Monday, October 31, 2011

We can go to town!

Typical Colombo Street -
a bit like pre February.
This week was a week of anticipation. We knew at the weekend we could go back into part of Cashel Mall. We took a walk to check it out on Thursday and it was busy with people and equipment frantically getting ready. I wondered how I would feel. Would it feel scary? Would it feel sad? Would I be prepared to sit in there and have a coffee?
We are now having aftershocks only rarely. Three weeks ago we had a 5.5 but there was not the cluster of a lot of larger shocks afterwards as we have had before. Since then I have felt one small one and heard one. It feels like the earth is going quiet again.
Sunday afternoon we drove into the city. It was surprisingly exciting, to be able even to say we were going to town. We walked in down Worcester Street, over the road and joined a steady stream of people walking down the path by the river to Hereford Street. The fences had moved back up Hereford Street. We could cross Oxford Terrace. It felt like we were stepping into a new future. 
On the corner was the Vero building with the Boulevard Cafe under it. The building stands alone, the two on either side have been demolished. Three bulldozers still sit on the remains of the old Viaduct and the Bangalore Polo Club or whatever the latest names of those bars were - now they are gone I can't remember. The Vero building appears to have a green sticker but the Boulevard is not open.
On the other corner of Oxford Terrace with Cashel Mall, is the Tap Room. We peer through the windows. There was a table sitting with a glass knocked over and a hat neatly folded opposite it. Another table has two wine glasses standing, stained with evaporated red wine. Everything is covered in dust. As we walk up the mall with many others, we walked past a large carpark where The Bog and Cafe Bleu and shops used to be. 
On the other side of the mall are still some yellow stickered shops like Dimitri's and Radar Records. Radar is still all boarded up. We then came to the new part. The brightly coloured containers were fantastic and they are arranged in squares so it is not just a dull strip. They were so packed with people we couldn't even get in them. There were queues for the coffee shops. With so much gone, it takes a bit of effort to stop, stand and remember what it used to look like. It is definitely a new place. 
We walked up to Colombo Street, where the new fence is. Some people were crying, many others were looking happy. 
It didn't feel scary and I didn't feel sad. It felt lovely to wander with so many other people back in our city.  I could see the inner city being, again. But it was also sobering. You can walk down Colombo Street to Lichfield Street but none of those shops were open, it was hard to tell if their stickers were faded green or yellow. They were partly tidied up but still with piles of stock and shop fittings inside them. 
It is going to be a difficult journey with different agendas fighting it out and I know some things will make me upset, I am already cross that Trade Aid wasn't there, seemingly not wanted.  But I left with a mostly happy heart and wearing my watch. I finally this week got my watch strap repaired (not in town, just round the road) - it broke a couple of days after the February quake and it has been sitting waiting for me to get around to getting it fixed all this time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

World Cup Parade

I like this picture I took at the parade. It looks like a normal city out enjoying the All Black's win.
You can't see that just below the frame are fences blocking off that building behind. You can't see the spire sitting down on the footpath.
What I really wanted to write today was, it was fabulous at the parade and everyone was the happiest I've seen them in ages and joy was back in the city, proper joy with nothing underneath it. I thought it would be like the Band Together concert on Labour Weekend after the September quake. I thought it would all just be lovely and I would come home with a very happy heart.
I thought this, because on Labour Day Monday when walking in the neighbourhood and meeting strangers, they had really happy smiles. Smiles, with eyes as well, of the quality I realised I hadn't seen here in awhile. So I thought the parade would feel like Wellington had before the All Blacks, Canada game.
Everyone was happy at the parade but yeah, it wasn't very deep. I didn't come home with a happy heart. I guess there is just too much history hanging around us.
I remember going to the America's Cup parade when we won that. It went through The Square. That is where most parades go here - of course this one didn't. Afterwards we walked into the new bus exchange and caught the bus home. This is the furtherest into the city we have been able to get. The bus turned out of Tuam Street, down Colombo Street and that stretch is now mostly an empty lot. It is not how I remember it and it is really hard to ignore.
The number of people at the parade was also not as many as I expected, we easily got to stand in the front row with an unhindered view. The America's Cup parade we were 6-7 people back from the front. That photo is taken on my phone, with no zoom.
I think we are trying to be happy and normal like everyone else in New Zealand. We don't want to be seen as down in the dumps, or ranting on about the quakes but it is just so ongoing. Yesterday talking with a person rushing home to make sure the demolition of a house next door doesn't affect their property or driving over roadworks and realising, while it is signposted as road works, there are many streets that are just the same - but are currently considered normal. Then we see Turkey at the beginning of their long journey like ours. I couldn't help but feel a more kindred spirit with them than the All Blacks. I know this city will feel that group jubilant feeling again but it is taking much longer than I had anticipated.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Changing Safety Announcements

