“Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we're still at the mercy of nature”.

 Neil deGrasse Tyson

By age 27 I never knew what the earthquake feels like. I am a lucky one who comes from Russia, a country which territory is mainly earthquake-free.

I study at National Chung Cheng University, Chiayi County. Here we have a local museum that tells about history of the city. One of the exhibitions in the museum demonstrates the upshots of the earthquake happened in 1999: ruins of a wooden house, broken glass around and leftover children’s toys. The installation is covered with a dust of a tragedy. A pain of loss strikes spectators’ hearts. From ashes we came to ashes we return…

Usually we see aftermaths of the earthquakes happened in different parts of the Globe in the news. The picture is trivial: ruined buildings, collapsed infrastructure. What TV screens hide form us are homelessness, people’s hardships, material casualties, and finally an endless grief from the loss of the dearest ones.


By 6th of February when exam session has been over and winter break has begun most of Taiwanese students left CCU to join families in their home cities to celebrate Chinese New Year. Only several foreign students stayed on campus. 

That night I couldn’t sleep a wink because of disturbing noise outside. I always had a concern about a big amount of dogs in CCU and now they were barking from midnight. I took a watch to see what time was it: 3 a.m. “Gosh! How long it’s going to last?” I thought as suddenly my bed moved. I jumped out from it and got to the window to check whether it was a storm. A couple of seconds of silence and things started falling from the shelves, the floor was shaking, the walls were moving. No doubts left that it was the earthquake!

For a moment I was paralyzed with a fear and shock, I still couldn’t believe that it was happening to me. “Escape or die trying!” This idea appeared in my head. I rushed barefoot to the door missing to grab documents, my phone or even glasses. I started moving downstairs like a blind mole. In rush I hurt my foot and tears made me completely lose sight.

Those 37 stairs were the most painful and important for the past 27 years of my living. In fact I was saving three lives that night: mine and my parents’. “Who would take care of them? Mom will get a heart attack knowing I’m dead. I don’t wanna die young! I can’t die unmarried! I can’t die until I see my grandchildren!” Such thoughts accompanied me and detracted from the foot.

I opened the entrance doors by hands without electronic card we were supposed to use to get outside. I sat on a bench 10 meters away from the dorm and started waiting what happened next. Several minutes later appeared  Zayda, Cristel and Gissela, my friends I study with, all dressed up, with bags and eyes full of fear. After vocalizing our feelings and emotions we let our program manager know we were all safe, and slightly traumatized.

From the social media we got know about the disaster. Though epicenter of the earthquake was in Tainan a shock wave reached my university. After an hour spent outside we were tired and dared to get in. Cracks on the walls, and flakes of the wall paint on the floor looked scary. An echo of a disaster was walking in the dorm’s hallways. Meanwhile my foot swelled up and turned purple.

All right ideas come afterwards. The first thought and the right one for me was to get outside of the building, whilst safety guidelines advise on hiding under the desk.

I picked up one more habit. In seismic active country like Taiwan now I keep a packed bag with a wallet, phone, and documents in it next to my bed.

Dogs possess the sixth sense and warn people about upcoming calamities. So I am attentive now to animals’ anxiety.

Estimating your life, think about those who dependent on you, who love and need you.

Even we are graduated from school we keep learning: learning from life. Those succeed who learn the lesson. Others who repeatedly make the same mistakes probably follow a philosophy of failure and enjoy it.

Well, I am not going to use an idiom “break a leg”, an ordinary “Good luck” will work safer for you!

P.S. My leg is recovered, I even wear heels. But sleep is disruptive with nightmares; I often see the earthquake happening again.



By Oxana Gladysheva

ICDF Scholarship Awardee 2014

National Chung Cheng University

Department of Educational leadership and Management Development

E-mail: gladysheva777@mail.ru

Phone no.: +8860975481070