Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Destination Christchurch

What’s it like, coming out of marking hell? Well, this time I'm actually still sane (thank you Prozac.) It's been a bit like stepping out of a fog. All of a sudden I can hear my thoughts. I notice the mess in the house and the pile of unpaid bills on the table. Oops. I can think straight and acknowledge tomorrow and next week. I can actually think beyond this exam, this report, this frantic and inhumane pressure. It’s like waking up from a coma. I feel human again, and it’s time to enjoy the school holidays.

First thing on the agenda – visit the Christchurch Hineses! Off to Aotearoa, the Land of the Long White Cloud. Fortunately I made all my travel arrangements a couple of months ago, before the descent into marking hell – sometimes I surprise myself! So this is how it goes: a bus trip to Sydney – I finished two blanket squares for my Tutor Group knitting project (more about that in a separate post), a night at the Ibis Airport hotel, an early morning shuttle-bus to the airport, and I’m up, up and away!

Uneventful flight, but as usual I’m sitting next to a fat person who insists on oozing into the seat I have paid for… but I get to read a library book on my Kobo (more about that in yet another post, too!) and after an uninspiring gluten-free airline meal (fish! Erk!) I touch down in Shakytown at 2-something pm.

Chris and Ingrid collect me from the airport and we head across town to Dad & Diana’s place in the eastern suburbs.

It’s been 6 years and several thousand earthquakes since I was last in Christchurch. The recent biggies – the ones that split Dad’s former house in two and filled it with the silt of liquefaction – may seem like old news to those of us in the rest of the world – but they’re daily conversation and an ongoing fact of life for the people who live here. The roads are bumpy and pot-holed, fences and walls are falling down, and shipping containers have demonstrated their versatility in many ways: as storage places for all your worldly goods, holding up damaged buildings, shoring up crumbling cliffs, becoming coffee-shops and boutiques… being covered in artwork or a knitted container-cosy… 

Shipping container shopping mall - called 'The Restart Mall'

 Cantabrian quirkiness and good humour abound, however, and people have developed their own coping mechanisms. ‘Guess the magnitude of THAT’ is a popular game, as is ‘Guess the epicentre’. ‘What used to be there?’ is another. I liked this sign, in a craft shop window in New Brighton:

It’s now Tuesday, and I haven’t felt the earth moving – yet – let’s hope it stays that way. In the meantime, here are some photos taken from the periphery of the Red Zone in the city.  The scale of the destruction is hard to imagine – Christchurch has become a city of car-parks (seriously!) and sprawling vacant blocks. The soundtrack that plays in the background is the unceasing thump-thump of construction work – or rather, deconstruction work. Clearing the rubble is a gargantuan task. 

It was a harrowing ‘tour’ that made me feel a little ghoulish, but even worse than looking at the scenes of dereliction in the war-zone that the inner-city resembles was a visit to Dad’s former home.

It used to be a comfortable home with a lovely view of the river. Now it’s a broken shell awaiting the arrival of the deconstruction men. The hallway is a downhill slope. The bath, if filled, would be nearly empty at one end as it overflowed at the other. Ruined books and records litter the floor and the overgrown ‘garden’. Along the whole street, curtains hang in houses where no one lives any more. The street is deserted, apart from demolition workers and their trucks. The river glides past between the built-up gravel banks that run through this ghost-town.
Stuck in the mud - Dad's record cllection
The road to Sumner snakes along the coast, and walls of shipping containers act as barriers against the falling rocks and crumbling cliffs. Broken houses hang precariously from the clifftops.

I can’t imagine the noise of the rocks grinding and rumbling, houses being torn apart , trees falling, or the terror that must’ve gripped people as their world crashed down around them. Just looking at the aftermath, all these months later, was enough for me.


Roger Fleming said...

TRy to enjoy your trip, and spend as much money as you can!

Geoff James said...

I had no idea that your family was so badly affected - so sorry to hear it. We'll be down there in about 3 months catching up with friends.

A Kobo or Kindle is great eh? I bought Jennie a Kindle for her European trip and I've just got an iPad with a book reader app.

Nice to see you posting again!

Trobairitz said...

It still amazes me to see the extent of the damage caused by the earthquakes.

Unfortunately our news is quite censored over here so we we know of it we have to read through blogs on online news sources.

I am glad your dad is safe even if his house was ruined.

Have a great vacation.

I love my Kindle. Great for taking of trips.

Dylan said...

Geoff passed me your blog I read it I hope you don't mind. My wife and I have been here (Chch) 3 months or so to live permanently. I enjoyed your write up as an acurate account not as enjoyable if you see what I mean. We were not here in the big one but live amongst the city people in the constant jelly. What strong willed real people they are.....

Gerry said...

Hooly dooly... What a mess.
My heart goes out to all Christchurchians. :-(

Sue said...

Hi all! Lovely to hear from you :-) Have had a couple of little quakes - interesting how people react - when the shaking starts, everyone falls eerily silent, but the thought bubbles above their heads are easy to read: 'How big will this one be?'

Dylan - welcome to Christchurch :-D