Monday, February 16, 2015

I See It Is Time To Stop Thinking and Write Again.

I do think about life and it's earthquakes more than once a year. I really do think more often than that. I just forget to write about it. As we have been nearing the 22nd of February, the date that marks the anniversary of the deadly earthquake, I have been thinking about life all the time. I've even been formulating a post in my mind. Tonight I was shaken out of thoughts and decided to write. Yes, literally shaken. Yes, I know what literally means. We had a earthquake. It was one of those rumbles and then a jolt and this funny one rumbled again. My fingers knew exactly what to On that site, I can see what I felt. How often did I look up earthquakes two, three and four years ago? It's been awhile since I have typed that into my search engine on my computer, but I could do it without a thought as to what to type. That is how much practice I had in the past. It is one of the oddities of life during the earthquakes. That driving need to find the technical numbers to explain the shake we felt. You would think that just feeling the thing and saying, "Oh, that was scary." or "That knocked over my china teacups." would be enough. But, no. Somehow I just need those numbers. And I am not alone. My twitter and my Facebook light up with people posting or asking what the numbers are on any given earthquake. We aren't done with earthquake-life in Christchurch. Most of us know that when we drive the streets that are bumpy, or full of cones because of the repair being done to the infrastructure of the city. We know that when we talk to our friends or see posts on our Facebook from friends who are still living the hell of repairs or rebuilds, or even worse, not yet knowing which their house and property are facing. Just two days ago, I sat with an acquaintance who is the mother of five boys who was lamenting her situation four years on and still no certainty about what is going to happen to her home. I've been to her house. It is so broken and sitting on broken land. There is no doubt about the truth as she talked about her massive power bills and one can only wonder why there would be any doubts about the fact that it needs to be pulled down an rebuilt. I thought we were personally done with the earthquake. We have our lovely new house, we worked through the minor repairs we needed it our new house, so we are sorted. Then came the repairs on my daughter's house. Her 5 or 6 weeks repair job turned into her being out of her home (and in ours) for four months. She is home again, but the back room of her house seems to be a difficulty they can't quite sort out and the floor hasn't been completed again. My son-in-law said to me a few days ago, "Is it okay if we come back for a few days while the builders do the floor?" Of course it is. We can't really be done with the earthquake. Maybe we will never be. We will always remember those days. We will jump when there is a little earthquake and run to to find the geonet site and see what the numbers say. Should we have jumped, or where we just being silly. We will talk with people who lost more than we did, and tell our stories to people who didn't experience it. Life's earthquakes, be they seismic or personal remain with a person. They alter our world and change us. My daughter's bed broke. (What a random thing to say now, right?) My husband fixed it. The wood had twisted and he doesn't know if the fix he did will hold. It had been put back together again incorrectly sometime in the last few years as we moved out of two broken houses and into two different non-broken houses. When and who did it doesn't matter. He has screwed the wood tightly together and hopes it will hold. If not, we figure it is just another causality of this odd earthquake life we have been living for the past four years.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

