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.

Demolishing and Disappointment

I know and know it has been ages since I've written. It is all because of the earthquake I assure you. You probably think I'm kidding, but I'm not. I have a growing realisation that the earthquake is still affecting us in rahter big ways. One way is in great disappointments. I don't write much when I'm living in disappointment zones.

Our house deal fell through. Negotiations with the insurance over the house we were attempting to purchase broke down after 2 months of work. I don't think the word disappointment can convey the depth of emotions this produced in me for the last couple of days.

I wasn't the only one disappointed, the man trying to sell us his house also faced the disappointment and he in turn must have passed that on to people in the North Island who were to sell their house to him. Earthquakes bring a few bad days, even after they have passed by.

On a happier note, we are seeing an awful lot of demolishing of buildings going on. For the most part, we feel that this is a good thing, for clearing the rubble means we can get on with building the new. And getting on with the new beginning is what we all want to happen.

I just wish my insurance provider would let me have my new beginning.

Monday, October 10, 2011

5.5 Why?

So people outside Christchurch often question why we continue to have these earthquakes. Friends and family wonder how we endure. They also question why we remain in Christchurch.

We get alot of information about earthquakes, here in Christchurch. We are regular told that we will have aftershocks, they will decline in size and frequency, but it will be 2-10 years time frame. And yes, the thought of that kind of time-scale is discouraging. But we are also used to discouraging time-scales. Our city will be 10-15 years, or longer, in rebuilding. My church has been given a 3-5 year projection date before it's building will be restored or rebuilt. But hey, I've been out of my house for 14 months and still have no idea when the insurance will be settled. We know and must accept this long-term plan of recovery, including aftershocks.

Each time we get a swarm of aftershocks,like we had this week which included the 5.5 yesterday, we feel it. Our children wake up, we once again here every sound that might be the rumble of an earthquake, and we know our city will be set back alittle. Insurance companies point to these events as the reason they will not re-insure in the city. We can't move forward again.

A 5.5 is a respectable earthquake in its own right, it wobbles, and shakes a few things down, but it shouldn't brigh us to our knees. It doesn't have that kind power...unless we let it.

5.5 Why?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sixth Month Anniversary

Today is the six month aniversary of our deadly earthquake and Christchurch knows how to remember an earthquake date. We had a morning shake, only a 4.2 but now that we don't get them as often...we feel these quakes more.

The news is full of 'how are we doing' sorts of articles. Nobody asked me the question, but of course I do have an opinion.

I think we are doing okay...considering what we have been through and some the issues (like insurance companies being slow to pay-out or refusing to re-insure)we have to face.

We have visitors from the UK. Seeing their reaction to our devasation (and alot has been cleaned up already!) and their nervousness for the little shakes we've experienced, reminds me that this was a big event and a difficult one.

To all of us who have been in Christchurch through all the events,I think we can pat ourselves on the back and say... 'Well done.'

Friday, August 5, 2011

Settling Down.

My lack of writing on this blog probably reflects the settling of the earth in Christchurch. This means my lack of writing on this blog is a good thing!

I find it odd that Tuesday went unmarked in New Zealand and especially in Christchurch. Tuesday, the 2nd of August, we had no earthquakes. Not a single one. We still have regular aftershocks, though I personally feel very few of them, I know they are recorded and are often felt by those I left behind in the Eastern Suburbs. But Tuesday should have been marked, celebrated, a day when the earth stood still in Christchurch.

Of course, the affects of the earthquakes are still with us. We live in broken homes and drive on broken streets, passing either broken buildings or empty lots. Our news is still full earthquake related news: the lack of work, the leaving people, the demolishing of our heritage buildings and the pain of people. It is also there in personal ways, as 5100 households struggle to find new places to live, wait for assurance that money for new homes will really be available, worry about insurance payouts (a very personal stress I know about!) and wonder when life will be normal again.

But the settling of the earth should help. If we can trust it. Can we trust it? Or will the earth surprise us again, just as we start believe things are better?

Monday, June 27, 2011

On The Lighter Side.

Went to a 'Red-Zoned-People's' Earthquake meeting. Also dealing with insurance issues. Too tired and stressed to write about it you will have to hold your breath till tomorrow.

So instead I will tell you a joke.

A woman's house is destroyed by a major natural disaster. She contacts her insurance agency and starts asking them questions.

Woman: 'I'm so glad I have insurance. I've been so worried. So do you cover this?'

Insurance: 'No, sorry.'

Woman: 'So do you cover that?'

Insurance: 'No, sorry.'

Woman: 'So, do you cover this?'

Insurance: 'No, sorry.'

Woman: 'Well, why have I been paying for insurance all these years?'

Insurance: 'Peace of mind.'

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A City Zoned.

On Thursday, June 23rd, the government announcement concerning the badly damaged land in the eastern suburbs finally came. There was alot of pressure on the government to make this announcement. The task must have been huge. All the land in Christchurch had to be assessed, then it had to be assessed again after the February event, and again and again. There were areas that were badly damaged in the September 4th earthquake, including my own property and many of my neighbors, but not all. By the day of the announcement, all of my close neighbors and 80% of my street is severely damaged.

According to the NZ prime minister, this event is 8% of New Zealand's GDP. (Hurricane Katrina was 1% of the US GDP and the awful March earthquake and tsunami is about 3-5% of the Japanese GDP.) The scale of the thing is huge for a small country.

Surely the government knew there was going to be mixed reaction to the announcement. Some think the deal is too big for the country to sustain, others are sure it is not going meet their own need, others are just sad because they really just wanted the government to fix the land and the infrastructure and allow them to go on living in their home.

I guess most of those who lived in the eastern suburbs were sitting waiting on the press conference as my husband and I were. I had that nervous, fluttery feeling that comes when I'm embarking on a long journey.

Zones, red, orange, green and white. Christchurch was zoned. White,the unmapped, yet to be inspected areas, some of which are badly damaged but only in the last earthquakes. Green, go, as usual. Green zones can start repairs or rebuilds. Red, is too badly damaged and will not be rebuilt. This is where the government will step in and along-side insurance company payouts, the land will be 'bought' by the government.

I am red. As red as red can get, surrounded by red on every side. My years of living by the Avon River are done. My feelings are a profound sadness accompanied by a huge relief. My reaction (and I am not alone) is about as mixed as is possible. It had to be done, and it is best for us to go and get on with it. Yet, I can not imagine we will ever be able to live is such a beautiful place again.

I left out orange, didn't I? Orange is that badly damaged, terribly broken land that has not been made red nor been declared green. Orange zone people (10,000 homes) are the worst off in the city. Broken white zones have only been broken since February, most of the orange zones have been living in difficult circumstances since September.

Red is a sad colour these days in Christchurch. But at least it gives clarity and direction towards the future. I have no mixed feelings about that, I need to look forward now.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Something happened on June 13th. It was an earthquake, an aftershock, a 5.4. At 10:35 it shook the city, like others, many have been worse. It closed no schools or buildings, though many were checked in the night. Something different happened on 10:35 on June 13th, an aftershock dispirted this city.

I can't explain it. It could be because it is winter.

Winter and the middle of the night have the bad habit of making every problem seem worse.

Or maybe it was that bit in the newspaper that reported that the event of June 13th raised, yet again, the probability of another large aftershock. It had only been a few weeks earlier they released the information about a strong probablity of another large aftershock and a second 6.3 occurred shortly after.

