Yesterday, a 6.0-6.3 earthquake struck 26km from Chiang Rai. However, my friends and I didn’t feel it because we were riding in a blue songtaew taxi. We had just finished an invigorating bike ride though my neighborhood along the river, got caught in the rain, and had decided to see if the fancy-shmancy hotel that my friends were staying at could get us a taxi ride back into town with our bicycles.
The driver didn’t think we could manage 4 people and 3 bikes, but we did it, and then we took off for town. I’m convinced the earthquake happened while we were just starting off because not a minute after I saw a strange sight – a young shirtless man jogging down the street, with his fully clothed mother looking dazed behind him.
Then I saw a group of people standing outside of stores, not together in a group, but spread out. It was strange, so I said to myself as well as to the driver, “Why are they…?”
A little further as we continued to putter in his blue truck, we observed more folks standing outside, and most peculiarly, looking up. So, I started to look up and asked the driver, “What happened?” I wondered if there was a suicide jumper, but that seemed ridiculous as none of the buildings are very tall and the whole length of the street was filled with people outside looking up and around.
Was it the mother ship? Dany and her dragons? Was it the second coming descending to Earth in a fireball?
The driver’s phone rang, and after a 5 second phone call, I asked again, “What happened?” He said something in Thai that I didn’t understand. Then he said in English – probably because it was the only “English” word he knew to convey what he had just learned – “Tsunami.”
The driver made a motion with his hand like a seesaw and I was beginning to feel just as dazed as everyone else on the street. How could a tsunami hit here? We’re in the middle of the mountains. Then he pointed to the street, and my light went on…Oh!!! An earthquake!
I briefly wondered if my friends in the back with the bicycles were okay and if they knew what had transpired. I looked back, they seemed fine.
But I continued to look at the people on the street, and wondered, why does everyone look up? Do we all look up when disasters hit? It seems a very human thing to do, and I supposed we look up when we feel small and vulnerable.
At the hotel, the receptionist was there to greet us and excitedly asked if we had felt the earthquake. No. How was it? She said everything shook, but nothing fell and all was okay.
During the night I was frequently woken up by the aftershocks. I was surprised by the strength and frequency. We must have easily had 10 and then the big ones in the morning finally prompted me out of bed.
A brief search on the Internet hasn’t produced any results as to why people look up during earthquakes. I can understand while you are inside a building, but standing outside, I wonder what folks hope to see or find, or maybe they are praying. I don’t know, but I feel lucky because everything in my world is okay.