I am writing this in the hopes that I will have internet and can send it soon. All is well here. I am safe in my family's apartment. What is tearing me up is that news of the earthquake, "el terremoto," is probably reaching you before I am able to reach you. I have tried to call via cell phone and land line -- but interanational calls are not working--nor is the internet. I woke up in the middle of the night with my host mom and sister holding eachother at the door of the apartment screaming MargaRITTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT, Maggggggggggggggggggie! Thanks be to God that I either was sleeping with my glasses on (unlikely) or I was able to grab them. I always thought I was paranoid for sleeping with my glasses -- but I sure am thankful now. That would have been horrible if I not only did not know what was going on nor understand much of the shouting AND I couldn't see. (If you don't know I have HORRIBLE vision). We live on the sixth floor and the whole building was shaking and glass was breaking all around us as we ran down the stairs. We ran to the plaza, trying to get away from the buildings and trees (which are always all around you in a city of 15 million people). At some point we headed back towards the apartments and my family told me to stand there and not move while my sister ran upstairs to see if they left the door open and get shoes and blankets because it was very cold and we needed to wait outside for the aftershocks (turns out the door was locked and we didnt' have a key). My host mother's 31 year old son, Andres, and his novia, Valeria, rode on their motorcyle from another part of town and somehow in all the craziness and all the people, found us not 10 minutes after the initial earthquake happened. Really, they found me standing by the stairs, but luckily, I had met Valeria the day before and we recognized eachother and quickly embraced as Chileans do (she is actually from Argentina, but has a Chilean mother and lives here now). I met Andres for the first time and then we all headed. We all just stayed together on the playground in the plaza and eventually Andres returned by motorcylce to his apartment and brought back a key to our apartment, coats for everyone, flipflops for everyone, water, and peaches.
There was no time to be afraid -- the earthquake happened and then we just had to run. No time to think about it. Finally, after a couple of hours, when it started to get light, we returned to our apartment. SIT has handled everything so well. Elena, the homestay coordinator, called me shortly after we returned to our apartment to check in and see if I was okay and to let me know that they were doing everything they could to contact our parents but had been unable to as of yet. I later fell asleep from being just overwhelmed, but turns out that Roberto, the SIT director, has personally come to the house to check on me. He was going from house to house -- to check on all 18 of us --- some students live an hour from me!
I have read that earth tremors are common in Chile, but this is the first earthquake since 1985. I know that it the earthquake was higher on the richter scale than haiti, but do not be worried, because the construction here is very sound and only very old buildings have collapsed. Most everything is standing. Also, the government has already responded and has a plan to address the emergency -- and there is food available in the stores, ect. This is defintly a new experience and part of history --- a challenge a bit bigger than arriving in Santiago alone or not understanding every word of spanish. But, take heart that I am well taken care of. I stood in the dark with people screaming and crying all around me, but my host mom, Mercedes, kept her hija, Catalina, under one wing of her bathrobe and her hija nueva -- "new daughter, me" under the other wing. Todo esta bien en Santiago. No te preocupes. All is well in Santiago. Do not worry.
As everything was happening I was just praying that you all wouldn't find out before I could contact you. But I knew that my mom probably knew before it even happened and that my Bumpa, who wakes up at three in the morning, had probably already heard. And Joshua, all the way in Africa, I hope you are at your homestay this Saturday afternoon without TV or any and do not find out before I call you. And I hope all your college people sleep in very, very late. I love you all very much and I am thankful to have people who are concerned for me -- but please don't freak out. [Jami, I am thinking about when you had your accident and Sarah and I got to the trauma room and you told us to call you mom and let her know the bad news (which of course she already knew and was rushing there as fast as possible) but to tell her not to freak out. It was a beautiful, beautiful moment to see you!!) I hope this news is broken lightly and you know that I am in the hands of someone much greater than myself.
Safe in Santiago,
From the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe:
Lucy: Is He quite safe?
Beaver: Who said anything about safe? 'Course He isn't safe. But he is GOOD.