There is nothing funny about earthquakes. (Or shikumen houses*, for that matter.) Just to be clear, as a former insurance adjuster, an earthquake, for insurance purposes, is an “Act of God”; it is usually defined on the declarations page of your homeowner’s policy. For this you are usually uninsured.
I have lived through many earthquakes, shakers, rattlers, rollers. I do not like them. Most I experienced in Northern California as a child; cramming myself under my desk as part of an earthquake drill was a monthly occurrence. Once I surfed in a bedroom in Southern California – that one I heard before I felt it, a hideous roaring, whooshing noise moving from the back of house to the front. On December 26, 1994 we were awoken to one shaking the wooden house of my parents. Mr. Understanding and the newly baptized Thing 1 were in bed with me. Christmas was over and we were all together so, as my mother said, it would not have been a bad way to go. Then there was the time I was getting my hair cut in a second floor apartment in the Polanco section of Mexico City when everything began rattling; I grabbed the hairstylist and looked for a doorframe. There was none. We ran outside where my driver was waiting pale-faced on the opposite of the street looking like he was going to throw up. “I thought the buildings were going to smack together,” he told me. “They were about 2 inches apart from hitting each other.”
Right before moving here, I had many earthquake dreams, which I generally interpret as fear of upheaval.
Yesterday, however, I felt nothing.
Last night I hostessed bookclub at my house. The book, On Chesil Beach, by Ian McEwan, is a gem. (He is a genius writer, if I have not waxed on about him before.) On the final page he writes, “This is how the entire course of a life can be changed – by doing nothing.” Haunting. One of my book club friends, Mrs. Cookbook, said that her husband was in a tall building in Shanghai yesterday during the earthquake. He said it was worse than anything he felt when they lived in Tokyo. S-C-A-R-Y. Thing 2 left yesterday morning for Xi’an in Shaanxi province with his classmates. He was standing outside watching a martial arts performance when the earth moved. I have not spoken with him but know that he is safe even though he was much closer to the epicenter (this will make you get out your atlas: find Chengdu and Xi’an).
As I write this, the death toll steadily rises. Like Myanmar, the final tally is not in. Unlike Myanmar, China has nothing if doesn’t have bulldozers and heavy earthmoving machinery. They will get the people out. They are doing something.
* see my response to the last post’s comments.