Lately, earthquakes have become a near every day occurrence here around the “Ring of Fire”. That’s not to put lightly that there’s been hundreds of casualties. Lots of destruction to buildings and infrastructure, a heightened sense of instability, and for tourists – early return flights home or to nearby Bali. I have felt nearly a dozen quakes/after shocks at this point, but have been in the right place at the time. Here are my experiences with the recent movements:
The first earthquake (magnitude 6.4) happened on July 29th. I was on the coast of Bali, about 100 km/55ish mi from Lombok – where it happened. I was sitting on a stone platform next to the infinity pool, just settling into a kapalabhati breath meditation. Kapalabhati involves aggressive and rapid exhalations that feels a bit like hyperventilating. It’s definitely an intense bodily sensation, earthquake or not. As soon as I completed my round of breath exhalations and drew my breath in to hold, the earth around me started to shake. At first, I thought it was because I had overdone it on the fire breathing. Maybe the blood was rushing to my head and I was going to faint. But the platform beneath me was swinging. And I heard the pool splashing over, like a whale was swimming around. At that point I opened my eyes to see WTF was going on. My teacher and I looked at each other with the same excitement and shock – “an earthquake!” we joked that all of us yogis dropping into meditation certainly set it off 😉 for the most part we said a few whoas and got back to our yoga practice.
The second (the big one at 7.1) came as I was sitting in a restaurant in Ubud (the spiritual mecca of Bali and thankfully, a city 10+ miles away from the coast). This time, the shaking would be stronger and last much longer. It was about 7 pm and the restaurants were full of tourists (whom ironically had flocked inland due to the previous earthquake and tsunami warnings). The shaking began, and I looked over at the Brit guy next to me nonchalantly like, ya, ok another earthquake. But this one wasn’t stopping. The Balinese waitresses started to shriek and ran out onto the street. Cool, I thought. But when it didn’t stop, I quickly realized how uneducated I was about earthquake protocol (which I have since learned, does in fact suggest leaving the building). I half-assed my exit out of the restaurant with the rest of the patrons, even though the street with its hanging signs and cracked asphalt looked dodgier than inside. I wondered what would happen to our unpaid meals (the waitresses didn’t seem to care). After what seemed like a few minutes, the shaking stopped, and we strolled back into the open air building. Despite my recent giving up of alcohol, this event called for “earthquake beers”. We were hit with another aftershock about an hour later, which wasn’t quite as startling (or maybe we expected it now), but did involve running out of the restaurant again, as well as more earthquake beers. By the time I got into bed that night I was feeling earthquakes every few minutes (which was likely a combination of beers, my own elevated heart rate, and paranoia, although a few were legitimate).
A few days later more aftershocks occurred – at which point I had become a pro at getting out of bed in the middle of sleep and sprinting out of my hotel door. Now I can’t tell the difference between my excitement, an earthquake, meditative mental states, or a few beers…ohhh Bali…
This brings me up to August 9th, when the last earthquake (a 6.2 – again, in Lombok) occurred. I was in a Thai massage class at an infamous yoga studio in Ubud when the windows that overlooked a gorgeous jungle garden started shaking. Was it wind? Was it a cat tapping at the window? No, another earthquake. Some girls screamed, which I’ve noticed now is almost a guaranteed reaction. I casually strolled toward the door, knowing from history now that we were safe inside. After a few minutes on high-alert, we resumed class, which thankfully was suuuuper relaxing (thank you random German girl).
So, I’ve been pretty lucky, mostly due to my location. Ubud is a very grounding and healing place by nature, and not being near the ocean where tsunami warnings have been occurring has added to my peace of mind. But a lot of others have not been so lucky. I ran into one friend from my yoga program that was shaken up from her experience with the big earthquake. She was on the north shore of Bali where they had a tsunami evacuation warning… she spent the night climbing a hill to get to high ground and slept on the floor of a locals house, which she described as scary “like a movie”, but a very beautiful experience that left her grateful. I wonder about the scuba divers and surfers and all the locals down on Lombok and the Gili Islands (both very popular tourist locations). I had planned on visiting these places in length, but for now, I am happy to stay inland where the soil is plentiful, the jungle lush, and the good vibes all around.