All Shook Up

By Hannah Black
For The Bali Times

SILAKARANG ~ What a way to start a long weekend off work – with a 6.4-magnitude earthquake.

Last Saturday morning I was lying on the bed playing with my daughter, Lola, when the rattling started, but it always takes a second or two to realize what’s actually going on.

I heard my husband, Ongky, shout “Get out!” from the bathroom (where he was unfortunately occupied), but I had already snatched Lola from the bed and was halfway to the front door.

Standing outside in our underwear I watched the very large and suddenly scary coconut trees swaying and wondered if we were perhaps safer inside.

After a small earthquake a couple of weeks ago, my fellow teachers and I were talking about what we were supposed to actually do in the case of another one – being on the third floor of a four-story building, we thought it may be a good idea to discuss it.

We concluded the “get in the nearest doorway or under your desk” seems to have gone out of fashion in the earthquake safety community, and now it’s advised to get out of the building quick-smart.

When the house starts shaking as much as ours was and you’re holding a small child, the get-out option seemed pretty sweet.

I looked up to the main part of the compound and it seemed the rest of the family had had the same thought and were standing in the open looking anxious.

It may seem a bit overdramatic, but being from the Isle of Man, where gale-force winds are about as scary as things get, a reminder of Bali’s underlying instability is a bit of an eye-opener.

When I decided to go to Bali, my mum was straight on the internet checking out what terrible diseases, poisonous creatures and natural disasters awaited her youngest daughter.

I was prepared for the worst the tropical “Ring of Fire” had to throw at me and was therefore pleased to find Bali a civilized and generally safe place to be.

Until last week.

In the past five years I’ve rarely had occasion to be scared of where I live (with the exception of the drive to and from work everyday).

When I wobbled on still-shaking legs up to the main part of the compound, my brother-in-law Wayan smiled and said in that charming but completely stating-the-obvious way “gempa bumi” (earthquake). “Oh yeah?” I said, returning his smile.

My mother and father-in-law seemed unfazed and were busily carrying on with their morning routines.

People don’t stop coming to buy their morning lak-lak, a tasty Balinese breakfast cake, just because of a silly earthquake.

I can’t imagine anyone doing anything useful after an earthquake of that size in the UK, as I’m sure there would be all kids of procedures and health and safety checks to attend to.

With this in mind, and the worry that my mum would see the news before I told her, I sent a text message assuring her all was OK. It may have been one in the morning there, but it’s always best to get a message to her before any unnecessary panic ensues.

Talking to my parents on the phone last Sunday, I was surprised my dad didn’t mention volcanoes or pyroclastic flows even once.

I was sitting with Ongky, watching to see the news, when it occurred to me that one of my first thoughts after the quake was that we had better start making some offerings.

When I said it out loud, it may have been a bit of a joke, but before that, I think it was quite a serious thought. Subconsciously I was thinking about what we may have done to anger the gods and what we needed to do to soothe them.

It gave Ongky and good giggle anyway and he called me his good Balinese wife.

I suppose it’s not a bad thing to be reminded sometimes of the power of nature and how once in a while Bali can throw new experiences at us.

Friends who had never felt an earthquake before say they are now completely sated and need never feel another one again. I would be happy if one didn’t happen for at least another five years.

Filed under:
My Compound Life

Leave a Reply