Maybe it was the night of the event itself, as ten to twelve aftershocks disturbed our sleep just when we thought we were moving beyond the tiredness.

I think for most, we are just 'over it' but know that it's not over.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everyday is a little bit weird.

I went looking at show homes today. Is it okay to get excited about building a new home after an earthquake? Is it time to start thinking about a new start?

It seems so strange to plan after what has happened. And then.... I'm in a show home, my head is turned to the material, of that there is no doubt. Can I get a better kitchen, but still have this lay-out. Is it possible to squeeze in one more room into this design?

We start to chat with the salesman. What do we do? We do what we always do in Christchurch, we exchange earthquake stories. He, too, is from the broken Eastern Suburbs. He, too, is waiting to hear if his land will be repaired or abandoned. His wife is struggling to cope with the aftershocks.

It's the story we hear over and over. Hey, it's the story I tell over and over. Once again. But then he says he is forever grateful his family was spared, because his mate's daughter, a young woman, has had both her legs amputated from her earthquake injuries.

Suddenly a damaged house and contents gone is nothing. And kitchen designs and ensuite bathrooms are trival. All I want to do is go home and see my kids.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Location, Location, Location. OR I now live in the Guilt Suburbs.

I'd heard that old expression Location, Location, Location before but I didn't know they meant for natural disasters. My location for this latest earthquake meant my experience was completely different from the other two events.

I'm from the eastern suburbs, one of the older spots in the city, close to the lovely Avon River. If you've been to Christchurch and driven the scenic drive through the city, you have past the home I own there. Location wise it is beautiful. It isn't one of the most expensive parts of the city, exactly opposite in fact. I've never understood why the western part of the city, the area closest to the airport, has always been the higher dollar property. Makes sense since September, but not before.

The first house we rented after the September fourth earthquake was close to the city center. This one was also sitting beside the lovely Avon River. Location wise, this house seemed a dream. It was the sort of location we could never afford to buy. Out the back door, through the back gate, across a walking bridge, straight into the huge Hagley Park and soon into the city. Every amendity a city dweller could wish for was in walking distance from that house.

The house I'm in now is west, close to the airport. Across the street is a Residental home for the elderly. There are early morning deliveries every day of the week. The house is big, plain and solid as a rock. The street is ordinary and I can no longer walk out and throw my left-over bread to the ducks and geese. No lovely river and it is not beautiful a location.

If you've followed my blog you know what happened to my houses during the first two earthquakes. The land moved to the river. The houses crumbled.

On June thirteen at around 1 pm, we had an earthquake, it was big. At 2:20pm we had a really big one. It was scary, and my little Maddee and my older daughter and I ran to stand in the door-way (as you do during an earthquake). We shivered with fear, and Maddee cried. This house swayed as the land trembled. When the earthquake was done, and the house stopped shaking, there wasn't even a crack to be seen.

Location, location, location. I guess what you want from location changes if you are having earthquakes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

It's Been A While...

It's been a while since I've posted on the blog. Weariness with everything to do with earthquakes has overcome me. The waiting for land information dominates my thoughts, worrying about insurance payouts consumes every free moment. It becomes hard to talk about it all and impossible to write it out. Besides, I figure, everyone must be bored with hearing about our problems.

Then, boom, we are hit by two more earthquakes. Everything on the television, everything in the news, is once again focused on Christchurch and our awful plight. It is awful. Our city is discouraged.

So adding to what you see in the news, here's some strange Christchurch earthquake thoughts.

1. Every major earthquake has come on a stunningly beautiful day. September 4th, the earthquake struck us at 4:30, the day dawned to the most beautiful spring day to that date.
Feburary 22nd was a lovely summer day, and yesterday was a gloriously sunny winter day.

2. Schools are out. The added stress level to families should not be underestimated. School provides outlet for stressed kids, it gives them a chance to mingle with their friends and talk about their experience.

3. If you want to make someone from the eastern suburbs unhappy, talk about the earthquake as if it started in Februrary. There are many of us who have been either out of our house, or living in broken houses since September.

4. The new director of CERA (Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority) started his job yesterday. What a day to start that job!

5. History was made yesterday. Christchurch had an earthquake and my house didn't explode around my ears. Is that a silver lining?

Monday, May 23, 2011


I know that it has been awhile since I posted on this blog. I guess I've been weary of earthquakes on many levels, including thinking and writing about them. Later this week, I'm going begin introducing you to some of the people in my life. They will share how the earthquake has affected their their families.

Waiting. Maybe some of you were waiting for me to post, wondering what was taking me so long. (Okay, use your imagination that it was possible for someone to be out there waiting to read my blog!) Waiting is something you must understand to get a grasp of what life has been life in Christchurch.

I think this whole city has the feeling of 'breath holding' about it. We are waiting for so much, both collectively and as individuals. As a city we wait to hear what buildings are being destroyed, when streets in the CBD will open, and how the city planning is progressing. Some individuals are still waiting for sewage to work in their area, to see how electric outageous are going to affect them this winter, and for an assessment of their house.

My family and I are waiting, for content insurance payout (there are some things I could really stand to replace right now!), for non-rumour information about the future of our street, and for our insurance to finally come up with a sum for our rebuild.

I know that these things take time. I know that alot is being done in all these areas that we simple can't see...but the waiting takes its toll.

Oh, the not forgotten 'Waiting'...every day, we wait for an aftershock. We have been rather quiet for a few days...but that just means I feel I'm waiting for one that will be truly SHAKY!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Another 5.3! It woke us up, violent and scary at 3am this morning. It was too much like the very first. Across the city, once again, we were all talking earthquakes. They dominate us, worry us, and keep us from sleeping. Even the evening news was once again focused on Canterbury and the earthquake. Maybe there just wasn't enough news to go round.

I think we just have to get used to it, no not the shakes, we are already used to that, even if we hate them. The news. Everytime news is low, I have a feeling they are going to pull up our earthquake and dissect it. Today's news is that because of the natural disasters in Christchurch, Australia and Japan, our insurance is going to go up by 50 percent! But we've been told that we need to be pleased we can still get insurance for earthquakes. Okay, really pleased!

Hurray, I have earthquake insurance...I just hope I never need it again.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Silent Victims of the Earthquake

I went to a funeral yesterday. The man who had passed on was an old man, a man who had had a good life and a family who loved him. I've only known his since the earthquake. His daughter is the lady who was our hostess after the renter was destroyed. Her parents also came to stay at the same time. As our life settled into a new routine, this old man struggled on, never able to return to his home, not because his house was destroyed, but because his health was.

He suffered the first stroke in the first week following, like aftershocks, more strokes followed the first. It became clear that recovering from health and the earthquake was going to be a slow process, and as it turned out, impossible.

I wonder how many silent victims of the earthquake there are. People whose names we will never know, who would have lived a little longer if it hadn't occurred. The family and friends may know they were victims of the earthquake, but no one will acknowledge officially that they are.

A disaster of the magnitude we have had here in Christchurch produces a fair bit of unsung pain.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Life Goes On

It has been a while since I've written about life in Christchurch. That's probably because there is just not much more to talk about. I could write again about over crowded services, busy, broken roads and the stress of making lists of things lost, but it would bore me to write it again, as much as it would depress you to read again.

