The End of the World Part II

Matthew Osche
April 27, 2017

“It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”- R.E.M., It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

Whenever Americans think of Chile, there isn’t really one particular aspect of the culture that comes to mind. I mean, whenever I, a person who has now lived in Chile for two months, think of Chile, there is not one specific cultural element that comes to mind (well, perhaps empanadas), but there was one thing with which I had always associated Chile. One very distinct geological phenomena.

Chile is located directly beside the meeting point of two of our earth’s tectonic plates, which simply means that it is more likely to see seismic activity as earthquakes are generally caused by the plates moving against each other. Naturally, as someone trying to attain a “true Chilean experience” I was hoping that I would get to experience one of Chile’s infamous earthquakes for myself. Naturally. My wish was granted earlier in the week when the two tectonic plates beside Chile decided they were going to dance the tango.

This past Monday, I was in my classroom at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (with IES Abroad we had the option of taking courses at a local university in Santiago) listening to a riveting lecture about voting statistics in Chile during the 1960s when I noticed something was amiss. I felt the table at which I was sitting vibrate slightly for a moment and I figured that someone had simply bumped it, but a few seconds later, the table vibrated once more and simply continued to do so. As the table began to vibrate more profusely, I realized that the whole building was shaking. Immediately, as they swung back and forth the blinds began to tap loudly against the window. I, as well as the other students in the room (this is a class about Chilean culture consisting only of foreigners) turned our heads about the room, eyes pressed to the walls and ceiling. Half expecting the building to just collapse and fire to rain down from the sky, I looked to the professor of the class for guidance. He simply smiled and reluctantly stopped teaching as his students ogled in confusion and fear at the earthquake shaking our building. I am quite sure he would have continued the lecture had we the students not expressed alarm over the situation. He remained completely un-phased by the quake and informed us that this was nothing serious. After about a minute of intense shaking, the vibrations quickly lessened their strength and the room returned to its normal, still state. The whole experience reminded me of a quite accurate earthquake simulator that I had done with my dad and sisters at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh when I was a kid where the small room we had entered simply vibrated at ridiculous rate. Once the earthquake settled down, I and the friend beside me (a boy from Norway who had never before experienced an earthquake either) simply looked at each other in elation and said “cool.” In the minutes that followed, as my heart rate settled down and the adrenaline dissipated, I noticed that the table had vibrated once or twice more, no doubt an effect of the aftershocks.

After class, as I walked out of the room with some friends, and although it probably had nothing to do with the recent seismic event, a friend of mine commented on the sky and the Andes in the distance. Clouds hovered over the mountains and most of the downtown, but a tear in the clouds had cast a ray of light directly onto the mountains painting them in a raw, yellow glow as if they were some kind of divine structures. “Post-earthquake weather,” my friend said prophetically. It truly was very unique weather, the likes of which I had never seen before. Riding home on the metro, I gazed at the portion of the sky opposite the mountains illuminated by the hole in the clouds. The fading sun sunk beneath the mountains, turning the rest of the sky to a blood-red. The clouds themselves blazed in a cascade of orange and crimson; someone had set the Heavens on fire. In front of the red skies I could make out of the craggy silhouettes of the mountains on the other side of town. The formless black shapes of the mountains against the dusk sky made me feel as if I was staring into the depths of Mordor. What with the earthquakes and burning skies, it seemed almost as if the apocalypse was upon us. As I was getting off the metro that evening, in my head I couldn’t stop singing R.E.M.’s “It’s the End of World as We Know It.”

That earthquake was rated as a 7.1. I am quite sure that if it had been any city other than Santiago that had suffered it, that city would be nothing but a pile of sticks right now. As a result of the numerous earthquakes and tremors here, the architects in Santiago, and most other parts of Chile I believe, are required to take into account the seismic activity when constructing buildings. When I got home that night and talked with my host family about the quake, my host mother told me that what I had witnessed was no earthquake, but simply a temblor (probably equivalent to the English word “tremor”), a word that it used to describe minor seismic activity. Apparently earthquakes are only considered so it they have a magnitude of 8 or above. Although it might not be considered an earthquake on Chilean standards, based off my Pennsylvania standards I think I would consider a 7.1 to be an earthquake. It was a pretty interesting evening, and I am quite happy to be able to say that I have lived through one of Chile’s famous earthquakes (or temblores). Needless to say, the earthquake left me a bit shook *bangs drum*.

Matthew Osche

<p>Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Matt Osche and my two greatest passions are my writing and my travels! I&rsquo;m just your average 20-year old college student trying to &ldquo;carpe diem&rdquo; while balancing my studies and my passions. Having grown up in Penn Trafford, PA, a small suburb of Pittsburgh, I&rsquo;ve come a long way from my humble beginnings as my semester in Santiago, Chile, is my second adventure after my junior year of high school spent in a small town outside of Oslo, Norway as a foreign exchange student. Take a look at my blog and read about my adventures here in South America!</p>

2017 Spring
Home university:
Penn State University
International Relations
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