On Four Years and Counting… I’d forgotten till I was watching the news this morning. Today is the 4th of September so that marks four years since the first Christchurch Earthquake. I was going to write, so long ago and yet like yesterday, but that wouldn’t be true. It was just so long ago now. In that time hundreds of buildings have been dropped to the ground, the rubble scrapped up and a new building stands in it’s place. I am different than I was then, the city is different. The world is…no the world is the same, same conflicts, same arguments, same wars. A Writerly friend recently reminded me that I should have been continuing to record the progress of the city’s rebuild. I haven’t done that. Why? Because sometimes I think that those that aren’t here are sick of hearing about our earthquake issues. Let’s face facts, we here in Christchurch are often sick of our earthquake issues. It is interesting to note that last weekend we finished the earthquake repairs on our house. A recap of our earthquake experience goes like this: September 4, 2010, our house was split in half. February 22, 2011 the house we were renting was shattered. March 11, 2012 we moved into the house that insurance bought for us. Our settlement came after a long hard negotiation between us, our lawyers, and the insurance company. When you buy a house in Christchurch pre-repairs, you buy the insurance that covers it. So, we had repairs to do on our new house. We just finished with those repairs, so we should now be beyond earthquakes, right? You’d think! I didn’t realise what having an earthquake meant. I had seen on TV the devastation that they cause. I didn’t realise that they throw you into a series of aftershocks which last years. The western part of the city where I now live, we feel them even less. But, we still them occasionally even four years on. Speaking to a young friend today, we agreed that we are always waiting for another big one. Any rumble, be it an aftershock or a truck going by, we jump, expecting it to be another earthquake. Constant road works, closed walking paths, cranes and trucks blocking the way, these are common place in the recovering Christchurch. Orange cones in the roads, workmen and women in high-vis vests, and hard hats are everywhere. This is all good, this is actually signs that we are in recovery now. There is, however, exhaustion from facing these things in the daily commute. Never knowing which roads will be blocked by the works. Christchurch is supposed to the city that feels like a town, that is no longer true. Christchurch is a city of weary residents. The loss of heritage buildings is sad, but the bickering and lawsuits of trying to keep the broken buildings is even more disheartening. It can be hard to drive through the city if you depend on landmarks as I do (no sense of direction) and have no buildings that you remember. In the midst of insurance squabbles, empty spaces and remaining broken buildings, the most exciting thing is to see new buildings rising up and new shops, cafes and restaurants opening. It is the progress we crave and the sense of recovery we long for. At least, we are finished with our earthquake repairs. That is behind us personally. My daughter still is facing hers. Every room in her house except one has some damage; the entire floor will have to be taken out to fix the foundations. So she , the son-in-law, the dog and the cat will move in with us in October. It will probably be fun and , why should we complain, there are people who haven’t even settled with their insurance and don’t know if their house can be repaired or if it will be rebuilt. This is Christchurch, four years on!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three Years On....

Three Years On… Today marks the third anniversary of the Christchurch February earthquake that brought death, pain, and destruction to this city. You could feel the anniversary creeping up on the people of the city. I think a palatable weariness once again descended. Conversations with my friends and even strangers once again turned towards the ‘stories’ of the earthquake. People who have not yet settled there affairs with broken houses, buildings and businesses are once again expressing the distress of the slowness and unfairness of a system that leaves people to struggle on feeling helpless. I sit here, on this hot day, looking out at the beautiful situation that I am in because of the earthquake and ponder on how unfair life really is. The unfairness goes beyond the earthquakes effects on this city. Yesterday I went off early to pick up groceries before I picked up kids from school (who would come home and eat those groceries up this weekend). I stopped first at the fruit market. I’m really into the summer fruit, we will turn around and have only applies, pears and mandarins before we know it. So I load up. I put my purchases up on the counter to be paid for and I am late to notice that the woman in front of me is unpacking nectarines from her plastic bag. It takes a few minutes to register that she is having the bag reweighed over and over and the woman in the counter is telling her how much is owed if she pays what is left. I take my wallet to see if I have change that I can offer, but before I do, the little process is over and the woman has walked away, at least a dozen nectarines behind. I pay for mine, wondering why I didn’t act faster. As I walk out of the story, there is that lady, about my age, loading her purchases into a very nice car. She had a whole shopping cart full. I realise she must have come back to use up her budgeted money. Fair enough and silly me. Then I go on to the grocery store. I go there often. I should be more organized and then I wouldn’t need to go so often. I line up with my small cart full and chat to the check-out lady, whom I’ve chatted to before. She is much older than I. She asks me about my day. I bather on about how nice my day has been, saying, “Oh, I’ve done pretty much just whatever I wanted to do today. And how are you?” “Tired,” comes the answer. She is older than me. She really should be retired. “I just can’t get enough done,” she continues. “By the time I get home, I seem to be out of energy and nobody is going to take care of these jobs except me.” I didn’t know what to say. Why, oh why, did I talk on about my nice day, when a woman was struggling with life right in my realm. We talked on as she checked-out my items and I loaded them in the cart. Just the talk of two people. How the earthquake anniversary added to our tiredness with the memories returning, how life never seemed to let up. I walked to my car wondering what more I should have done. I was pretty certain that she would not have wanted any offer of help. Most women don’t want some acquaintance coming into their home to clean the toilet. I struggle with how to be a better neighbour, and how to give assistance. I stumble, not walk in this area. I just hope that when I don’t offer the help they don’t need it . And I pray that a few minutes of chatting with a check-out lady at my grocery store, offers her just enough friendship and encouragement to get through the day. I please God, help me that the next time I am out in the city, I will be just a little more effective at sharing your love than I was yesterday.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chicks and Chickens