Life now goes on in Christchurch, and not having anything to update is actually rather depressing. It means that it feels that nothing is happening. We were told that some information about areas that would not be re-built would be out in mid-May, that was quickly changed to the end of May, hopefully. Our insurance assessor told us he would try to have some firm figures for the rebuilding of our home in a couple of weeks (coming up a month ago). I got a call from the company they used to assess our home, they said sometime in late June they would have more information for us. There are times that I think that, though life goes on, it will never get going.

We hope that something is happening under the surface. Maybe, behind the scenes, things are churning away, and one day it will seem that everything comes together all of the sudden. That's what we hope for, and today hope is all we have, because there is nothing else to report.

Monday, April 25, 2011

New Stuff

I heard a talk recently about problems associated with going through an event like the earthquake. It seems there are numerous personal issues that can arise in people's lives after such event. The speaker named a few, and there was not much that came up that shocked me, that information is everywhere available for us here in Christchurch. And many of my friends and I have talked about how theses issues have popped up in our selves and our families.

I'm very aware, as we go into distance days from the earthquake, the problems rebound on us. I see that refected in my little four year old, who is suddenly afraid of everything again. All part of that normail process, make progress, fall back alittle, hopefully to turn it around to going forward again.

Okay, I'll admit it, I know that one that bounces back on me occasionally. Easy to guess! High irritability. Small things can just get to me more than usual. Especially small people (and I'm not talking about toddlers!)

The one that did surprise me in this recent talk was envy. I guess people are struggling with others getting insurance payouts that mean new houses, new cars and new stuff. I haven't had much in the way of insurance pay-outs yet. I still don't know if they are going to let me build my house back at the old property. The promised date of information by the end of May is now looming, but I fear it will be a date that passes by with broken promises. So I don't have a new house for anyone to envy at the moment. But I do have a lot of new stuff.

There are some advantages to having lost possessions and replacing them. I quite like having some shiny new kitchen mixing bowls, crock-pot and toaster. Ric and I always wanted a king-size bed and we got it, and I love those new soft sheets! But the new pots and pans are already getting those dark marks at at the bottom, and the plastic handled cutlery we are using until we get a proper insurance payment should cause no one a moment of envy! I'd give up any of those things to have back some things I lost. (Well, could I please keep the bed and the sheets?)

If envy really is a problem, it's one I don't quiet get, not yet at least. Maybe one day in the distant future, IF I'm in a some wonderful new house, and still able to be in a spot as special as by the Avon River (if not there, after all), then maybe someone could have twinge of envy. But I'll show them of the two houses that I was in that were destroyed around me, and maybe they'll just get over it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Resurrection Day and Earthquakes.

Today is Easter, Resurrection Sunday. We've had two aftershock earthquakes (3.6 and 4.2) both close and shallow enough to give us a fine shake.

What do earthquakes and Resurrection have in common? Both occurred on that first Rescurrection day. When the women went to the tomb an earthquake occurred and the stone was rolled away. (Matthew 28) They found an empty tomb. Jesus was risen (He is risen indeed!) Death has been conquered and New Life has became an option for mankind.

Our earthquakes reveal no such wonder today. But they do give us a chance to trust the one who has the power of the resurrection! I may not be able to trust the ground under may feet, but I trust the Christ who conquered death.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


It was one of those strange days that happen now and then. Memories of the earthquake returned. This happens randomly, out of the blue. There is usually a tigger, and it doesn't even have to be an aftershock.

Today the kids and I were going to the mall. The teenagers each had a couple of things they wanted to buy and both needed haircuts. They helped me get all sorts of housey jobs done and we took off just after lunch, everyone in good moods, until we hit the road. Traffic. What a nightmare! I know that many places regularly have congested roads, but I hate to say it, as tough as we've been getting past the earthquake, most of us poor Christchurch residence just can't cope with this traffic thing. Not that there aren't some very polite people out there driving, but the others, stressed out and angry, are just so noticable.

Both the teenagers and I asked the same question in different ways as we drove. Is this the 'new normal' and if it is, is it going to last forever? How can we live like this?

We didn't make it to the mall. We put it in the too hard box and turned around. We wound up on the street where we lived in the Old, New House (the first renter). Driving down that road brought back alot of memories. And we all re-lived that day as we went over the cracks and bumps on the road. I retold them the story of Ric and I driving down that road as it flooded, and finding that it had lifted in places and we had to go up over the foot path to get on. They told me a few stories I hadn't heard.

They had driven from school with their eldest sister and brother-in-law while we tried to help a young mum and her son get home. I knew (and we laughed about it again) that their sister had been in a panic about the towering apartment buildings possibly coming down on them as they drove. I didn't know that they saw the side of a house cave in. Scary.

Memories aren't bad and returning to them can actually be good. In this case I found out something important about my children's experience. But even on my own, the remembering the earthquake can be good.

I remember the horror, but I also remember seeing Maddee in Ric's arms (he jumped the fence, I had to go around it!)when I arrived at her preschool. I remember the relief of Rosee's calls from down south as she made contact with the family because we couldn't get our phones to call out. I remember the feeling of standing with all my kids and my son-in-law and finally knowing that everyone was safe. I remember feeling that God was with us, and hoping and praying that He would give that comfort to those who had loved-ones still missing.

Life is complicated. It can be sunny, then cloud up and rain. It can be horrifing (going through an earthquake), then wonderful (hugging your children after an earthquake). I guess that's why remembering an earthquake with your kids while driving through the traffic can be such a marvelous time.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Taking The Earthquake With Me

I'm in Auckland. I was looking forward to getting away and always find Auckland a great place to visit. We have such good friends here, and it is big, different and usually warmer than Christchurch. This visit also means getting away from the stress of the earthquake. At least that's what I thought.

But I'm from Christchurch, and let's just face facts, we aren't getting away from the earthquake for years.

It started on the plane. The lady beside me was a tourist from Germany. She'd been in Canterbury during the quake and asked me if all was alright with my house. I'm a storyteller, she got the story, poor thing. I think she was very pleased to meet someone with my experiences, now she can take that story home with her.

In the car from the airport to where we were staying, it was part of the conversation, but even a bigger part of my thoughts. I drove through the city assessing the damage that would occur in Auckland if an earthquake happened. Silly me. But with all these houses on cliffsides....

Then we walked into a grocery store. There were two men in high viz vests. I was just about to say, "Poor guys, must have just come from the city. Oh wait, we aren't in Christchurch." And then I remember, every person who wears a high viz hasn't necessarily been through an earthquake.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Two Steps forward, then....

The water restrictions have been lifted, we no longer have to boil our water. A small step towards normality. 'The New Normal' is an expression I have come to hate. I like the old fashion normal, like turning on a tap to brush my teeth or fill my kettle.

I love these movements towards life becoming what it once was. A big one for me today was a return to doing my step exercises. Richard bought me a new step a couple of weeks ago and it has been sitting in the closet of this new house. Not only was I having trouble getting the energy but couldn't seem to get the time.

This morning Richard set the step up, and put it in the living room as he left for work. I knew what that meant, no more excuses, I needed to get back to it. The earthquake is done. Routines must be re-established. We are moving on. I turned on my music and started stepping up. It was brutal. I thought it would kill me. In fifteen minutes I was stumbling more than stepping, but at least I'm back at it, and other than the pain (which is still with me tonight), it's good to have started again.

We've gone past six weeks from the earthquake. This has come up in conversations a number of times this week. Six weeks just another little marker. For some it means we are getting past the initial difficulties and moving into a clearer recovery stage. Others say it is when the grief really settles in, someone else told me it was when the people who coped, stopped coping, and had their meltdown. I guess these people are all talking about their experience. Measuring progress, or digression, as the case may be.

