Friday, December 23, 2011

Here we go again.... my, my

So two days after I wrote "It does seem the aftershocks have gone away", we have another day of sizable shakes. 
Our only aftershock casualty today - a little crystal tree
fell over and lost all it's crystals. (a different story for those
on the other side of the city)
We'd not long been home from Tristan's preschool break up. I was sitting having a relax on the couch when the rumble and the shaking started. We waited to see what would happen. It kept building in strength and I got up, wondering what the best thing to do was - hold the pantry and cupboards shut or find the kids who were outside, so safe but possibly scared?
I ran down the hall as it was still shaking and finally located Lucy outside. She was really scared. She said she was worried our house would fall on her, like the broken houses on the other side of town. 
The aftershocks kept coming. We had one that even while it was shaking had extra little judders within it. I never knew there could be such a range of aftershocks until the past twelve months.
We filled pots with water just in case we lost it but it kept flowing.
I was supposed to be meeting up with friends for coffee. We didn't know how big the aftershock was but there was very little damage at our house so figured we would go anyway. I had decided to bike, I thought it would make finding a park easier but it turned out parking wasn't the problem. It was the traffic. Everyone was on the roads trying to get home. All the people I biked past were looking at cellphones or talking on them. 
The cafe was open and now mostly empty. We chose a table near the door and that was big enough for us to fit under should another one come. We did this half joking but then the aftershocks kept coming and another big one hit - 6.0. We didn't leave but finished our drinks and our conversation - once we were back sitting on our chairs.
When I got home I found the 6.0 had knocked over my precarious stack of board games in the cupboard, unfortunately I had been stacking all the Christmas presents on top the games too. Now they were all jammed between the wardrobe door and games. I carefully rescued them reattaching the gift cards - hopefully to right gifts.
I was supposed to be going out for tea. I began to wonder if it would still be on, now I knew the malls had shut and there was liquefaction and power issues over the other side of town.
We did go out for dinner but not everyone could come. The people in the damaged suburbs stayed away. On these days it really feels like a city split in half. Some keep suffering and the rest of us are okay.
As I drove home at 9pm - two days out from Christmas - past the mall carpark that was deserted because the mall had shut, past restaurants that should have been full but were shut. Hardly anyone was around. 
I felt so sorry for the business owners. It has been one hard year. But we keep going - some day, one day the shakes must stop. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Can we go a day without being reminded?

It's nearly Christmas! Tomorrow is the 22nd - ten months on from February 22nd.
If you ask a Christchurch person about aftershocks, we will tell you, we haven't felt any in ages. The point we might not make is that ages is probably different for you, than for us. We had a 5.5 only two months ago, but that is ages for the new Christchurch post Sept 4th 2010. It does seem the aftershocks have gone away. There is the odd teeny one, but they don't count.
The question we've been asking ourselves is can we go a day without being reminded about the quakes?
If it is a work day for Karl, then that is pretty hard because his workplace has still got fenced off areas where buildings are being repaired and some buildings have gone altogether. If it is a school day we can't help but notice that we are driving in the opposite direction to get Lucy to her school, rather than heading into the city.
At home life is normal because we have got used to living with taped up cracks in the floor and then sometimes I remember that we didn't used to live with things like that.
Thankfully our water is finally back to being delicious, Christchurch water so we don't need to use the filter jug anymore to get rid of the chlorine taste. Our tasty tap water has always been one of the things I loved about Christchurch and when it was gone, it was depressing.
A couple of days ago I went to get some things and I thought I knew where the shop was. But, of course, this is post quake Christchurch so when I got there, it wasn't there anymore. Fortunately because I live on the western side, another shop has ended up moving to our side of town and I could get what I was after.
But today we were driving over the other side of town and went passed a house that looked like it had been picked up and dumped off its piles. It still looked like a lovely house but it was on a huge angle. The yard was all overgrown. I couldn't help but think about the people who had lived here before. It looked like it used to be a well kept house. I wondered where they are this Christmas.
There are many things to be thankful for this Christmas but never before has it been the simple things of everyone in the family making it through to the end of the year and still having a house that keeps us warm and dry and has power and tasty water.
The one thing I will miss from 2011 was being helped and helping strangers. It was surprisingly fulfilling for differences to be cast aside, everyone being on the level and us all just being humans helping each other get through.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Red Zone Bus Tour - Beautiful Christchurch

I went on the Red Zone Bus Tour on Sunday. We had an awesome Red Cross lady, Audrey who was funny and made the whole trip very pleasant. I didn't know how I would react. But it turned out different to what I thought. It reminded me of when a German guy was at our place a few months ago and told us how he had been in NZ for some months on a working visa but then had a lot of his personal things stolen from his car and he stopped enjoying NZ, decided perhaps it was time to cut his trip short and go home. He then came to Christchurch and liked it so much he decided to stay and work. We made cynical comments about it not being a city but nice suburbs and he said no. He loved Hagley Park. He saw a busker playing "Amazing Grace" opposite the fenced off Arts Centre and he said it was really beautiful and decided to stay.
That is what I found on the red zone bus tour, the Christchurch I knew so well has gone, never to come back but a new city is here and it has beauty and interesting things of its own, if I care to take it as it is.
You can buy in the soon to be heart of a new city
 - even promises no camping will be required this time!