Now that we live on this five acre ‘lifestyle’ block outside Christchurch (our earthquake settlement house), life has taken on so many interesting aspects. We have the classic dog, cat, goldfish, sheep (five to be exact), a calf and chickens. Who would have known how much fun chickens could be? I am quite taken with them and this summer as been more interesting than ever. It all started about a year ago when my neighbour arrived at my house with two chickens. One was a friendly and was a sleek, black girl with little red comb on her head. The other was a truly fluffy grey that wanted nothing to do with anyone. I named them Miss Blackie and Lady Grey. No one could ever think my chickens were just birds. They have such distinctive personalities. Miss Blackie is feisty little hen who pecks at toes and fingers until she gets something to eat. She curtsies and you know she is allowing you to pet her smooth feathers. Lady Grey puffs up and runs away if you get close. She is far too royal to allow a mere servant to do anything but throw grain for her enjoyment. We put them in the run. I had spent some time cleaning out the weeds that had grown wild over the years the place had tenanted. It is such an enviable chicken run. A well protected area, with a high wire fence housing a good-size coop and shaded by a dozen mature pine trees. They looked so happy in there and I was delighted a few months later when they started laying eggs. What could be better, cute little characters that actually give back! Then it happened. Lady Grey was suddenly unwell. She would stay in the coop instead of coming to scold me when I arrived with their wheat and pellets. I was worried. But, after consulting with my chicken-expert neighbour, I discovered that Lady Grey was broody, and I came home with seven fertilized eggs to put under her. We weren’t sure how Miss Blackie was going to react to chicks, since she showed no signs of being broody at all. Lady Grey showed herself to be a wonderful sitter. I threw a little less food out for Miss Blackie and put some in the coop for the Lady. Then one day, no Miss Blackie came running for her food. Sure enough, there was Miss Blackie, in the coop sitting on her latest egg. I took it out, reminding her that her eggs aren’t fertilized because we have no Lord of the Coop. She flapped and squawked at me and then climbed on top of Lady Grey. And that was it. No imploring of mine could persuade that bird that she should not be in that nesting box. She was determined to be co-mother. Every day, I pulled her out of Lady Grey’s box, every day she went back. Then the hatching began. I pulled Miss Blackie out of the nesting books, Lady Grey came out too, followed by a little yellow chick. And to my surprise, a little black chick followed Miss Blackie into the other nesting box. As the days past, five little chicks appeared. And two happy hens clucked about the coop taking turns sitting in the nesting boxes. We had the little yellow chick, two greys, a black and a gold one. They were beautiful, and they sat under a different hen every time I checked on them. This might look like a truly modern family story. But in truth, it did become clear that the chicks knew Lady Grey was their mother. It was to her they ran if they were frightened. But Miss Blackie doesn’t seem to know they prefer Lady Grey. And sometimes, not knowing is just fine in life, whether you are a chicken or a person.

