If you grow up in Wellington, you get used to quakes. You know that some day, thanks to the region’s conveniently located fault lines, a Big One will hit. (In fact, when an unarguable Big One hit seven years ago, it happened farther south.)
Every year there are several jolts and wobbles. You learn to stand there with one eye on the glassware and the other on a nearby door frame, and wait for the shaking to subside. Then you smile with pleasure at your own cool nonchalance.
If you’re lucky, as you usually are, there’s no damage to your glassware or anything else.
But if you’re extremely lucky, you’re in the company of a visitor from some rock-solid country — such as Britain.
Brits love to experience a quake in NZ. At first they go pale with alarm, but afterwards their cheeks pinken with pleasure and they have an urge to contact their relatives to tell them
how exciting it all was that they’re safe.
It’s a charming spectacle for us quake-accustomed Kiwis.
Well, during last week’s 6.2 quake, I happened to have two British visitors in the house. They reacted exactly as described above, blushing with excitement at having felt a sizable wobble.
Safe As Houses
It might be that a tiny house on wheels is the best possible place to experience a quake — you feel it clearly, but you’re safer than in a terrestrial house.
That’s because our house has suspension — it’s on a trailer steadied by jacks but still with the tyres on the ground. It’s a microcosm of those big NZ buildings — museums and hospitals, for example — that stand on huge rubber rollers that absorb an earthquake’s energy.
The whole structure is built to move, to take the stresses of motion without coming apart. After all, it’s been across a mountain range and a farm paddock.
So here’s how it felt to be in the Mustard Yellow House during an earthquake.
- The first moment was like feeling pressure on a floorboard that runs under you — a little movement.
- Then it was like standing in a moving train.
- Then it was like standing in an aeroplane going through turbulence.
- Then it was that low vibration that ends a short quake.
The only impact, as far as I could tell, was that our modem fell over and my electric toothbrush fell into the bathroom sink.
By the way, the two British visitors present for the shake were Alex and Lucy, who have lived at Makahuri for much of this year. They’re part of the World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms scheme (also known as Willing Workers On Organic Farms).
Alex and Lucy have made a big mark on Makahuri and its people, becoming treasured fellow villagers. Now they’ve resumed their travels.
The Wwoof scheme is impressive. It allows young people to travel, work, get farm skills and be housed and fed. In the past year we’ve met Wwoofers from Argentina, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Britain, the US and Japan. All of them make their mark and inject their own energy into the place.
I’ll do a blog post soon all about our kitchen — all the cooking- and storage-related challenges of having very little space.
If you’re curious about any other aspects of tiny house living, let me know in a comment and I’ll respond!