Nature has a go at its own mosaic on the footpath

The fan was swinging gently in the breeze

Only two panes smashed,
the rest look perfect

Newly exposed wall old wall

The carpark with the bit of wood on it was the carpark
I parked in 2 Tuesday's earlier, right at the front of CTV
to talk to people no longer here

I think this could be quite a popular bit
 in the new city - it looks pretty

Never has this sign been more truly obeyed,
the building in front has been demolished

St John's Latimer Square is gone but a lovely tree is still there

Roses keep flowering merrily

Would these wild flowers been allowed
to flourish pre Feb 22

Carnivores is gone :(

Other than the wonky light pole, this looks lovely,
a view blocked by buildings before

Victoria Square - overgrown but still pretty - lanterns from Feb

Needs a bit of weeding but still looks like a city :)

Looking like a little survivor, this shop is
red stickered but still there so far

If the quake had happened 20 mins later this is
where Tristan & Karl would have been heading up in the car

Red Heart still gently swinging

Backs of buildings - lovely red brick

Palm Tree still looking all good.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Out in the 'burbs

I hang around in the western side of Christchurch. All the things we do are either in the south west or the north west. We have got quite used to life here. The roads in some places are a bit bumpier than previously - it is harder to balance a plate of uncovered biscuits on your knee, over to someone's house. Houses are getting hazard management signs stuck to their fences as repairs get underway. Most of the commercial buildings that fell down have been removed. We are watching new ones go up and refurbishments happen for businesses from the inner city starting up in new premises.
We have also been watching the house down the road get lifted and repiled. It is into its fourth week of repairs but it is now back down on its foundations. It is all very much in recovery, getting on with life and looking to the future.
A few weeks ago for the fireworks we went over to Brighton. I hadn't been near there since February. We parked in a street which was now in the residential red zone. The grass was up to the windows of the houses. There was still dry, fine, liquefacton silt through the long grass on the side of the road. The street was really an unsealed road. We cross the bridge which has holes and broken concrete at each end, where the bridge had rammed into the banks in the shaking. Two plastic pipes snaked their way over the bridge that we climbed over several times in our crossing. Quite a few businesses were still stickered shut.
Last week I had to go up the back of Sumner. Once in Sumner, we drove up a narrow corridor of two storey shipping containers, that protected the road from the cliff and then we had to detour off as the road was closed. We were going up on the hill and we walked the last bit because again there were containers that made it too narrow to drive through. The Evans Pass road over the hill was still shut. A sewer pumping truck was at work down on the flat. It was just a different world. Designer houses were red stickered. Houses we would have lusted after, now we were very glad not to own but we felt so sorry for owners. Houses that were so well kept, now had overgrown grass and loose bits of tape across the driveway and labels of danger, do not enter.
The contrast was staggering. It can even be in one street. I went down Cambridge Terrace - the little piece that I seldom travel between Barbados and Fitzgerald. As I turned behind the Barbados Street cemetery I saw the back wall of the cemetery was lying on the footpath and the grassy bank was just tumbling down on top of it. The road was also bumpy, cracked and sliding towards the river. I had to drive carefully and as I went round the curves of the river, I saw a wooden seat on the river bank now at quite an angle towards the river - no longer a place to sit comfortably and enjoy the view. But at the end of the street, the road was fine, the houses looked perfect and they had a lovely view of the river. It feels a lottery who got badly hit and who got off comparatively lightly.
We've had Fletchers and our contract builder are here assessing the property for repair. Probably in April or March next year but now we have to be assessed by an engineer first to check our floor situation. The long tail of the disaster just keeps on going.
The aftershocks are pretty minor now, though we've had about 3 of around 3.4 in a few days last week (so enough to feel but not enough to really react to). One was in the evening and we could hear it coming, in the morning Lucy said she was lying in bed and heard it coming too and she wasn't sure if it was going to be a big one, so she hid under her duvet. When it arrived it wasn't very big so she didn't bother to come out, she just settled herself back down to go to sleep.

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.