The news reminded me of the first time I felt an earthquake, which was here in Colombia. I must admit I have never felt earth tremors in Britain, and didn’t really think that they happened there, but obviously they do. Here in Colombia during the sixteen years I have lived here I have experienced many, probably around ten or so. But first, is there a difference between an earthquake and an earth tremor?
I found this definition on one website. An earthquake is the result of tectonic plate shift, when two plates rub against each other, storing up potential energy until they suddenly break free, resulting in an earthquake. A tremor, on the other hand, is caused by the movement of magma underneath the earth’s crust, making it a better indicator of volcanoes than earthquakes.
However, I also came across this one. An earthquake (also known as a quake, tremor or temblor) is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. You can read all about earthquakes in more detail here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake
My own definition, bearing in mind I am not a seismology expert, is that which is normally accepted here by the usage of the words for earthquake and earth tremor. Commonly here in Colombia when people refer to a tremor, (temblor), it’s not as strong as an earthquake, (terremoto), and usually with an earth tremor there isn’t any significant structural damage.
The first time I felt one, I was crouching down on the balcony of our flat watering some plants, when I suddenly felt dizzy and a little sea sick, and I realised that was because the building was swaying ever so slightly due to the earth tremor that was happening. It lasted just a few seconds, maybe five, but it was a strange feeling.
I was on the 14th floor, so the movement of the building was more exaggerated. Had I been on the ground floor I probably wouldn’t have felt anything. There have been many more since then and some I haven’t noticed as I was in the street walking, on a bus or in a supermarket.
It happened just after one o´clock lunchtime, while I was meditating, suddenly I felt myself being shaken from side to side. My immediate thought was that my meditation was moving to a new level, but then the wardrobe doors flew open with a bang and I opened my eyes to see the pictures on the walls swinging crazily like pendulums from side to side.
It was all over in less than a minute I guess, but it was an amazing experience, scary but exhilarating at the same time. You certainly feel like you’ve been through something special, but I can’t explain why. I’m sure not everyone would consider the experience as being special; there are people who run from their apartments and scream in panic.
You feel the building moving from side to side with the occasional strong jolt, then it stops as suddenly as it started. Sometimes it stops for a few seconds and is followed by a second movement. That earthquake measured 6.2, and caused considerable damage in Armenia and the surrounding area.
One of the precautions it is suggested one should take during an earthquake is to stand under a door, as above the door there should be a lintel which means the chance of that part of the structure collapsing is less than in the centre of a room where the ceiling could possibly succumb to the sudden and erratic movement and fall on top of you.
The day after the earthquake in Armenia my brother phoned from Cardiff to ask if we were OK, and later the same week I mentioned this to our maid who came once a week to clean the flat, cook lunch and do the ironing. It’s common here to have a maid to do the housework, whether it’s one who comes once or twice a week or one who lives with you during the week and has Saturday afternoon and Sunday off.
Personally I don’t like to have a maid, as the day she is here I feel like a stranger in my own house. You also have to be careful who you choose, because there are some who are less honest than others and things tend to go missing, whether it be minor objects such as food, or more expensive items such as money, jewellery or passports. There have also been instances when maids have been alone in the house and tricked into letting a person or persons into the house who then steal everything.
Anyway, when I told our maid my brother had phoned to ask if we were all right she responded by saying, “And they felt the tremor over there too!”
You have to understand that many of these maids have not had a good education, probably not even finishing high school, so they sometimes say or do things which for those of us have been fortunate enough to have had a better education, seem strange or ridiculous, but you can’t blame them. I’m sure that people from the cities in Colombia, who know very little about farming and agriculture, often say things to the farmers which make laugh behind their backs too. It works both ways.
She said, “Oh, now I see, you have to press the buttons.” The poor lady had probably been going up and down in the lift for some time, wondering why it never stopped at the floor she wanted.
Amusing, yes, sad, not really, understandable, definitely. If you have lived all your life in the Colombian countryside, where they are no tall buildings with lifts, why would you, or should you know how one works.
In Britain, the first floor is known as the ground floor, and the first floor is what is considered in North America and also here in Colombia as the second floor. Once in a bank here, while on holiday, I asked the security guard at the entrance where I could change some pounds sterling traveller’s cheques, and he told me the money exchange was on the first floor so I went upstairs and didn’t find anything!! Of course the money exchange was on the ground floor. Did I feel stupid? Not really, when you can laugh at yourself, those situations don’t affect you, they just make you chuckle.
Here, most foreigners, whether European or North American, as I explained in a previous post, are referred to as Gringos.
There is an expression I occasionally hear here, which translated is something like, I’m very Gringo at maths, and means to be not very good at maths for example. I guess it comes from the fact that if you are a foreigner in a country for the first time, and don’t understand how things work, for example the transport system, or you wander around the city looking a little lost and confused you come across as being a touch stupid or at least naive.
Once I was on holiday in Capurganá on the Caribbean coast of Colombia and I asked a girl who was on her honeymoon that just happened to be standing next to me in the hotel’s swimming pool, how her English was. She replied, I’m very Gringo for the English, which I felt was taking the expression a little far.
Occasionally, when I hear North Americans speaking English, and constantly repeating the same words over and over again, such as “like,” I think that she may have had a point about the level, or quality of her English, but I’m sure most students of English would be extremely happy if their English was very gringo!!
An example of what I mean about the use of the word like is this short conversation.
“I met my friend in the street and he was like, what are you doing?” “And I was like, Hey, why do you want to know?” “And he was like, hey, but why are you so angry with me?” “And I was like, hey, just give me a break.”
In Spanish this kind of unconscious, habitual repetition is called a Muletilla, I guess in English we would call them filler words, though maybe it’s not exactly the same. In Britain some people tend to say, “you know,” all the time and in Wales it is quite common to hear people say, “is it.” “Raining, is it?” It’s a kind of tag question really.
To any North Americans reading this, I know it’s not all of you that over use the word like, though it is quite common, but please don’t get upset, it’s just a joke, tongue in cheek, no offense intended. I have done many stupid things in my life, and I’m sure there are still more embarrassing situations waiting up ahead to make me cringe.
Learn to laugh at yourself and everything will be OK.
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