Chapter 3 - Taiwan in the aftermath of the Quake
Part 2


Part 1 is in the previous page. Part 2 is this e-mail that I sent at the end of the next day.

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Chapter 3:

Thanks for the positive strokes on my last note. Here is how day 2 in Taiwan went.

When last we left our hero he was going to bed after several false earthquake alarms and a few power outages. The night was uneventful. Day 2 begins exactly as I expect. I meet Dennis and the remaining distributor in the hotel lobby. They inform me the decision is to go to their office so I can present the PAC materials.

Dennis, as he and I had discussed, offered to do the presentations in our hotel as well as several other alternatives to going to their office. This is partly, so we can be sure to get to the airport on time, but also because we understand that the distributor still has no power. Of course, despite what would be most efficient, practical, logical, and safe, we head to their office.

Now I had predicted this would be the end result of the negotiation and I congratulate myself on this as we step into the car. It has always seemed to me that the American emphasis on independence gives us the freedom and ability to make last- minute, sizable changes even to well-established plans. We love the hail-mary pass, and the full-court basketball toss that sinks at the buzzer. I think some other cultures are more likely to follow-thru on a plan as-is. (There is after all some benefit to keeping a steady course.) I am happy with this analysis for about 5 minutes until I ask myself, why this particular independent American is sitting in the car moving closer and closer to the earthquake epicenter. This wasn't even that good a plan to begin with...

Oh well. I start to plan how I will give my presentation without power, as Dennis could not get a good answer to exactly how we are going to do this. It took me a while, but by the time we get to the office, I believe I have the correct hand configuration to reproduce our very complex architecture slide using a candle and shadow puppets. I have just enough fingers for each client type and database!

There are no recognizable signs of quake damage until we get close to the distributor's office. There is scaffolding around the building. As we enter the building, we are told it is a good thing the office is on the second floor, since there is no power to the elevators.

There are workmen all over the building, even though this is a Saturday. As we climb the stairs, we can see the cracks in the concrete. A lot of the cracks are already patched with fresh concrete. There are many plastic devices sticking out of the wall. Dennis thought at first they were sensors of some kind. We look more closely and decide they are bolts to somehow strengthen the walls. We think they are a scaled-up version of the anchor bolts you use on plasterwalls which have fins that expand perpendicular to the bolt, once the fins are past the back side of the wall. The bolts are everywhere along the cracks. The damage is extensive but seems superficial.

We continue on to the second floor. The building's hallways are lit by some kind of backup lighting. There is a workman using a powersaw just outside the distributor's office, carving up some wood presumably to shore up something. The office is pretty dark except for outside light coming thru the windows.

They show me the presentation room which is windowless and pitch black. I am wondering if they expected us to bring our own candles. I put my bags down so I can begin practicing my architecture shadow puppet slide. They show us a small machine which they say is a power generator and scurry around to set it up just outside the office. Presumably there is some danger in running it so they put it outside the office. They run a long wire back to the presentation room. After a few false starts we have power to the projector. I decide to stick with battery power for my laptop, so a power surge doesn't hammer it. As we wait for the office personnel to assemble for the presentations, Dennis and I take a closer look around. In the bathroom, we can see there is a pile of broken tiles on the floor and nearly none left on the walls. We go to the window and look outside and down to the ground and see broken pieces of concrete facade all over. Although the wall facing us seems intact, I turn my head and see the wall that encases the window has lost almost all of its facade. I look up and see facade missing above me as well. I decide to get my head back in the window before something falls on it. I will shortly suggest to our company store which sells clothing and office accessories with the company logo on them, that they carry hard-hats and steel-toed boots.

At this point the building's backup power goes out and switches to some kind of even more limited emergency lighting. The workman's powersaw quits and amazingly he switches to a handsaw and continues his project. Can you imagine an American laborer doing this? Dennis and I are impressed at the number of repairs already made to the building.

I chat with a Professor that is attending the presentation. He explains to us that they get 1000 earthquakes per day. However, most are very minor, and for example, yesterday they only had 3 or 4 significant quakes in this area... I don't need to hear this. I decide to take action:
"OK, the sooner we start, the sooner we can go home folks."
I begin my very first presentation-by-generator. Part way thru, the workman must have gotten power again, because we can hear the (very loud) powersaw and I have to shout over it.

A little later a siren goes off in the building. I am wondering what this is a warning for. I suspect it is some kind of quake warning and stop the presentation to ask about it. They tell me it is just a security alarm and not to worry. I continue shouting about our wonderful architecture.

Later, a voice speaking in Chinese comes over a loudspeaker. It goes on for several minutes while I continue my shouting. No one in the room says anything or moves in response. I am trying to imagine what is so important that they need to make this announcement this Saturday. I come up with the same answer as I had for the siren. I think it is telling us to head for the hills. Finally, I stop and ask: "What is that loudspeaker saying?" I guess I had a little frustration in my tone and they guessed what I was suspecting. They have a small laugh and explain that a car has parked where they are blocking someone, and the owner needs to move his or her car.

I continue the presentation again. I am really into it and on a roll, when someone in the room says something very softly. I didn't quite hear it but I turn to the screen and I notice it seems out of focus now. I must have said "I am sorry. What?" because he repeats: "We are having an earthquake."

It's very quiet now. There is a small subtle vibration. I wait about 30 seconds. No one moves. I expected a mad rush to stand under the door frames. Since everyone is sitting still, and it's quiet, I continue the presentation, ignoring the vibration.

So I finally got to experience an earthquake! I am glad it was minor. After the presentations we are taken to lunch. What is our reward for braving potential earthquakes, stepping under scaffolding into a cracked building and falling pieces, and bringing news of our future plans? A trip to McDonald's of course. Happy meals for everyone.

(Although its true and funny, it really was just a nice attempt to give us a quick meal and still make it to the airport on time.)

Just so you know, this distributor is still far from the epicenter and there the damage was much much worse, as are the aftershocks, with 2100 lives lost. The owner of our new distributor knew 5 people that lost their lives in the quake and was explaining to us that he was trying to make some arrangements for their surviving children.

Sorry to inject this sad note, but I didn't want to appear to be making fun of this tragedy. I wouldn't have gone if I didn't actually trust Dennis and the distributor to be realistic about safety. I thought my trepidations and the minor nuisances I experienced would make a good story, but there is some real suffering here as well.

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