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Archive for January, 2009

Back with a bang

We’re alive. In case anyone was wondering.

Between a month’s hiatus from the blog and a few inquiries following a major earthquake here in Costa Rica, it seemed prudent to finally write.

So much, and so little at the same time has happened so I’ll begin with the end.

Another earthquake.

This time, there was no mistaking the shaking for anything other than what it was, a major tremblor and only about 30 kilometres from our new home in Atenas, a rural area west of San Jose.

We’re living in a beautiful house perched on a mountainside in a rural community about an hour from San Jose, Costa Rica’s seedy capital.

From our home, we can see Poas volcano, the epicentre of a 6.1 earthquake that struck Wednesday, Jan. 8 about 1 p.m.

I was sitting in the living room, with my son, who was having a bit of downtime watching TV while his little sister was being comforted by her dad in another room after an afternoon meltdown.

It all seems like a dream now, and my recollection is hazy. A surge of adrenaline will do that, I guess.

Anyway, it began with a rumble. Then a shake and then the memory after that is noise. Just noise. The clattering of the roof, the sound of glasses clinking together and crashes. The floor underneath moved in sudden bursts and the house violently jerking back and forth, not swaying like it felt before when another quake hit some 200 kilometres away.

There was no question this time as to what was happening and the response was primal — survival. Get me and my child out.

My parents, who had been sitting outside on the patio, were already on the grass, standing there dumbfounded. They only arrived a few days ago for a month-long vacation with us.

Shortly after we emerged, my husband arrived with my daughter and by then it was all over.

We all stood there shaking, not from the quake but our own fear, uncertain what to do next.

The gardener, his eyes wide, rounded the corner, having abandoned his equipment and work and stood there with us, shaking his head.

In two years working at the home we’ve rented he’d never felt anything like it, he said.

The gardener resumed his work and beers were cracked. We spent the afternoon talking about the quake, each of us recounting our own unique perspective of it, laughing about the experience, thinking that surely we were overdramatizing the events.

Then the news started rolling in.

Two kids dead in a landslide — in an area nearby where we were just the day before.

Hundreds of tourists trapped due to collapsed roads. Dozens injured from falling debris or glass.

A friend of ours who was initially thought missing has turned up safe. He is a volcanologist and was in the Poas crater taking seismic measurements when the quake hit.

We have many friends who live much closer to the epicentre, in Heredia, where we used to live and where damage is quite severe.

This event is very quickly turning into a national emergency.

After putting all this into words, it seems trite to recount the Christmas we had at the beach, where the kids cried because even though Santa found them, only left one gift for each. It’s seems silly to tell stories of the neighbour who shot off his gun during a loud fight with his wife and the construction workers who set fire to a development across from us when their boss didn’t pay them two days before Christmas.

We’re alive. It’s a bit melodramatic, but it’s true.

My kids are tucked in bed asleep, happy and unaware of what even transpired; one was too busy crying to notice and the other too immersed in the TV to care.

I’ve spent the past five months trying to open their eyes to what’s happening around them.

But now, worried about our friend and thinking about the pain of the families who lost loved ones in a quake that left a few minor cracks in our house, I’m grateful they live in their own little world where not even an earthquake can shake them out of it.

Below is the view from our house. On a clear day, Poas, the mountain in the distance and the epicentre of the earthquake, is clearly visible.

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Above is the view of our house, a couple of days before the quake. Below, is an example of the damage caused inside. 

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