We were abruptly awakened at 5:08 AM by---a car alarm? A house alarm? Barking dogs? All excellent guesses but, no, this time it was by an----EARTHQUAKE!!!
This was I think the fifth one we've experienced since living in Ecuador and by far the most "vigorous," lasting maybe eight-ish seconds and giving the whole building a good shake. Cynthia put a pillow on her head and I said, "Don't get up!" Is that what you're supposed to do? I don't have a clue; I just said the first thing that came into my half-asleep mind. But thinking about it now, if the building collapsed at least we'd have had a California King-sized cushion under us.
Earthquakes here seem to happen around this same time of the early morning and always wake us up, but we've gotten so used to them that when the last one hit we simultaneously mumbled, "Earthquake---" and went back to sleep, never even bothering to open our eyes.
A couple of years ago we were in Quito for an International Living conference and our room was on a high floor of the Swissotel. We were talking to our son on Skype when he said, "Um, why is the picture moving back and forth?" Cynthia replied, "Because we're HAVING AN EARTHQUAKE! BYE!" Since the internal structure of taller buildings is designed to have more "give" in these situations, we were really swaying for a few seconds.
Ecuador doesn't have weather extremes like wide-ranging temperature swings, tornadoes, and hurricanes. But shifting plates beneath the surface do create occasional minor earthquakes and potentially extreme volcanic activity. You may have read that Cotapaxi volcano near Quito has rumbled to life and could erupt any day now. No one can predict the severity if it does, but over 300,000 citizens are in harm's way and the government has evacuation plans in place.
Then there's the coming El Niño. You probably know that the predicted heavy rains may thankfully relieve some of California's drought. Over here in South America Peru and Ecuador are expected to get hammered as well, and if storm activity is as severe as expected a lot of residences built too close to the ocean are expected to be destroyed. Sad, but that's the chance you take when building codes are ignored.
If you've never felt an earthquake I've gotta tell you it's really freaky. You're in the "safety of your own home" yet don't feel safe at all when the whole damn building is moving. We rode out a hurricane in Charleston years ago and, similarly, experiencing the raw power of Mother Nature when she gets riled up is absolutely amazing and at the same time incredibly humbling.
Well, time for bed, people. Getting rocked to sleep when you're a baby is lovely. Getting rocked awake---not so much. Wish us sweet dreams!