Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Earthquakes (Bex-green)


I had a bad experience once.

Once upon a time I was sleeping on a dirt floor. It was relatively early in the morning, 7-ish. Everyone else had gone to breakfast and was at the morning church service already. Few people around me could speak my language, nor I theirs. I was half awake, drifting in and out of sleep as I heard the music and dance from the worship service and I contemplated the day before and the upcoming day.

Something was making me terribly sick. The day before one of the nurses was telling me all about her gluten-intolerance. While an interesting theory, I didn't think I had that. One of the girls at school has that and I don't have the same symptoms as her. The air, even at 7am was hot and sticky, not quite muggy, rather just thick and dry. A feint breeze came in through the window above me that felt heavenly. I relished it trying to save it so that when the day got into full swing I could tolerate the heat a bit better. I was partially tangled in my sheets and just in my underwear, even though I was sleeping in the exam room in the clinic. Above me the "whir, whir, clink" of the fan rotated, round and round.

Whir, whir, clink; whir, whir, clink; whir, whir, clink.

I knew I had to get up soon because patients were already streaming in from the town and the villages in the hills & mountains. I could hear some in the hallway already. The ceiling fan above me was constantly annoying yet it became soothing as I let myself sink into the sound of it moving. When it came down to it, it was so god-damn hot, even at 3am that I didn't care. And, I was the only one in the whole town that probably even HAD a ceiling fan. There were 4 girls upstairs where heat rises and gets trapped that were living in a room the same size as this one I was staying in with one small window and no fan of any sort at all.

The previous day i had had a meltdown. I was breaking out in hives. We had gotten back from a village 30 miles into the mountains (but took us almost 7 hours to get there cuz there are no roads in some places) where I had been trying to look after the village children and keep back the wild (and i swear rabid) dogs that lived in the area. I in fact had two rashes and was loosing my faculties at times throughout the day. I was also getting freaked out by the "humanitarian aid" that was being given out that was so very much my idea of what the Spanish conquest of this area a few hundred years before had done. I wasn't aware that this type of humanitarian aid was also part of the definition of "church mission trip" whereas my previous experiences involved building rural churches and mulching paths at retreat camps. Remnants of the first Spanish conquest were still very much evident in these people. Nothing much has changed since then.

These people DID NOT need to go through this again. But it was so much bigger than anything one person could do or prevent. What made me just simply sick is that churches, such as the one associated with the bible college in my town that i practically grew up at (cuz I live 1 block away), were some of the biggest supporters of this. They financed it. Sent people here. Were the puppeteers. My tiny little town. 4000 people. Leading the charge in violence in the name of peace. It is totally Machiavellian: "the ends justify the means".

My body sweltered as it stuck together from the heat and itched from the rashes covering my body, especially between my thighs and behind my knees. I still was recovering from a sunburn that turned me beet red 3 days ago. In some of the worse places my skin felt like a crispy, dehydrated paper that had been soaked in water from sweat, simply burning and stinging and uncomfortable. I tried to fall asleep for a few more moments. I wanted to sleep until worship service was over. I was afraid that my supervisors would get upset for me not being at the service. But my meltdown had made it pretty clear that I wasn't happy with what was going on here and it was in the religious sense. I didn't want to get in trouble. But I was going home in a few days anyway. At a minimum I could spend time with the locals and learn some Spanish or some of the local languages and culture. I drifted off....

.... and the earth started to shake under me. I woke in a fright. My body rattled against the wall. I had no idea what was happening. Cracks in the ceiling and wall appeared. I jerked up and down. It kept going. How long was this going to last? Is this an earthquake? Did a meteor hit somewhere and cause shock waves? What is going on?

Finally is stopped. Then there was a quick aftershock. I threw on a shirt and shorts and stumbled out in the outdoor veranda and hall where a crowd waiting to see us were already gathered. I was panicking. The building could have collapsed on me. No one was around that I could talk to. I wandered upstairs. Found some left over tortillas and beans and ate something. Took a shower. And when everyone came back from service.... no one had felt it. No one.

To this day, I wake up in the middle of the night shaking and my first thought is pure terror that the world is shaking. It happens almost every night. It took awhile (and patience from Adam) before I could override some of that I think logically. My blood sugar gets low all the time and I start trembling. The slight tremor wakes me up. But instead of waking and thinking.... I should eat something, my brain says.... run away! Even being on a second story or higher and the building moves or the floor shakes because something heavy is moving along it, I panic.

Easter Sunday, 2010, a 7.2 earthquake hits less than 200 miles south of San Diego. In San Diego we experience about 45 seconds of rolling earth and 3 obvious aftershocks. A house collapses in North park (about 15 blocks from me). Coronado bridges closes. Part of the highway is shut down because of boulders on the road. Terminal two at the airport is closed because part of the ceiling came down.

Monday night is another (perhaps two- my roommate felt one and i felt another) tremor.

And each time, it takes me at least 30 minutes to calm down enough to return to what I was doing. And I'm waking up in the middle of the night shaking because my blood sugar is low and all i can think about is the fact that a house collapsed.

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