I just experienced my 2nd earthquake a few days ago (Oct 11 to be precise). The epicenter was only 20 miles from our house, near Zarcero, which is close to Poas Volcano.

Illustration of Cocos Plate sliding under Caribbean Plate.

The two plates underneath Costa Rica are the Cocos Plate (Pacific side) and the Caribbean Plate, which are constantly pushing in to each other. As the Cocos Plate slides underneath the Caribbean Plate, energy builds up and is released, causing volcanoes to erupt and the earth to shake.

I was sitting upstairs in our office when everything started to sway back and forth in a strong, fluid motion for what felt like an eternity. I stayed where I was, preparing to dive under the desk if the shaking got any rougher. Lucky for us, it didn’t, and as soon as it teetered off, I ran outside to check on the neighbors and share in the buzz and excitement that follows an earthquake. Everyone was okay – the only side effects were this blog post and my wobbly legs for the remainder of the evening…and maybe for a few days after.

There is a price to living in paradise – earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, heavy rains with flooding and landslides. It’s humbling, to say the least, and it’s a result of living on top of converging tectonic plates near the equator. The volcanic eruptions are mostly subtle or distant, the landslides affect our roads and those living on hills, but the earthquakes affect everyone, everywhere. So in moving to Julio’s house in Costa Rica, I traded hurricanes for earthquakes. I can’t say one is worse than the other, but at least there are warnings when a hurricane is en route. With earthquakes, they just happen. I thought maybe I would benefit from some sort of “earthquake-is-coming” signal from the dogs, but no, Mocha and Pelulu behave normal before, during, and after. Dog FAIL. Or maybe their non-reaction has something to do with the fact that there are measurable earthquakes here in Costa Rica every few days – did they grow accustomed to the feeling?

I most certainly have not and my instinct to dive under the desk didn’t come naturally. I read about it after my 1st quake experience in which I was completely confused as what to do, yet joyfully riding it out like a fun ride at the county fair. Here is a link to the mac daddy website I found that has extensive information on what to do during an earthquake in any situation. I also take comfort in knowing that the Costa Rican government has contemporary earthquake building codes and the structures here are built to withstand fluctuations in the earth.

Photo of how one of the mountains at La Paz was altered by an earthquake.

You can see here how one side of this mountain fell down during the earthquake, covering up what use to be a very wide road, and changing the landscape forever.

Still, it is important to keep in mind that not all earthquakes pass without causing damage. I recently visited La Paz Waterfall Gardens for the 1st time after the terrible January 2009 earthquake. Much of the landscape there has changed due to the quake and they are still working on reconstruction within the park. La Paz is also near Poas Volcano. It’s incredible to me to think about how close we are to the center of so much destruction, yet our tiny flat piece of land has held our house up for almost 40 years (knock on wood).