Costa Rica Earthquake 2012 — By Jennifer Shipp
Central America Costa Rica North America

Costa Rica Earthquake 2012 — By Jennifer Shipp

About every three nights, we’d wake up to a small 5.5 earthquake in the middle of the night while we were staying in Atenas.

It was a beautiful morning for an earthquake. The past two days it’s been extremely foggy and overcast here, but this morning when I went outside, the sun was shining brightly and the sky was blue. It’s the rainy season in Costa Rica right now and I expected the thunderstorms, the lightning and torrential rains. But one thing I didn’t expect when we decided to go on a trip here was an earthquake.

I remember when I was a nerdy adolescent kid and one of my classmates named “Doug” was in an earthquake in California. I was concerned in a very middle-school sort of way (my concern was entirely self-centered and very Disney-esque), but I was also very jealous. He was on a trip with his family when it happened. He hadn’t died. His family hadn’t died. No one was injured. He got to come home as a hero. He’d been a part of something that made national news. I had too much contempt for him to ask questions. He got a sprinkling of small town fame for being in an earthquake in addition to taking a week off from school to go to California in the first place.

It wasn’t fair.

I have since always been infatuated with earthquakes. I’ve always wanted to have the experience of being in an earthquake, but only under certain very specific conditions: I didn’t want to die or be injured and I didn’t want loved ones to die or be injured, and I didn’t want major property losses. I would like to experience the periphery of a hurricane too under similar conditions. I suppose seeing a tsunami from a safe location might be okay as well, but I’m not sure if that’s possible and drowning (particularly in a tsunami) is something I’d like to avoid at all costs. I don’t really want to see other people suffering or losing property so this limits the types of natural disasters that could be interesting to see and experience.

As Lydian said as she was sitting on our steps outside after the earthquake this morning, “This is one Natural Disaster Wish come true.”

What I’m saying may sound heartless, but it’s not. The desire to have these experiences only applies if there aren’t a lot of people who perish or lose their homes, pets, and other things they cherish. That’s not what I want. And though what I’m writing about sounds like I’m trivializing the experiences of countless human beings who have suffered through these kinds of natural disaster ordeals, I’m not. It’s just impossible to write about the flip side of my emotional set of dice at the same time as I write about this aspect of it. There are things that I’ve read about or heard about in the news for my entire life and I’ve never gotten to experience them. Under those special conditions where I can experience them without losing life or limb (or loved ones), I’m excited to have the opportunity.

I could dramatize the whole experience and talk about how I whimpered and cried a little and said, “Oh my God,” seven times while the tremors were going on, but who cares about that? In the grand scheme of things, surviving an earthquake is just as dramatic as not surviving one, and I do feel like celebrating the achievement.

Related Posts:

Our Costa Rican Earthquake: September 5, 2012 — By Jennifer Shipp

The Earthquake — By Lydian Shipp

You Recently Viewed ...

Trying to Enter El Salvador as a Myanmar Citizen – Lydian Shipp

The Full Central America-4 Experience: On Being Turned Away at the Border –By Jennifer Shipp

How to Get a Guatemala Visa as a Myanmar Citizen – Lydian Shipp

Hoping for Honduras: Planning a Wedding from Outer Space — By Jennifer Shipp

The So-Called Curse of Being a “High-Maintenance” Woman — By Lydian Shipp


  1. Sherry L Erlewine

    Hey! I understand. I also count my disaster experiences! So far I have been in several tornados, a few blizzards, floods, and ice storms, 3 earthquakes, 2 volcanic eruptions, and, most recently, a hurricane! None have been horrific, just mild, and I expect to continue adding to tnis life list…avalanche…mudslide…etc. They add richness to life!

    January 9, 2013 Reply
    • travelingshipps

      I’m glad there’s someone else who views natural disasters this way! I don’t want other people or their property to be harmed, but its really something to have firsthand experience with things like earthquakes. I’ve never been anywhere near a hurricane. When were you in a hurricane? That’s definitely blog-material! 🙂

      January 23, 2013 Reply


Bruised Banana