There has been an interesting progression in safety announcements here in the, getting less shakey, city.
After September (we identify our quakes simply by month) at the beginning of an event, the organiser would say in a jovial, chatty type way what to do if there was another aftershock. They would mention the word aftershock and they would just very quickly point to the exits and say where the meeting point was. There would usually be a bit of laughter from the audience and we would all assume, it would be unlikely. Then everyone would move on.
After February there was no more joking about aftershocks. The announcement was given completely seriously, the word aftershock or earthquake was used but then the explanation was pretty simple "you know what to do" and we all did.
After June, it has changed again. Now we appear not to like calling them by name. Now the announcer says something like "If we have one of those..." or "If something beginning with 'e' should happen.." but while the first part is now very downplayed what follows seems to be an extensive explanation of just where the exits are, sometimes repeating this and what to do once you have reached outside. This part is quite serious now. There are no titters from the audience, but a careful note of where the exits are - just in case. There is never any mention of fire, which is what I always remember such announcements being for.
Maybe in the new year, it will change again.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Embracing Our Reality

As part of the Arts Festival I went to a panel discussion called "Imagined Futures" about art and urban planning. As part of Hugh Nicholson's talk he mentioned the wind sculptures in Wellington and how he felt they had changed Wellingtonians view of the wind and their city to a more positive outlook.
I thought perhaps we could embrace Christchurch's ongoing shakiness with art too. We are not accomplished artists but we are enthusiastic, so the kids and I put together a framed artwork, using what we had at hand (little toys) and left it to see what new art would appear with the next aftershock.
Original artwork
After a 3.5ish aftershock

After 4.8 aftershock on Sat
Note lego army man down
After 5.5 aftershock last night

It has turned out, that though quite precariously balanced, it takes quite a shake to change it. It has survived most three sized aftershocks. It is true that weebles wobble but they don't fall down. I think a proper artist could do something quite groovey with this idea on a larger scale. We have been thinking of hanging paint brushes or pens but our house has not got the space right now.
The kids have loved running to check it after the shakes. It gives a new perspective that the earth moving does not always have to be doom and gloom but can inject a bit of fun.
The 5.5 was quite a shake here but while it woke Lucy, she was still in her bed when we got to her room. It seems quite staggering that these days even a 5.5 doesn't send her running in fear to us, but rather waiting for it to finish and then snuggling back to sleep.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Where's an extreme makeover when you need one?

Old lease sign on the inside,
red sticker on the outside
It was a weekend of contrasting cities.
On Friday night I went to a parent get together for Lucy's homebase (class). At one point we talked about February 22nd. It was the first time we had talked about it as a group and with Lucy's learning advisor (teacher). I learnt a lot more about just what it was like for Lucy on that day and what was going on the minds of those right with her.
On Saturday we joined a big queue to go onboard the US Globemaster - an enormous plane, heading down to the ice on the Monday. The US army guys were amused about how many people turned up to view it. Apparently they have never had so many in Christchurch come to one of their open day events.
Later on Saturday I flew out to Wellington and Sunday I was down on the waterfront. That afternoon was the Canadian, All Black game and fans of both sides were decked out. It was busy, exciting and entirely different to the World Cup experience in Christchurch. Not because we cannot have fun down here; the arts festival events I have been to, have been well attended and everyone was in a happy mood at the globemaster open day.
But there is an underlying weariness in Christchurch. We do get up and go to work and school and preschool, each day like before. It is a busy place but it is definitely not the same Christchurch of fourteen months ago.
I am not the same. On the Wellington waterfront I went to the toilet in one of the public toilet trucks. While in the cubicle, the door started rattling. I can still see the lock banging against its holder. I wasn't afraid but I became aware, that I had completely frozen and was just staring at the lock, waiting to see what would happen next - would it get bigger? Should I prepare? Then my brain caught up with what my body was up to. It was just somebody walking up the outside steps onto the truck. My body reacted without any thought from me. It was a strange thing.
Back here, as we landed in the city of fences, shipping containers (I never knew they had so many uses) and cones, I felt the weight fall on all of us.
I have been thinking about one of those episodes of extreme makeover, where in two days they complete a rebuild. But even just starting would be difficult - insurance would be the first hurdle.
Insurance seems to be especially hard if you are building or renovating. The easiest way around the problem currently is just to steam ahead uninsured. After the September quake there was the opinion that not having your house insured was insanity and only for the foolish - the quake being the proof. Now it seems the most logical solution to the current problems. How quickly things change here.
Almost everyday there are new consequences of the quakes. We have water restrictions about to start this week, for the first time in thirteen years. People, near abandoned homes still deep in liquefaction, are worried about the ongoing dust and how bad it will get with nor'westers this summer.  Even though we are fortunate to be mostly back to normal life - it is still thing, upon thing that keeps pulling us back to being quake town residents.

5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.