What surprises me most right now is that as I measure my progress, I'm astounded by how easy it is for me to fall back. I was told today that there is another earthquake coming. This person feels he has inside knowledge from academics. I realised after he had gone on his way, that I had hadn't thought about having another earthquake in quite awhile. Not thinking or worrying about earthquakes was marker of normality that I hadn't noticed, until it was gone. It was a marker that was dashed away in a momentary conversation standing in mall.

As I walked away, I'm sure I stumbled. It was like falling off my step.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Good News Helps

I was really pleased with the news this evening. The target dates for establishing a temporary business and shopping area by the end October made me very happy. Our mayor seems to understand the people of this city love their CBD and by October 29, he hopes that we will be able to enjoy shopping and eating in the central city.

I'm so excited. This gives us something to look forward to as winter is setting in, and our sewage system remains of the brink of overload,our sink holes fill with rain and so many of our houses have cracks to let the cold in. We have spring to look forward to, the Cup Day and a chance to wander about our city again. Okay, so it will be in temporary buildings, and the ambiance of our heritage city will be changed. But I'm betting that we will replace all that with a new excitement of what the future will hold.

Most of our news has been rather dark of late. Worries about insurance companies not being able to meet their obligations, interviews with business people who are upset, closing down, or going elsewhere, have left me (and others I think) with a sense of despair. I know the news loves a good misery story, they sell more papers with them.

One of my favorite books, Angela's Ashes, starts out talking about Frank's miserable childhood. It had to be a miserable childhood, he writes, otherwise it wouldn't be worth writing about. I think that is true. I've lived such an interesting life and I thought I should be able to write a story about my childhood. I couldn't. It was just too happy. (I blame my parents for that!)

I guess that is the take the news reporters so often go with, unless it makes the reader miserable, its not worth the ink. But I want the news people to understand something, in Christchurch right now, we want good news. It sells.

And by the way, lift your glass of coke to the Coca Cola Bottling Company. They have just announced that they will be building a new bottling company here. Now there's some more good news. So I plan on having a coke or two in the city in October. Want to join me there?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Blondes and Earthquakes and Mushy Brains.

There might be one good thing about an earthquake. I can blame a whole slew of my mistakes on it. Okay, so I'm not sure if what is going on in my head is the earthquake or just being blonde, or maybe it is being fifty. I can't remember anything, people's names, telephone numbers, where I just put my keys, everything disappears. My mind has gone to mush. I drive, arrive at my destination and don't remember how I got there.

Of course, I have to acknowledge, I'm still blonde. So did you hear about the blonde farmer who tried to start a new business after the earthquake? He thought his cows were now going to produce 'milkshakes'!

I'm not alone in experiencing this fuzzy, mushy brain. A friend came over and she is having the same problem. And no, she is not blonde, her hair is dark. I didn't even see much grey in it, but that could be because she's just had it done. Not having blonde hair isn't helping her, she feels in a muddle most of the time right now too. But we agreed, it is all the fault of the earthquake.

I'm trying to get my thinking back, but lack of sleep and nagging worries get a real hold on me. As a Christian, it is a relief when I finally let it go. I don't need to worry about the future, I only need to trust that God is in control. I don't need to be upset when life is difficult, the only expectation God has, is that I walk faithfully, serving others as I go. And when I make those mistakes, I just have to remember, God created me a blonde, so it must be okay!

But there must be something good about being blonde during an earthquake event. I know what is its.... So did you hear the one about the women who were all to be executed? Several dozen brunette, redhead, and blonde women were facing execution via firing squad. The firing squad took the brunettes first, and the leader said "Ready, aim... " at which point one brunette yelled "Earthquake!!!".

The firing squad looked around anxiously and while they were trying to figure out whether there was an earthquake or not, the brunette women all took off and escaped.

Undaunted, the firing squad took the redheads next, and the leader again said "Ready, aim... " at which point one of the redheads yelled "Tornado!!!".

The firing squad looked around anxiously and while they were trying to figure out which direction the tornado was coming from, the redhead women all took off and escaped.

The firing squad took the blonde women last, and by now the blondes had it all figured out; when the right time came all they needed to do was yell out the name of some natural disaster. So when the firing squad leader said "Ready, aim... ", the blonde girls all yelled "Fire!!!".

Friday, April 1, 2011

Living In Christchurch.

There is an email being past around here these days entitled "You Know You Live in Christchurch When...". I love it, it really made me laugh. I am going to copy my favourites from it and add a few of my own. Here we go.

Christchurch Living means.....

1. You are in a nice eating establishment and excuse yourself to go to the powder room, only to find yourself in a portaloo.

2. All your pictures and decorations are on the floor.

3. You prefer to sit under the dining table instead of around it.

4. Dressing up to go to the city means wearing a hi-viz vest, hard hat and boots.

5. You greet friends and acquaintances with the words, "Do you need a place to have a shower?"

6. You've read and understand the terms and conditions of your House and Contents Insurance.

7. When your kids ask, 'Where's my...?" You can easily answer-- 'It's on the floor."

8. The words 'geotech' and 'liquefaction' are part of your everyday conversation.

9. Your toddler makes guesses at the size of aftershocks.

10. You think it is normal to see soldiers standing at the corner of the streets.

11. You roll your eyes and think 'big deal'when breaking news says there was a 4.9 earthquake in Wellington.

12. You drive by corners and can't remember what used to be there.

13. You jump every time a truck goes by and and windows of the house rattle.

14. You walk through the park, looking up at the trees, not to see the birds, but to make sure there is nothing around that can fall on you.

15. The old saying 'built like a brick house'has completely changed its meaning!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome

There are many things that contribute to stress levels in post-earthquake living. Dealing with insurance is one of the greatest of all stress-inducers.

Now I don't want you to think our insurance assessors is a nasty chap. Nothing could be further from the truth, I mean this guy is just plain nice. We stood outside the Dallington house making jokes about disappearing down the fissure if there was another earthquake. The guy has a great sense of humour. But I wasn't laughing when we started talking about our insurance coverage.

Why is that an insurance assessor wants to make it feel like they are doing you a favour if they do what your contract says they have to do and what you have for paid them for years to do if you needed it? Does this seemingly sensible, good nature chap really think that he can fool me like that? Surely when Richard and I are standing there, talking and laughing with him, it is apparent that we can read--and pretty well. When he starts telling us that we should have out-buildings included into the measurement of our house, does he think that we are idiots? If we had all the out-buildings measured as part of our house, they would probably be accusing us of fraud, trying to claim more insurance than was our due. What insurance agency in the world is going to pay out the $2000-2200 per square metre of rebuilding costs for a house to rebuild a greenhouse or shed?

As I stood there, those jokes we'd been making about the fisure opening up and swallowing someone started to seem like a very fine idea!

No, Mr. Insurance Man, my out-buildings are not included in the measurement of my house, aren't you glad about that! You don't have to pay premium building costs to rebuild them...but you sure are going to have to rebuild them! That's what my contract says, and I can read.

The stress-inducer that come second only to insurance dealings, is lack of information. We could have called this government induced stress.