Friday, May 31, 2013

1000 Days --1 % Celebration, what is the other 99%?

Today marks 1000 days since the September 4th earthquake. That's the one that took out my house. Since then, I've lived in 3 houses. Yesterday the EQC (Earthquake Commission) and Fletcher's Building contractors visited our new house to sort out the scope of work that needs to be done here. (We bought the house and, OH JOY, we get to work through the repairs.) Isn't it funny how we love to mark time. Frankly, at 53 I'm ready to stop marking the time of my birth, except for the presents and cake bit. Sometimes you wonder if we ought to go on and on marking out the time of events. But today, 1000 days from the first Christchurch earthquake, we are marking the time. Today hasn't exactly looked like a celebration, no one served me any cake. It seems to be to feel more like a day of complaint. Now, I must say, many people have reasons to make it a day of complaint and stress. Three years on and there are still people living in broken houses, driving roads full of holes and bumps, and struggling with insurance companies. And I think of those people often. But today, I'm going to take a little time on this 1000th day to do a little personal celebration. It is easier to celebrate the 1000th day from the September earthquake, where only buildings, land and roads were broken. 1000 days later: 1. I have a house. A very nice house. Okay, it needs some repair, still it is a nice house. 2. I hardly ever feel an aftershock. 3. There is always something to talk about in every crowd of people. Even after 1000 days since the first earthquake, if the chat dries up, we can share earthquake stories. 4. I know how to drive an obstacle course. I mean, Christchurch roads are nearly all obstacle courses, so one must learn this new skill. 5. I've learned to drive the roads based on road names. Landmark buildings are mostly gone...had to learn the road names, didn't I? 6. I've made a lot of new friends. When you move to the other side of the city and have to find a new church, one bonus is new friends! 7. I've learned to appreciate the mundane. Excitement is completely overrated. 8. I am shaken out of my ruts. All those road closures force me to learn to navigate new paths to the places I want to go. 9. New Regent Street has reopened, not that my hubby has taken me out to eat there yet! 10.My daughter and son-in-law bought a new house. Okay, they had to work through an extraordinary amount of paperwork because of all the earthquake and insurance issues, and the post-earthquake house prices are way too high because of lack of available housing, but still they have a lovely new house. Did I say, it needs repairs? So, there you go, ten little personal celebrations to mark the 1000th day since the September 4th earthquake . Ten little markers to be the 1%. We'll save the 99% (complaints, grumbles and depression) for another day!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Life after...

It's May 30th 2013. So much time as passed since the major earthquakes struck the city of Christchurch. There have been numerous natural disasters around the world since we had ours. The news seems ever full of these huge events. I can't decide if there are more of them, or if I have become super sensitive to the pain of those who are going through such events. It has been so long since I updated this blog. The new normal of our life here seems almost mundane, but today, I realized once again that having gone through an event like ours, means that life has changed for me forever. I called Richard at work at 7am like I do most Wednesday mornings because he tries to be at work somewhere between 5:30-6 am. I always call to make sure he made there safely while I was sleeping. (So far, so good) "Did you feel the earthquake this morning?" he asks. "No, was there another?" says me. "Yup, quiet a long rumbling one. I heard it coming." I knew what he meant. A few, short years ago, that conversation would have made no sense to me. Now it is a part of my life. I reached for my phone and it was quiet easy to find geonet to check the size and depth of the earthquake. (It was a shallow 3.5, on the east side of the city). The fact that is so easy to find on my phone and computer is part of the new normal as well. But when I think about it, my smart phone is new, my house is new, having only two children living is new, my car is new. I have a new way of living. I'm alittle different myself. But not all that different and new in my life has do with the earthquakes. Life changes. I don't know what would be different in my life today if there had been no Christchurch earthquake on September 10, 2010. I don't know what life would look like for me had there been no earthquake February 22, 2011. I guess it doesn't matter. Every person who goes through a disaster, big or little, natural or manmade, personal or public, experiences change. And change can be awful...but it can also be good.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Leaving the stress behind.

I get on a plane in a few hours to fly away for two weeks. Richard keeps encouraging me to leave the stress behind and just enjoy my time away.

Here's why I find that nearly impossible.

1. We found a new house. We want to start actions on it quickly, as the market is tight. So while getting ready to go away, I have my ear to a phone making arrangements to see, and investigate negotiating with our insurance about this house. Getting ready to go is not a stress-free event!

2. Richard went away to the Phillipines and I KNEW we would have a 5 pointer while he was gone. And we did. Now I'm sure they will have one (we are over-due) a good-size earthquake while I'm gone. I think I'm an earthquake predictor now.

3. I've lost my confidence that things will go right for me. I used to be a very confident person. I felt that the world was there and I could achieve and do what I want. I felt loved and certain. But events in our lives leading up to the earthquake, then the earthquake and now in negotiating with powerful insurance companies, I feel vulernable. Even worse, I now 'know' that everything can go wrong. I worry that things will go wrong with those I leave here. I guess it is that impeding sense of doom that people often talk about.

But, I'm going to try to get on that plane and just enjoy my journey. Maybe that is what I should always do in life. Even when the trip through life is bumpy, a sense that this is a journey, and ultimately earth is not my home. The final destination is going to be great, and as much as I can, I should enjoy the journey, and hang-on, trusting God when it isn't so great.

But right now, I need to get ahold of that real-estate woman.