Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Cry of the Seagull

Sunday, May 24, 2009

There’s a taverna (pub) across the street from us named, “The Cry of the Seagull” and that name, after today, takes on a whole different meaning. (Okay, so technically there’s no such creature as a “seagull.” There are Laughing Gulls and Herring Gulls and this kind and that kind of gull, all sea birds, but none bears the redundant name of “seagull.” I use the term because I don’t yet know what species of gull we have here in Thessaloniki.)

At six o’clock this morning (Sunday) a neighbor of ours named Christos, who is Elpida’s father-in-law, walked out onto his balcony to see why the seagulls were making such a ruckus.

The gulls here have a weird call in any case; they always do sound strange. But today was different. Today the gulls were very agitated and making all kinds of even stranger cries.

Christos stayed out on his balcony, watching the birds, long enough to smoke a cigarette, then walked back into his apartment and told Soula, his wife, “There’s going to be a seismos.”

Oh, yes, you do know what a seismos is, because you know the words, “seismic” and “seismograph”, right?

What to do? Get out of Dodge? Not really, because, well, on account of seagulls? Plus, you never know whether you’ll be going farther or nearer wherever the epicenter of the quake will be.

That’s what they did, though; they got out of town, bringing Soula’s sister, Demetra, with them. They didn’t do it immediately, not to be alarmists or anything, but in the evening they set out for Nea Syllata, where we were, to help us continue the celebration of Kostas’ nameday.

That's why they were out of town when the quake hit Thessaloniki.

We didn’t feel anything in Nea Syllata, 30 miles away, and neither did they, because they were in the car en route to us, but they heard about it on the car radio. It was a 5.1, not too shabby a quake, either.

So we all sat around, over Mena’s homemade pizza, followed by tiramisu, and traded earthquake stories and then storm stories.

Soula and Demetra told us of a hailstorm that once hit their village. They said it was very narrowly focused; it struck the village but not the surrounding fields, where it would have killed everybody working in them. They said the hail destroyed all the roof tiles of all the houses. That let in the rain, which was falling copiously. The rain soaked the reeds and plaster which are under a traditional Greek roof, and everybody’s ceilings caved in. The villagers took refuge wherever they could, mainly in a warehouse their father owned.

While watching the television, we noted there was also some sort of catastrophe in Florida, but we didn’t get the details because of all the surrounding noise of the party.

At about 11:30 we packed up and all went home to make sure everything was okay.

“Oh, it knocked over our lamp!” said Demetrios. But no, I had laid that lamp across my pillow to prevent the breeze knocking it over. (We leave windows open in this weather.) Our building, and our apartment, are fine, and we think everybody else’s are fine, too.

The townspeople are now waiting to see whether there will be any aftershocks – or whether today’s event may have been only a prelude.

Lord, have mercy!

UPDATE: There was an aftershock, I'm told, later the same evening. We still weren't in town yet; we came an hour later. Apparently, the aftershock was a very minor affair.


elizabeth said...

Lord have mercy. Glad all is okay.

I think it is really signiifcant that people there still know what the animals are doing. this sort of knowledge seems to be lost today...

Elizabeth said...

Oh my !
Glad that you are all safe and well, and that you have an early-warning system in the seagulls !!