The thing about Lack of Information is that it has a companion named Rumours. These two
stress-inducers make the perfect tag-team. Rumours abound around the city about areas that are not going to be re-built. My Dallington neighborhood is right in the centre of all such rumours. Along with rumours that the neighborhood will be demolished and not rebuilt are rumours about what will be done with the land.

Rumours can only abound and cause stress when people don't get good information. That is what we need. We don't need to hear that something like 10,000 houses will be demolished and some suburbs may not be re-built, only to find out later that this was 'back of the envelop' thoughts rather than facts This only promotes an atmosphere of uncertainity with people forming opinions and spreading them like they are facts. We need information, as quickly as is possible.

I don't think I have Post-traumatic Stress Syndrome! I don't. I think I have some days with Insurance Induced Stress Syndrome, some with Lack of Information Induced Stress Syndrome, and then occasionally I get Rumour Induced Stress Syndrome. But, hey, I'm opened to an arm-chair diagnosis if you want to have a go.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The One You've Been Holding Your Breathe For....

I was taking my daughter to work in the Eastern suburbs a couple of days ago. (And yes, she still has no car--it remains locked in the city garage!) Maddee was in her car seat, and of course we were chatting about the broken roads and houses as they worsened the further east we drove. Maddee chimed in, I need to go to the toilet.

'Can't you wait sweetie?" says me.
'No, I need to go now.'
'Oh Maddee, we have to at least get to Molly's work.'
'No, we can stop at a blue one or a green one.'

She was talking about portaloos, of course. At four, Maddee was desperate to get into one of those colourful boxes and have a go. I guess the sad fact is that any four year old in this city can, without thought, explain those strange boxes littering the streets. But for her, the thought of using one is exciting.

You think it's because she is little she that she feels that way, right? Well my friend and Dallington neighbor has a PhD in some sort of mathematics (I don't really ask, I mean we're talking mathematics here!). She said she was never so excited about anything as when her portaloo arrived on the street. It's clear you don't have to be four to find portaloos great. Spending a couple of weeks using a bucket over a hole and another couple bagging up the contents of a chemical toilet will turn even the most sensible of person into a fan of the 'green ones or blue ones' sitting on side of the road. At least the city comes and cleans those. (There's that silver lining!)

So, when you come to Christchurch and find yourself stuck in traffic for ages, you don't have to worry, if you have to go it is really easy to find a place to go. Just look for the blue ones or the green ones, and you might be rather excited when you see one.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Christchurch, The Garden City

I'm very tired this evening. I know why, it is because I had errands to run this afternoon. As I was out, trying to make my way from one end of the city to the next and then back again, something important dawned on me.

This is simply not the same city that it used to be. When I go out to do anything, I feel like I'm living in a different place. I've lived in so many places, different cities and countries. I'm accustom to changing surroundings. But when the place where you are changes around you, that is hard to deal with.

Some of my favorite cities in the world are highly populated places. Cities where the grocery store queues are long, and parking means circling, and driving means traffic. Christchurch was not a city like that.

When we were first thinking of coming here, Richard came for a visit. He came back and told us about this city, the garden city of New Zealand, the most English city outside of England. He said that for a city of around three hundred and fifty thousand people, it worked more like a town. For years we had lived in small villages, first in Cambridgeshire and then in Canada. We didn't see how we would adjust to a city of such size, but Richard was right, Christchurch was small and comfortable in feel. Easy to get around, slower than a city should be, pleasant and uncomplicated. It quickly became the city of our children. Christchurch was (maybe is) a city you can easily own.

On February 22nd, all ease fled. Christchurch is now complicated. The traffic, the closed roads, the long queues for every service, in every store, the circling for car parks, these things are worse here than anywhere I have ever been. In those cities where I lived in the past, there was tension and stress because life is more complicated. That, too, is truer of Christchurch now than any place I have been. Some people in Christchurch are still living with the worse of the earthquake,in areas that are broken, water that doesn't run properly, in places where roads are barely drivable. All of us live with nights often rocked by aftershocks, and everything we know changed. The words tension and stress are not good enough words to describe the feelings. You can see in most every face, and the lines around so many eyes, people are stretched. It makes it harder to reach down and find the patience that we needed more than ever before.

When I was a little girl, they had a saying, loosely based on a Bible verse. 'Don't pray for patience, because tribulation produces patience...' If you want to test out how well your patience has developed, come to Christchurch. But when you realise you need more than you have, leave before you pray for it. Because, frankly, I think we have enough tribulation for now.

The receptionist at Richard's work said it best to me today. Sue said, "The earthquake took the garden out of our city."

Ready For A Disaster?

I still haven't put together that blooming emergency kit! You might think after two earthquakes in less than six months, this blonde lass would be smart enough to get her act together and get ready for a natural disaster, or a power outage even! Nope. I definitely am one for the cliche' because 'my road is paved with good intentions.' I did get a great little plastic box with a handle to put all the bits into, but then I used it for something else. (Really, some boxes have a million good uses!)

When I think back to both those earthquake events, I don't think an emergency box would have done us much good anyway. In my own home, I did have a place where all medicines and supplies were kept. But the house was too damaged to really access during those cold dark hours just after the September event.

New Zealand has something of an earthquake emergency box, called the EQC,The Earthquake Commission.

The EQC inspectors were on our street yesterday. You can see them here and there around the city doing the 'Rapid Assessment' of every building in Christchurch. It's a new approach that they put into place after the February 22nd event.

After the September 4th event jokes abounded about the EQC having invisible workers. There was a sense that things simply weren't progressing fast enough. The Civil Defense was into Christchurch on that Saturday, September 4th and were everywhere present, and progress was rapid. As the emergency status was removed, progress seemed to slow.

This time, EQC have developed a 'triage' approach to assessment, and aren't even waiting for people to make claims. This is good. It seems like September 4th was a dress rehearsal that revealed all the problems.

Let's face it, EQC never had anything to deal with like this before. They were formed in 1945, fourteen years after the Naiper Earthquake of 1931. We haven't had a major earthquake since their formation. (And may we have another 79 years without one, please.) I've heard it said that up until a few months ago, EQC's specialty was making fridge magnets with their telephone number on. Made me laugh!

EQC is the government agency that is in supposed to be prepared to deal with these disasters. I guess having that emergency box checked made us all feel better, but one has to question how ready were they? How ready could they be when we haven't faced anything like it since 1931? How ready can anyone be ready?

I don't think it is possible to be ready for a natural disaster. That's what makes them so powerful and so frightening. They come fast, and in unimaginable ways. The cruelty of an extra forceful 6.3 earthquake in a city that was in recovery from a 7.1. A tsunami of ultra-proportions following on the heels of a 9.0 earthquake. Could anybody be ready for these events? Are you?

P.S. If you know how to keep a flashlight from going walkabout, can you let me know?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Boiling Water

I'm boiling water again. I keep a huge soup pot on my stove and each evening I boil water. I'm starting to feel like a witch, with a cauldron.

It's kind of fun,this boiling water thing, unless of course I run out. Besides, it reminds me of my childhood in Indonesia. I only have to boil my water for three minutes. Back when I was a child in the village, water had to be boiled for twenty minutes and then poured through a charcoal filter after it cooled. Okay, I'll be honest I didn't boil the water back in those days. We had young women who worked for us and they did it. Sometimes I helped pour it through the filter though!

You won't believe this, but I didn't know it was World Water Day when I started writing this. In fact, when I started writing I didn't know World Water Day existed! I only found out because I googled 'boiling water' to see why it was we boiled our water so long. Maybe we didn't need to do it that long, but not one of my family ever came down with cholera or typhus when people in the village died as epidemics rolled through.

