When the Earth shakes and spits fire…

On the 6th of August I’m having dinner with E and a few friends and suddenly there is a mention of Earthquakes. Apparently in the first weeks that since I arrived there had been two mild ones and I slept through them!! E said she didn’t tell me as I was still nervous and they were not even so bad. But I now have a new piece of information – this place is prone to Earthquakes! Just how prone, I am about to discover later that night.

So I go to bed and I’m thinking ‘ huh so I slept through two earthquakes, maybe I have some innate ability to sleep through earthquakes!’ – After all I did also sleep through the one in India many years ago. (the only other experience I had with Earthquakes). I don’t know how comfortable I am with this discovery but I find it funny anyway, I just brush it away and go to sleep. A few hours later I wake up screaming in the dark! At first I have no idea why I’m screaming, then I realize the bed is shaking, there is a loud growling sound all around and it seems like there is something walking on my roof! It goes away in a few minutes, and I am sitting there scared wondering what just happened. I don’t know if it was my previous lack of experience or the hour of the night but I still don’t realize that it was an earthquake. So I go to my window and ask the guards to check if there is something on my roof!! (Hilarious now, yes.) Anyway the guard says : ‘ non, madame, c’est juste le tremblement de terre’. ( No madam, its just an earthquake!) Just an earthquake!? I don’t know if I’m terrified or relived but somehow the nonchalance of the guard put me a bit at ease. I still couldn’t sleep, so I just went and sat in my bed and start writing in my journal. And it happens again! This time just as strong and I am awake and aware that this is an earthquake. My bed is shaking violently, the house is shaking and the sound is deafening! I don’t know what to do. I just duck and sit in a corner of my bed and wait for it to pass. It does. I am not sure if this is really bad or I’m just over reacting because we spoke about Earthquakes the previous evening. Should I call E, maybe she is sleeping and its just me. I just decide to stay in my bed and try to stay calm. My chest is not starting to hurt and I’m panicking even more – am like “aw shucks, on top of everything else, I am now getting a heart attack!? Agghhh”
I turn to my girlfriends and luckily one of them in sitting in Indonesia is awake. She calms me down and I feel much better after talking to her for a bit. There is yet another mild shake but I’m a bit better not as panicky. In a while another friend one comes online as well and by the end of our conversation I feel almost okay. A bit shaken pun intended but not stirred! 😀 I lay awake in bed anyway, listening to the sound of the crickets in the garden, they were completely silent for 20 minutes when the earth was quaking like crazy. Its 4.30, I am wondering if I should just stay awake and watch the sunrise, it feels like I wont be sleeping anytime soon anyway. Turns out I am wrong, I soon drift off and wake up when the sun is shinning high up in the sky.

When I meet my host for breakfast, I ask her if she felt that and she is like ‘ofcourse!! I was actually scared for the first time!’ Later that day we find out that everyone felt it, as far as Kigali and Bujumbura! Turns out it was a heavy one – in Bukavu it was at a 5.6 magnitude. And there I was lying in my bed with my chest aching thinking that I was just over reacting! We have a wedding to go to that day, so we brush it away and get on with our day. Everyone at the wedding is also talking about this, sharing stories of how they experienced it. This one was more serious than an earthquake had been in a long time in Bukavu.

Later that evening E and me come back home exhausted after a long day of celebrations and we take a seat on the porch to have a last glass of wine together. Suddenly we spot something on the horizon. At first it looks like bright orange lights. But then we realize that there are no houses there only mountains. We conclude that maybe it’s a fire. Yeah, seems like a fire, it is moving slowing and glowing bright, but its strangely orange in color. Again the guards come onto the scene and we ask them if they know anything about the fire in the distance. And the answer – ‘ C’est pas du feu madame, c’est du volcan, il a commence ce soir’ (Its not fire, its the volcano, it started this evening) Volcano!? Really!? They say that it is very far away and moving super slowly so nothing to worry about. I see it shinning there in the distance, distinct and glowing. It’s quite beautiful actually.

That night I stay in the big house with E, even if nothing happens, I know I probably wont get any sleep in my house all alone. We wake up next morning safe and sound and its time for me to head to Goma… the city with one of the biggest volcanoes in the world!

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