“My First Earthquake Experience in Taiwan”

Taiwan is an extraordinary place! Filled with diversity, enriched with culture, and a place where you can feel at home, no matter where you come from. Or at least that’s the feeling I get.

My name is Mark Torres. I came to Taiwan from Belize about three years ago to study Business Administration at National Chengchi University, or 國立政治大學as we might know it in Mandarin. Earthquakes in Belize just never happen! I never knew what an earthquake felt like until I came to Taiwan.

I arrived in Taiwan in 2013, and felt so amazed by everything I saw and experienced. The people were so nice, and meeting new people and other foreigners who shared the same curiosity of exploration was simply fantastic, words have no way of expressing that. It wasn’t long enough, maybe about one or two months later, that I experienced my first earthquake. I admit, that experience of having the ground shaking beneath your feet and you having no control of what’s going to happen next is a little terrifying.

I can still remember it like it was yesterday, it’s just something you simply never forget. It all happened as a friend of mine and I were headed out for dinner, when all of a sudden we felt everything moving. We were both from the same country, so the experience was pretty new to us. We were in shock! We didn’t know if to run, take cover, or just wait for something to happen. All we did was stare at each other in hopes that nothing drastic occurred. Being new to the country and the language, we didn’t know if the locals were shouting to take cover, or not to panic, or just expressing that it was a 地震(dì zhèn), which is earthquake in Mandarin. We could hear people shouting and holding on to their belongings. What shocked me, and I bet her too, was that even the Taiwanese were panicking a bit. That might have been the longest 3 seconds I’ve ever experienced, and to be honest it wasn’t even a big earthquake. Maybe we just felt like it was massive because of our location. We were near a 自助餐 (zì zhù cān), an “all you can eat” restaurant, they had bread clippers hanged from some holders above the food, and they swung a lot because of the tremor. So this made it seem like it was a dig deal at the time.

After it was over, we were still a bit startled, but had a good laugh in the end. We teased each other about the funny faces we made, and how lost we seemed. I think laughter was the best option at that time. A good laugh relieved us from the tension and made us move on with our night. I am just glad that it was just a minor tremor and that no harm came to us or anyone.

Now, I’ve learnt to live with the fact that earthquakes are a part of the Taiwanese daily life. There is nothing to panic about! It’s just Mother Nature taking its course and letting us know that there are forces bigger than all of us. There is nothing we can do to actually prepare for an earthquake since it’s something that just spontaneously happen, but we can take some precautions while it’s occurring. For example, we can seek refuge under something strong and solid, like a table, or under a bed, or put or hands or bags over our heads and wait for it to pass.

A word of advice though, whatever steps you take to see an earthquake through, stay calm and don’t panic. Just remember to take necessary precautions in an orderly manner. Panicking just alarms and make newbies, like myself at that time, to feel like the end of the world is approaching.

They say time makes you forget, but the rush that earthquake made me feel that day is something I will remember forever.