I wrote this because I want you to turn on the tap, pour a glass of water and drink it. Brush your teeth, and rinse your toothbrush under the flow of water from your tap. Appreciate water that flows clean. (Please refrain from following these instructions if you live in Christchurch. And if you are from my old neighborhood, I apologize for even mentioning running water when you still don't have any.) But don't feel sorry for me. I don't mind boiling water, it is just one of the little things that changed, and it is one that doesn't matter.

It also doesn't matter that we have bits of paper lying around from insurance companies, and the EQC. Today when I swept, in the dirt on the floor was a card with a number for counseling services offered by the EQC. These are the little reminders of life that changed. All very unimportant things that are ever present in our life. We never forget. New plates, new furinture, not enough mugs, empty cupboards, all remind us. EQC notes, and boiling water, the occasional tear when one of the little girls remember something that is gone (okay me too)keep it close to our emotions. But just in case you forgot, we had an earthquake, and if you come to Christchurch, remember to boil your water.

Earthquakes Are No Respecter of Persons

I was driving down Papanui Road and saw this house being demolished. It was one of those huge houses, in Merivale. Merivale, yes, it's just like the name sounds, posh. The houses are beautiful, or in the case of a few, were beautiful. The demolishing company was on that site, as I passed, I saw rubble and antiques, all combined in the macabre mixture that an earthquake creates. The owner of that particular million dollar house had been interviewed on television. The house, once beautifully done and full of period antiques, was felled with all the contents.

It is, you remember, a pain I understand. I did not live in a million dollar house, the furniture that I owned was not period antiques (though I had some lovely antique pieces). But I think most everything in that house was special. Okay, maybe the Tupperware wasn't special, and I had a few bits of clothing that I no longer even liked and wondered why I bothered buying in the first place. But I have travelled around the world, and I am, by nature, a storyteller, so nearly everything I owned, had a story. Okay, so now you know that if you had visited me before the earthquake, you would have seen some interesting, but not overly expensive things, and been bored by a story. But don't worry, it's almost all gone now. My major story now is, 'I bought this after the earthquake.'

I'm classically middle class, the sort of woman who is completely average. I'm so average, that if you put me up beside ordinary, I'd make it look special. It didn't matter on the day of the earthquake. The houses of the wealthy, the poor and the average, ordinary, middle class, lay broken in this city.

As I drive around the city, venturing out through the traffic to find which roads I think I can tolerate, I am saddened by the businesses lost. I think of those people, who must be worried about what the future has for them. The little dairy and the Chinese Take Away not far from my old house in the Eastern Suburbs. Those two places where hit hard by the September event, how they worked to get things back into place, only to be hit again. I see the same story written on so many corners around Christchurch. The broken buildings say more than just damage, they speak of fear, of uncertainty, and of pain.

Surely I am not the only one who reads that same story in the faces of those poor central city business owners. Some of those people are wealthy, city property owners, and some just small business people. It doesn't really make a difference, when an earthquake takes all you have. I watched the news with horror as they attempted to enter the red zone in the city and were fought off. Is not that anger, really just fear of the future? Where are the leaders of our city, or country, the sons and daughters of Christchurch (or Auckland or Dunedin) to put a hand on the arm of these poor people, sit down with a cuppa and reach an agreement that gives them peace?

Peace is hard to find in the aftermath of an earthquake. The land itself continues to shake, the roads and buildings are constant reminders of what has happened, personal life is uncertain and rumours of squabbles and politicizing concerning the rebuilding of city increase insecurity. It doesn't matter if you are rich or poor, an Earthquake takes everything, including peace, from everyone.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Altered States.

"I think that was a 3 pointer."

"Oh," says I, "I didn't feel anything. Did you feel something?"

"I think it was a 3 point 2 point 5."

"Oh," I say, again, and watch as Maddee goes back to her play.

There are words and thoughts that have entered our life here in Christchurch, things I never knew about or at least never thought about before. Earthquakes alter more than just the land, it alters the people, even in the simplest of ways.

"Hey mum, look at that, there's a Search and Rescue Man on a bicycle." Isabelle points out as we are driving down the street.

"Ah, probably the easiest way for him to get to work in the city would be bicycle." I answer.

USAR, a word we all now know, Urban Search and Rescue Personnel, now a common sight, often a conversation point. Even my children can identify these people on the streets, passing by, on a bicycle.

"Do you think the inspector will come today?" Maddee asked me.

"Inspector, what inspector?" Excuse me for not being with it, but I was talking to a four year old. Maybe she was talking about Inspector Gadget, or was it some odd thing that came up on Bob the Builder or some other television program?

We were just arriving home, and I pulled the car up, more than ready to turn my attention to getting in and having a cup of tea before starting dinner preparations, which were taking more thought and planning because I hadn't yet had replaced my pots and pans.

"Mum, do you think an inspector will come to look at the house?"

Then I got it. An EQC inspector, or a Structural Engineer inspector. EQC, Earthquake Commission, Engineers, these were things we never thought about, no less spoke of a few months ago. Now we talk about this all the time while we are waiting for someone to inspect Molly's flat to say if she can live in it again. Has the inspector come to your house? Have you heard about when the inspectors will visit you? Have you seen the inspectors in your area yet? It is a common topic around this city now. Poor Maddee was just joining the conversation of life.

On the door entering Maddee's preschool, a new sign as appeared. 'Out of respect for our children, please keep all earthquake related conversations outside these premises and away from little ears." I wonder if I should wear a sign like that? No I don't think I can.

Everywhere I go, people are in huddled up, chatting away about the earthquake, where they were, what has happened to them, what they have lost, if inspectors have seen their property, troubles with insurance. I do it too. It is the first thing we talk about when meeting up with a person. And here I am, blogging about it. There is some compulsive need to use these new thoughts and words in every day life. I think as we speak these words, they become normal. And normal is good.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Changes in Me.

Today is March 19th, that makes it the 20th tomorrow. Don't ask me how I feel about it? You don't have to because I'm going to tell you. I don't like it. This Moon Man thing has really gotten to me. He has predicted an earthquake for tomorrow.

Here I am, normally, a sensible, thinking, blonde woman (yes! those are ALL compatible traits!) scared to death of the predictions of a man who has written a book about reading Cat's Paws. Is this what these earthquakes have reduced me to? I also bought a flat screen TV (not that you can buy any other sort, and since we have lost ours...)but it is connected to freeview TV! We haven't had a TV that does anything other than run videos and dvds in years.

These aren't the only strange happenings in my life. I will have you know, I bought bling today. Cheap stuff (well truth is I found out that cheap jewelry isn't really all that cheap!, and I bought a lot of it. It was fun! I now have three huge rings and four or so rather noticeable necklaces. If that earthquakes strikes tomorrow, and I go missing, just look for someone who sparkles.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Memorial Service, March 18th

Today is a beautiful day. Strangely so. We have had so many beautiful days since the earthquake. It's an odd feeling, to be a place where that is so broken, and yet so beautiful. Some days I have to make myself work hard to enjoy sunshine, children, well, life all together, really. It isn't just the traffic, the queues, or constant daily small difficulties of getting on with life, its the thoughts, and memories that take me away. The worry of what will happen with insurance, the thoughts of others suffering worse than we are, wondering what the future looks like, and knowing that life here will just simply be hard to live, for along time to come.

