China-focused Satire, Social Commentary, Comics and More

No Earthquake Woes, Yichang Knows

I am talking on the phone to the foreign teacher assistant. “We were wondering,” I begin, “If there is an earthquake during class, what are we supposed to do with our students?” A chuckle on the other end lets me know that once again I am being a silly foreigner.

“We have no earthquakes here,” he says.

“Yichang does not have earthquakes?” I repeat as a question.


“Um…” My mind races through yesterday afternoon, from the nauseous feeling in my stomach when the moving floor made us walk like drunken sailors and our doors and windows rattled like they were possessed by evil spirits to the crowds that flooded from tall buildings filling every open space in town.

“Maybe,” he interrupts carefully, “If the ground shakes you can then offer some advice for the students. Such as, they must go under something or they must leave the classroom.”

With my mouth shamefully agape I somehow thank him and hang up the phone.

This conversation makes me feel better. There are no earthquakes in Yichang. It is simpler than my senses led me to believe. The adrenaline that made us wander aimlessly for hours around the city stopping only when aching legs called us back to earth was for naught. The sleepless night spent half awake, waiting for after shocks – pointless. Teaching the primary students the word “earthquake” – yes, perhaps we are just silly foreigners.

The Chinese know these things. The building shook an afternoon free. We will sit outside and play Mahjong. We will drink Baijiu until our faces are the color of our flag. We will talk of family or fashion. We know so we don’t have to wonder. We know so we don’t have to think. There are no earthquakes in Yichang.

How the foreign mind got so silly is a mystery. Why wonder and wander and worry when it is already known? It is clear – this thing called imagination is nothing but a burden. Western educators and communities that encouraged us to think for ourselves – your hit and miss method of developing good people is too unreliable.

China knows. China knows that repetition is key. Everyone learns the same thing. Everyone becomes the same “OK” people. When everyone knows that everything is OK there is nothing left to wonder. As silly foreigners we think it is strange to see the clump of telephone wires swinging like a jump-rope. This is where we went wrong. Now though, now that we know there are no earthquakes in Yichang, now we can know. Ignorance accomplished.

Editor’s note: Thanks to everyone who sent emails of concern. We are fine. Buildings were evacuated here but all seem to still be standing. Also, we apologize if our Sunday NEWS FLASH! (No Catastrophe Here) spooked anyone else.

One Response to “No Earthquake Woes, Yichang Knows”

  1. jen says:

    Glad to hear you are all OK.

    A fine line between knowing and imagination…limitations and possibility.

    Nice observations, thank you.

    Be well,


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