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Friday, April 15, 2016

Living in Tajikistan: Earthquakes

I didn't know that Tajikistan was a seismically active country.  When I think of earthquakes I think of California or Japan or somewhere on the Pacific Coast (ring of fire, right?), not somewhere smack in the middle of Asia.

But it turns out that having lots of very high, very young mountains isn't just related to seismic activity, it's caused by seismic activity.

I remember the first earthquake we felt last year.  I was sitting in our study, which is on top of the front porch, and the room started gently swaying.  There had been an earthquake (maybe two?) in Egypt, so knew what I was feeling, but earthquakes always take you by surprise.  My first reaction is to look for the child who is jumping up and down enough to make the floor shake and a half second later I realize that no child can make the floor sway like that, no matter how hard they jump.  All of our rooms have chandeliers and they are the best confirmation of an earthquake - chandeliers never sway for anything but an earthquake.  It seems like they should sway on the slightest provocation - after all, they're just hanging there by a little chain - but they're pretty picky about what makes them move.  And it's pretty much just earthquakes.

After watching the chandelier sway in fascination for a few seconds, I decided that maybe the study that was only supported by two concrete porch pillars wasn't the safest place to ride out an earthquake and so I got out and watched the hall chandelier sway for half a minute more.  Then I asked the children if they had felt the earthquake.  They hadn't.

Our next earthquake was more dramatic.  I was laying down for a nap when the chandeliers started swaying.  Then the doors started rattling right as all of the chandelier crystals started tinkling noisily.  My housekeeper ran in my room, pointed at the chandelier, and grabbed Joseph while I grabbed Eleanor before running out of the house.  We all sat in the courtyard and waited for the chandeliers to stop swaying before trying to go back to life as normal.  The kids talked about that one for days.

The third earthquake happened on Christmas day.  We were asleep for that one.  But everyone else was not asleep and tried to call our radio (off), call Brandon's phone (not in the room) and have mobile patrol check on us (didn't hear the doorbell).  But we were fine.

It has been quiet recently until this past week.  Tuesday we were eating lunch and Joseph started jumping on the floor.  But it turned out (again) to be an earthquake.  One day I'll be able to tell the difference.  We looked at the chandelier (swaying), listened for the tinkles (one or two) and went back to eating our lunch.

Sunday we were watching conference in the study and the swaying started up again.  After watching the chandelier (why is that so fascinating?) for ten or fifteen seconds, we evacuated the study and went to my bedroom (outside wall) and watched the chandelier sway in there instead.  After ninety seconds or so, it calmed down enough that we could go back to watching conference.

I still remember the big Alaskan earthquake that hit when I was in elementary school - the pictures of houses sliding into enormous cracks in the earth haunted my nightmares for years.  Earthquakes and tornados (we've all seen The Wizard of Oz) battled for being the worst natural disasters I could imagine.  Tornadoes could pick your house up and earthquakes could swallow your house.  Both bad.  I was very glad to live in North Carolina where no earthquake has happened ever (oh wait, I just checked.  There was a 2.6 this year).

But it turns out that most earthquakes aren't the huge-cracks-open-in-the-earth type.  They're more like the the-chandelier-is-swaying-keep-eating-your-lunch-kind.  Which are definitely less dramatic, but ultimately much easier on the decorating.  And I'm pretty okay with that.

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