Just now, even as I write, the Memorial Service has begun. Four hundred seats have been put out for the families of those who have died. One hundred thousand people are there in Hagley Park, there to remember, there to mourn. I'm home, watching it on TV. It started with a video of our city, so that we, the people of this broken city, can see what has happened. It's hard for me to look, impossible not to, and yes I am crying. We knew, but yet didn't, the extent of the damage.

Prince William, Prime Minister Gillard and many others have come to mourn with us. Prince William has done the royal family proud, with his willingness to walk through the rain and talk to the people who have lost family members. Maybe it is because, he too, has suffered great grief.

I embrace the Maori opening. This is New Zealand, and it is our Maori culture that makes us different. So our grief, must also reflect our culture and our difference.

There were debates about the memorial service today. Many said it was too soon. Business trying to get back on their feet, have said this is too hard, to have a closed day just as they are getting back on their feet. Others have said, they needed more time, to distance themselves. I'm ready. I want it. I think the city needs it. If some need to wait, I don't mind. When they are ready to mourn, I will join them on that day as well.

Earthquakes, Fourteen Year Olds and Four Year Olds.

I think I might just the right person to write about this earthquake. Having lost so much in terms of material 'stuff' I think I understand the impact. More importantly I have so many children, so I see the earthquake through the eyes of a fair few ages.

Maddee who is four seems okay this round. She was traumatized by the September event and took months to recover. She experienced so many of the staple issues of trauma for her age, reverting to babyish behaviour, clingy, and not sleeping. Every aftershock was a major event. We seemed to be finally getting through the worst of it as February dawned.

Amazingly, Maddee hasn't regressed much after the last event. She has started back to pre-school, today was her first full day. Aftershocks can make her jump (me too!) and sometimes she needs a cuddle after a sizable one, but she is soon playing again. The only thins she does is refusing to go anywhere near the two broken houses, but that probably just makes her smart!

Let's face it, Maddee is a clever little character,and she knows how to use an earthquake. Just before we found our newest house, when life was almost unbearable for all of us, Maddee was adding to the stress with naughty behaviour. I mean we tried to give her a break with all that was going on, but eventually enough is enough. "You're going to have to go to your room," I said to her. She looked at me, crossed her arms and dawned her scowling face, 'I don't even have a bedroom anymore, it was broken by the earthquake!" She also has figured out how to get a toy bought for her, she just has to pull at her mum's heartstrings about how many toys are still in the broken house and can't come out. Poor wee lamb...hey?!

Izzi's feelings at fourteen are more distressing. It may be hard on her, but believe me, what she is feeling is tougher still on her mother . Yesterday, as we drove through the traffic to get to school, Izzi talked to me about her year. Her camp, which should have taken place soon after the earthquake is cancelled and she feels there is nothing to look forward to. Probably just her age? I don't think so, not this time. The earthquake means many of the activities outside school just can't happen this year. As she climbed out of the car at school, she turned and looked at me and said, 'Do you reaslise that everything I got for Christmas, except for my cell phone, is gone now in that house?" Then she closed the car door and left.

I drove away from school feeling angry and helpless. There was nothing I could do. Okay, there was one thing, I could talk Ric into making one more dangerous little trip into that house to rummage around and find some of the rocks from her prized rock collection. He found a fair few, put them in her favourite container and we gave them to her on Sunday, her birthday.

It's amazing what even a few of your special things can do to brighten up life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Strange, Disheartening and Marvelous.

Earthquakes produce some real oddities. People act so strangely. I think most of us struggle to stay sane, and our minds are not necessarily well connected to our actions. But some of the weird stuff is well thought out. Most difficult for me is the earthquake advertisements.

After the September 4th earthquake, the advertisements were out in a matter of days. "Dear Christchurch, we are sorry for your distressing time," the radio announcement says,"but the XXX Mall is opened for you shopping needs." On the side of the truck, "Earthquake Building Repairs Ltd. Call XXXX"

It's taken a little longer, but it's all started again. We can have the computers broken by earthquake repaired by a shop advertising all the components we might need for that kind of destruction. Our property, you must understand needs to be evaluated by Earthquake Valuers. Aren't we lucky? Did the earthquake shatter your glass, well guess who is ready to take care of all your Earthquake insurance forms? I suppose business must go on, especially since so many businesses are either out of commission for the short-term, or worse, for good.

Life after an earthquake can be truly disheartening. Even if you haven't suffered loss, life has intensified. Traffic, queues, business closures, water, lumpy-bumpy streets all make life difficult. The daily report of workers laid off, factories too broken to operate, some companies moving on, is discouraging. Listening to the news as they give the identities of victims, or tell us how difficult it is to identify badly wounded victims can make me cry.

I think, for many Cantabrians, today was another very distressing day. It was just announced that the Rugby World Cup games were stripped from Christchurch. Now I'm not a rugby fan, but even I feel low about this. I, like most here, understand. We have few nice hotels operating, and no city restaurants, bars or cafes. The suburban services are already stretched providing for those who live here. What pre and post game activities can Christchurch offer Rugby fans. Though we understand, it is still tough. Our Mayor, Bob Parker, said it well. Christchurch is facing a long hard winter, it would have brightened our spirits to look to the Rugby World Cup in the spring.

Yet out of the desperate days also emerges moments that are wonderful. Those university students (a large percentage of which have remained in the city and are starting back to classes under extremely difficult circumstances) have a new university cafe. Like the new lecture rooms, the cafe is in a tent. It's name is Canvas Cafe, In Tent City 6.3. What a laugh! Yes, we still laugh at our earthquake, sometimes while shivering.

The bond created in this city by this horrible experience, is something I would not want to have missed out on. I was in a shop today when a loud groaning noise started. It mimicked the sound of some aftershocks. Myself and a couple of ladies jumped, then laughed. We were soon chatting about earthquake experience and feelings about aftershocks. We share something beyond ourselves that binds us in a strange way.

These marvelous moments are not big. We wanted one of those truly marvelous experiences after the earthquake, I think the whole city wanted it. We wanted one of those survival stories, someone to be pulled out alive after days had gone by. We didn't get that in Christchurch. I love it now, when the stories emerge from Japan, but it didn't happen for us. Yet, we had something, our Christchurch miracle, a great moment.

It took time to stabilized the Cathedral enough to allow the Search and Rescue Teams to go in and search the rubble. If you have ever been to Christchurch, you will understand that the Cathedral is an iconic image in this city. It stands in the square, one of the great buildings that represent the age and place of Christchurch in the history of this country. You don't have to be a believer, to understand that the Cathedral is important. Most children in Christchurch will have made a school trip to see the building at some point, even if just at Christmas to put a charity gift under the huge Christmas tree. And if you shop in the city, you may have had lunch in its shade or made it your meeting place.

Within a hour of the February 22nd earthquake, someone said to me, "I heard the Cathedral fell." It was symbolic of the city's devastation. Soon the news broke that 22 bodies were lying in the rubble. There had been people visiting, of course, it was lunchtime. Some had gone up the tower. Why they knew the number, I don't know.

On March 5th, when the rescue teams were finally allowed to go in, and the announcement was made that no one was found under the Cathedral was a marvelous day. (The dean of the Cathedral cried, well I guess I did too.) A miracle, some say. I don't know, probably. The same marvelous miracle that occurs every evening when I sit down to dinner and all my family is safe and well. Miracle or not, it was marvelous for our city. And we hang on to every marvelous moment, great and small, with all our might.

