So, another girl in my program explained to me today that the worst thing you can do in an earthquake is run down the stairs. The stairs are the most dangerous to be. She's from San Francisco, California-- she would know. Supposedly, the latest earthquake research after Haiti is that in the event of a quake it is best to stay near a bed, because if the room falls, it will fall on the bed and not on the person. Something like this. Well, in the midst of the crazy shaking of an actual earthquake -- escape from the sixth floor seemed like a really idea. It's interesting how, in reality, so much calamity can be prevented if people know about dangers ahead of time. After a major earthquake in 1985 that caused much destruction, Santiago imposed strict building codes to withstand earthquakes. In Chile the death toll after the "terremoto" has reached more than 700. Yet, in Haiti, the earthquake, "weaker" than the one that occured here, the death toll is more than 200,000. The difference is that Haiti is the most impoverished country in our hemphisphere, and Chile has arguably, or not, the strongest economy in South America. It comes down to money, doesn't it?? Those without end up be those COMPLETELY without -- without life, without shelter, without water, without food. So, Chilean is faring incredibly in comparison with Haiti, but there is still much loss and hurt. And I promise after a stay here, even in a stable Chilean family, you would realize just how much we have in the United States. I mean, I live in a dorm room and I have crazy amounts of dishes and art and clothes and books and electronics . . .
I have been very blessed. Today my SIT program reunited. We sat around the table eating pizza (talk about comfort food . . . it was DOMINOS, nonetheless) and listening to each person recount their experience. Some people were very calm and unshaken. Others, less calm, and more shaken. One chica was talking with her boyfriend on skype when the earthquake happened. I think we are having an earthquake she said to him -- to the boyfrind that was sitting comfortably in the United States. WEEEEEEEE ARE HAVING AN EARTHQUAKE!!! and then the internet cut off. Poor, poor guy. We decided he was probably the first person in America to know about Chile's quake. Can you imagine?? Having to call her parents in the middle of the night, ect??? I think he is pretty thankful for that gal right about now. I live in the center of Santiago, but many of my peers live in houses 40 min to an hour outside the capital. Some of them lost much -- all their dishes fell the the floor, tables shattered, all the furniture in the floor . . . but all have their lives. Some were definitly struggling and emotionally shattered by this experience. Others live in homestays whose parents have brothers or mothers or nephews in La Concepcion -- one of the cities most effected by the quake -- a city in ruins -- where people have lost everything. They have as of yet been unable to contact their relatives. Imagine the stress and emotion in those homes. I think I got so caught up in being safe that I forgot that an earthquake is not a little deal, and it is affecting a lot of people. I always get caught up in what is right around me -- the people I love, the places I frequent, the causes I care about. For now, we are taking it day by day. Giving time for people to process and heal and evalating how we can love this country well.
We also did more normal things (how I love NORMAL things these days), like taking placement tests for spanish class -- oral "tests" where you simply sat with the two professors and talked with them in Spanish about whatever they asked. I don't know which level I will be in-- I think it will be good if I am in the lower level so I can build a really strong foundation. No matter what, I am learning SO much spanish. I think so, anyways. ha. When something like the earthquake here happens, it requires families to stay in their homes and be together -- so I have had lots of opportunites to both listen and speak. And the best part is that I am learning to be quick to listen and slow o speak -- something I always struggle with because I love to talk. It is so important to listen to peoples words, it is how you understand humanity. I am forced to listen more here -- because I have to in order to understand. I love that everything is so tangible here -- learning a new language, and getting to use it! Today Mercedes, my host mom, walked me to class, and afterwards I walked with some of my peers around the city and back to my house. At first it was a group of like 10 of us -- gringos. Talk about CONSPICIOUS. This was definitly not ideal. We love eachtoher, but best not to wander around cites in groups of 10 with backpacks and cameras and guidebooks to Chile, ha. We split into smaller groups of 3 or so.
I realize more everyday how much I am because of the people I've known and know. I remember my cheesy, but I guess effective, college essay about being the person I am because of those I have encountered in my journey of life. The essay question was a trite one: who is your biggest influence? How can that be one person??? It went something like. . . "I am the Mississppi child, I am . . . . " But, really, no matter how cheesy, it's so true. So many people have built me into the person I am, and I am nothing without them. Thank you for the outpouring of love and encouragment over e-mail, facebook, and blog in the wake of this earthquake. It also makes me thankful for the opportunity ahead --- to cultivate relationships with Chilenos. It's beautiful because it's not like stealing -- when you build a relationship you don't take part of the person away from them, leaving them empty, but, hopefully, it can be mutual, and you can gift eachother, share, a part of yourselves, the best part, and both move forward stronger because you have crossed paths. You know?? I think that if I was writing that same college entrance essay today, there would be no way I could stay within the 2 page double-spaced limit. Are you kidding? I'd have to say "I am that friend, and that friend, and that friend, this professor, and that rolemodel, and that stranger I saw on the street in Santiago and the mom of _____ and my mom and the grandmother of __________and the . . . . I would fill in your names, but like I said, it would be a very, very long list. Extensive, in fact.