A day off, earthquakes, and the hot springs at Hanmer


There wasn’t much fuss we could make,

We didn’t see anything break.

     The large Richter number

     Mattered not to our slumber

We slept right through the earthquake

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical avoid burnout, while my one-year non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures and working in out-of-the-way places.  After four weeks in Wellsford, on the North Island of New Zealand, I just arrived at my new assignment.

Bethany and I slept through an earthquake last night.

I’ve felt earthquakes twice.  On a trip back to Wyoming, my hunting buddy stepped on the epicenter of a 4.5 Richter quake; at the time I was in the bathroom and didn’t feel like panicking.

Twenty years ago, during an evening clinic, I stood in an exam room and felt the ground twitch three times.  “Did you feel that?” I asked the patient, who hadn’t felt anything.  Nor had the nurse; my assertions of earthquake met with skepticism till the next morning, when the front page of the Sioux City Journal confirmed the temblor had hit 3.2.

Trip anticipation ruined our sleep on Friday night, and Saturday night the lights of Wellington streamed in under the curtains.  In our new apartment Sunday night, neither of us slept well.

Anticipating no work the next day, we slept deep, sound, and hard till Tuesday morning, awakening refreshed and ready for a day off.  We took our time getting going in the morning; I went for a walk on the border of the property where we’re staying.

We stopped at the Amberley Clinic on our way out of town.  Rex, the senior partner of the group, asked us if the earthquake had awakened us.

Bethany and I looked at each other, and shook our heads.  We’d slept great, we said, and asked if he were kidding.

He wasn’t.  It registered 5.4 on the Richter scale.

New Zealand’s spot on its own tectonic plate and the major fault lines that run through the country brings susceptibility to earthquakes.  Wellington receives hundreds a year, most very small.

Far from over, the aftermath and the aftershocks of the Christchurch disaster permeate the hearts and thoughts of the Kiwis.

I talked to a woman who’d been in the quake.  She described the earth rising up to meet her as she walked, then throwing her to the ground, and then everything moving in waves. 

Many people have quit the city permanently, more families will leave in the future.  The aftershocks ruin sleep, the sleep deprivation piles up, one person decides to leave and the family follows wholesale.

When the ground heaved and rolled, the dirt liquefied and flowed; malodorous muck covered driveways and sidewalks.

But without seismic tendencies, the hot springs an hour from here in Hamner wouldn’t exist.  Bethany and I went there this afternoon. 

I was soaking in the 38 degree Celsius (100.4Fahrenheit)pool and listening to the conversation around me.  One fellow had come because of peripheral neuropathy, one woman had ankylosing spondylitis.

All you need for a support group is two people with the same problem, and while we took the waters we talked about what our disease meant to each of us and how we coped with a relentlessly progressive condition.

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