domingo, 16 de junio de 2013

Km 45,665: Twenty four hours of tacos, earthquakes and tequila

Most of my delayed flight was spent in a coma, from which I only rose when we were coming close to Mexico City. Flying into Mexico City at night is a spectacular show; it would seem as if a never-ending cloth of light stretches out to the horizon, covering mountains and valleys. Light drips down the streets and avenues like blood through arteries and veins, bringing Mexico City to life.

Migration, luggage, customs and, after nine months of absence, an endearing re-encounter with my parents who were exhausted from a two hour long wait at the airport. In honor of stereotypes, our first stop was a taquería to eat some tacos. Having spent the previous night awake in a party and the entire day and most of the evening sleeping on the airplane, I was in circadian confusion and, by the time we went back home, I dragged myself to bed, laid my head to rest and closed my eyes. I felt so excited to be back in Mexico City, it almost seemed like I was shaking.



But then I realized, I was. And so was the bed. And the ground. And then the cars honking outside warned me that the entire city was shaking due to a trepidatory earthquake. The Papalote Children's Museum of Mexico City has taught me several things, including how one can safely rest on a bed of nails and how bubbles work, but one thing that really stayed with me (and will essentially haunt me the rest of my life) is the danger of trepidatory earthquakes. As an innocent and sweet nine year old, I went to the Museum and found a stand where you could build a house with wooden cubes and then simulate an earthquake. I made a house and simulated an oscillatory earthquake (moving horizontally). My house held for a good 20 seconds before crumbling. I then made another house and simulated a trepidatory earthquake (moving vertically), which didn't last more than a few seconds. I tried again, a different design, but it fell again almost instantly, teaching me that trepidatory earthquakes are far more destructive than oscillatory ones. Although there are a few man-made buildings and structures out there, capable of resisting oscillatory earthquakes, no engineer has been able to come up with a design that could resist a trepidatory earthquake. In other words, if you're in the middle of a trepidatory earthquake, in all likelihood the building is going to shake in an up and downwards motion until it collapses, crushing you underneath it.



In my mind, at least.


But as soon as I realized there was an earthquake, I jumped out of bed and ran around in panic, staring at the hanging lamps to see if they were moving, while shouting to wake up my parents. We waited off the earthquake under the frame of a door while a few neighbors ran outside bare feet in their pijamas. There is much debate about what are the correct earthquake safety measures. In school, we were taught that in the event of an earthquake, we had to crouch and hide under our desks. However, the urban legend says that rather than being a life-saving measure, this is a sentence to death as rescuers are said to have found entire classrooms of children crushed to death under their desks after an earthquake. The somewhat dubious triangle of life theory says that one is to crouch next to a sturdy and tall object, so that when the ceiling or the sky falls on it, it will leave a small triangular space under which we can hide. 

The only thing that is clear to me is that the 1985 earthquake and all the entailed destruction left behind a scar in the collective consciousness of all Mexicans. As soon as the earthquake is over, we all need to make sure that everyone else is alright, leading to the collapse of all telephone lines and networks. Facebook and Twitter are actually the fastest ways to discover if the earthquake was felt in other areas of the city and what kind of damage did other people suffer. The National Institute of Seismology has caught on to this and within a few minutes tweeted that we had just experienced a 5.9 earthquake on Richter's scale. Other tweets confirmed that it had initially been trepidatory and then changed to oscillatory and that no major damages happened in the city. Still, hard to go back to sleep with your eyes peeled.

The next morning was spent at the market. While my parents bought fruit and vegetables at the market, I spent a few minutes inspecting a stand where esoteric articles and magic herbs were sold. We came back home with a full load of mangoes, papaya, mamey, peaches, bananas, apples, pears, strawberries, melon, watermelon, plums, jicama, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, avocado, asparagus, cucumber, celery, pumpkin flowers and nopales (see food porn, below).

And finally, we went to the terrace to sip some tequila.


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