Shaken, not Stirred

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There is this twilight zone that exists just before you fall into a deep sleep. It is that time where you are aware of emerging dreams, yet, noises and events happening in the vicinity of your resting body are registered as well, and become part of the dreams that are in their startup phase.

It was the 8th of august, and it was almost certain that Bapak Fauzi Bowo was going to be announced as the winner of the governor election that where held that day in Jakarta. Jakarta’s government had announced the voting day as a “national holiday” for Jakarta, so most of the employees did not pollute the streets with their cars and motorcycles. I, as an expat, was not allowed to vote, and had to go to the office to earn the company some money. Travel times, however, where reduced to half compared to normal working days.

It looked to become a night as any other night. I went to bed at around ten, setting my alarm clock at 6:15, soon entering the drowsy state of almost sleeping.

I lost all track of time, but I remember hearing a lot of people talking and laughing in the corridors some time later. I was kept in the drowsy state for a long time by these voices, but I was too lazy to really wake up, but not sleepy enough to ignore it. The voices stopped at some point, I think, or I must have fallen asleep, but the next thing I remember is that I am dreaming that my body is shaking all over. I semi woke up, but the shaking still continued. I was wondering why, because I did not drink alcohol the night before; I could not explain it. I was starting to get worried in my dreamy state (at the time I was not sure if it was dreaming or waking). Suddenly, a hard rain started pounding the window, and it was as if winds where sweeping hailstones against it. It connected with something I heard earlier that night (in my dream?), namely the sound of a thundering roar, right before the voices started. As I was thinking about the thunder and rain, a hard noise of a falling object in my room dragged me completely out of my sleep. I was fully awake now and jumped out of bed.  Still the rain or poured out of the sky and the sudden jumping out of my bed left me on shaky legs in the room. I got a little disoriented and while looking for the light switch, I got an eerie feeling that the rain I was hearing, did not come from the window, but was actually emerging from the hollow walls that separate the inner rooms. As I stumbled in the kitchen, the shaky feeling got out of my legs. In the kitchen I could hear the rain falling on the ceiling from above.  I was sure that I was still dreaming, or maybe sleep walking? Than it hit me, I knew what I was experiencing. This was the work of an earthquake. The rain I had been hearing was dust that flowed down the hollow walls and ceiling.

The reason why I did not immediately connect what I was feeling to an earthquake is that experience can be a bad teacher. I experienced two earthquakes in Belgium (yes, we get them there once in every 20 years or so), but those always came with a lot of slow shaking movements, that would make doors and walls rattle like hell. This one was very quiet, except for the rustling sound of the sliding dust and sand.

Immediately after I woke up, the corridor filled up with people hurrying to the lifts or emergency staircases to get out of the building (yes, lifts, the one thing you should avoid using during quakes and fire). I, however, stayed in the apartment I opened the Internet and learned that the quake was at a place about 95 km from my apartment, somewhere very deep in the see; no reason to panic. As I looked out f the window, I could see people swarming out of all entries of the apartment, and trying to get as far as possible from the building. Most of them stayed there for more than an hour before daring to set foot inside again. I am sure some of them slept outside or in their car for the rest of the night.

I could not find any object that had tumbled, not in my bedroom, or in the rest of my apartment: everything was still as I left it before I went to bed. Probably it was something in the corridor or in the apartment above mine that had been knocked over by panicking people trying to flee their home.

I went back to bed and fell asleep soon; but it was a light sleep and I woke up several times, feeling my body shaking, or was that a dream (no significant after chocks where registered that night)?

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