If you had told me two weeks ago that we would experience a 7.8 magnitude earthquake during our trip in New Zealand I would have booked the first flight back to Singapore. I am a worrier, I always have been. Ever since my older sister told me late one night at the age off 11 that there are super volcanoes that could go off and kill millions I have been petrified of natural disasters. We once put the ‘Day After Tomorrow’ on one Saturday night as a teenager and I couldn’t watch more than the first 10 minutes. Makes sense I picked New Zealand as a 3 month travel destination.
While in an Airbnb in the middle of Wellington the shaking started. It took a mere 5 seconds to work out that the shaking must be due to an earthquake. Nothing else would be strong enough to wobble your whole world. As adrenaline cascaded through me my mind went blank. Scottish people are not well prepared for earthquakes. The fear in Carolyn’s face scared me more than the shaking, she had no idea what to do either. As the ground moved beneath us and the walls seemed flimsier than cardboard only one fact seemed possible. This earthquake must be happening right beneath us. We couldn’t stand, not that you are meant to, I was waiting for the earth to split open. But the shaking stopped. After around 90 agonisingly long seconds the shaking stopped and was replaced by car alarms and sirens. It was Google that told us there had been a massive earthquake 250 kilometres away. My mind still boggles at the thought of it being so far away and still so strong. Aftershocks, tsunami warnings and the threat of another significant quake. That night was the longest of my life.
I don’t think I can explain the feeling of powerlessness during an earthquake. Something so much bigger than you is at work. Trump was made president of the United States a few weeks ago leading many to feel vulnerable and scared. It was a choice. It may not have been everyone’s choice but it was a choice nonetheless. Nobody chooses to have an Earthquake. In my opinion it is the most vulnerable and out of control a person will ever feel.
To me what is interesting is how everyone reacts to situations like these differently. A human being with a beating heart, warm blood, skin and bones yet there is a huge difference in how anyone reacts. Some jump into being a leader or a fighter whereas others like me turn into the worriers, the thinkers and the panickers. I am under no illusion that our tale from Wellington seems very scary. In fact hundreds were and still are stranded in the beautiful town of Kaikoura. Family homes ruined, livelihoods lost. Yet I am still coming to terms with the Earthquake we experienced in Wellington. I watch everyone return to their everyday lives, still with the threat of more quakes and I ask myself how? How do these people do it? How do they have the strength to live in places that can be so dangerous, so destructive? I just hope some time soon I find similar strength to return to mine.