry, just an earth tremor. We get them here you know."

Suffice to say, our friend seems to feel he had a fantastic time here & is coming back for more in the Autumn.


Almost American said...

I was quite pleased (I think) to experience both a typhoon and a couple of earthquakes while I was in Taipei for a summer. Both little tremors rather than earthquakes I suppose - nothing fell down. I remember thinking "Ooh, that's the first time I've heard the trains" - it felt just like being in Liverpool City Library and hearing the trains pass by underground. Then I realized that Taipei did not (back then anyway) have any underground trains.

Mwa said...

All very quaint. Hope your house remains upright.

Iota said...

So your husband thinks that you moving your legs about in bed is the same as an earthquake. Hilarious.

You sound very calm about it all. It must have been scary.

Astrid said...

I loved the picture of the granny leading the walk in her slippers! Fantastic.

DogLover said...

Well done you, with your proper clothing! Mountains must be respected because of sudden weather changes and the granny was clearly tired of life!

Valbona said...

Just remember, go to the nearest load bearing wall with a door and stand underneath the door frame.

The small tremors won't do much but the big ones will wake your husband up for sure (in that case get your family out of there).

siobhan said...

I felt exactly the same when I first experienced an earthquake. 'The earth is shaking! How is this happening? Why do we take it for granted that the earth doesn't move? It's still moving. It's getting stronger. Argh.' Then it stops and it's all as if nothing had happened, provided your house hasn't fallen down.