The Only Thing Harder Than Going Through an Earthquake is Not Being There.

After both earthquakes, as soon as the dust started to settle, I had one thing I needed to do. I needed to make contact with my mother overseas. On September 4th, the earthquake that hit at 4:30 am, I got to my daughter's flat mid-morning and though the telephone lines were useless, I was able to contact my sister via facebook and get her to tell my mother I was okay. As it turned out, my mother had been at the dentist all day and hadn't even heard the news about the earthquake, till she heard if from my sister saying I was fine. I was worrying about her worrying, and she didn't even know.

February 22nd the scale was so much larger. Hitting us in the middle of the day, there was the sheer complication of reaching our children on the ground first. The impact in the city was so much the greater, no power, telephone lines over-run and not working well anyway. It was a mess. There was simply no way to get a hold of my mother for hours. It was days before I was able to speak to her in person. In fact, I had to talk to someone in Auckland and get him to update friends and family overseas about things here. I know it was hard for them to have us here and not to be able to help us.

On that second earthquake, there was someone else not here, my daughter, Rosee.

Rosee called me on my cell phones just minutes after the earthquake stopped. I thought it had already hit the news, it hadn't. She felt the shake in Dunedin and wondered if it was one off Christchurch again. We were already in the car, heading out to get our littlest, Maddee. I hung up and was trying to call out to find my older children, the cell phones weren't working. Rosee called back, she had made contact with Molly-Rose. As the afternoon progressed, Rosee was able to keep us informed on one another. For some strange reason, she could reach us, while we could not call each other.

Within days, I was talking Rosee out of coming home. We understood the frustration she was feeling. She was helpless down there, but truth is, we were helpless up here too. We could scrape ourselves up, run into that dangerous house to get a few things, boil water, and not flush our toilets, but we could do nothing for those poor people in the city centre. Rosee had to get on with life, attend her classes and do what uni students do. We had to find a new home. It was frustrating for her down there, but I knew that helpless feeling wouldn't go away just by coming home.

She did come home this past weekend. With the major part of the crisis past, and things settling into the new and difficult pattern that has become life, it was good for her to come and be here. She needed to see her family. She needed to experience her ruined city. It was hard for her to go again. Strange to leave her family in 'just coping mode'.

It's as hard to be away from here as it is to be here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Partially Livable

My eldest daughter Molly-Rose has been out of her house for nearly three weeks. (Incredible to think we are nearly 3 weeks on from the earthquake!) She got a call from her property manager tell her that her flat is deemed,' partially livable'. Partially livable? What does that mean?!? Surely you either can live somewhere or you can't. ' Well', the property manager says, 'that's what the inspectation report said, but until it is declared 'livable' you can't live there.' I guess in that sense, the term 'partially livable' means 'it's too broken to live in' so Molly and her husband are staying with friends.

Her flat had a mezzanine floor, which now has a large crack in it. You can stand at certain places upstairs and see the rafters through the cracks in the ceiling. The sliding glass doors are so twisted, they no longer open. The stove fell over and the legs broke off. Yet, her flat is partially livable, I guess.

I think I can say to you, without getting into too much trouble, that my daugther doesn't much like stress. So her house being partially livable is not a great thing. Her car being inaccessible isn't too hot either. On the morning of the earthquake, Molly-Rose and David had taken her car to the garage to get a warrant of fitness done. I don't think they had ever used that particular shop before, a place in the central city. Molly's car has been there ever since, it is in the orange zone, a no go area. She has no idea if the garage where she took it is standing or not. Her car is inaccessible.

Molly teaches English as a second language for a job. She recently decided to get a second degree in Speech and Language Therapy. She started university on February 22nd. She was in the basement of the university library when the earthquake struck. She was already struggling with idea of ever going back into that eleven story building again. But at this point, with nearly 3 weeks of no classes, she just wants to get on with her programme. Two of her classes start back tomorrow (March 16th), the other paper won't begin until sometime in May. The university has six 'red stickered' buildings. Molly's classes are meeting in tents/marquees set up around the university parking lots and green areas. I keep encouraging her about the wonderful stories she is going to have as an old lady. But we both know that getting through this degree is going to be stressful. (Did I tell you that Molly doesn't much care for stress?) I guess the univeristy is partially usable.

Molly-Rose has also been worried about the new strange schedule that the university has come up with to deal with all the classes sharing tents for lectures. This schedule will interfere with her English tutoring sessions. But then, the last student she was able to meet with was packing up to leave New Zealand anyway. His family feel that his education is going to be critically hurt by the earthquake and all the building sharing that has to take place. There are a fair few schools sharing facilities, one school using the building in the morning, the other in the afternoon. If you've come to New Zealand because you wanted to enhance your child's education, I suppose Christchurch isn't the place for that anymore. It appears many of the foreign nationals in this city are fleeing, including some of Molly's students. Which may be just as well since she has no car to get around to teach them anyway. I guess Molly's job is partially up and leaving.

I look around this city and see how so many people, young and old are affected by the earthquake. Somebody needs to call Molly-Rose and tell her that her city is partially livable.

I Will Not Expect An Earthquake...blah blah blah.

If you have followed me these last couple of weeks, you will remember that I wrote a series of strong statements about getting on with life. 'I will not be afraid. I will not expect an earthquake.' Blah, blah, blah.

I lied. I didn't mean to. I thought I was telling myself the truth and that if I said it, I would believe it. But I don't. It was a lie.

I expect an earthquake. I expect one, everyday, everywhere, all the time. On February 21st, I expected aftershocks. Aftershocks were reminders of what had happened. I didn't like them, they made me feel vulernable and nervous, but as the months went by, we became used to them. As the time past, I didn't feel even feel an aftershock under a 4 pointer. We worried less. We had some bad days when aftershocks were worse, or bigger, but those days were less frequent. We were in recovery mode.

February 22nd took away that new found freedom from fear. I think of those moments when the second earthquake struck and it comes back to me in slow motion. The shake started, another aftershock, it was big, no it was not just an aftershock. This was a another earthquake, bigger, more powerful, more destructive than the first. The earth is an uncertain place, more uncertain than I ever realised. To have a second earthquake, more devastating than the first, changed my world.

I started writing this acouple of days ago. So when Japan was hit by a devastating earthquake, an 8.9 that followed on the heals of a 7 pointer, my fears are confirmed. You can't count on earth to behave itself in any sort of order. Having had a natural disaster doesn't mean you dont' get another.

I expect an earthquake, and I have to get on with life while I do it. I remember the first time I had to deal with living on in the midst of life's difficulties. My father had a strange medical difficulty, his esaphagus tore open. The doctors assumed he would die. My eldest daughter was only six months old and such a happy, funny little baby. I sat in the waiting room, finding it so odd to laugh and play with the baby while my father was dying. (Dad lived on, for another 21 years and only recently passed away.) The expectation was that Dad would die, that night, or that week, or within six weeks, but life with my baby girl had to go on. I have to put into practice what I first started learning then, life must go on. No matter what happens in the world, we must make the best of the life we have now.

There are events that rob us of our security. Discovering unfaithfulness in a spouse can rob one of trust, being burgled takes away security, a death steals joy, earthquakes shake our confidence in the very earth. But we must live on through every horrible event in life. And we must find peace again. As a Christian, I find peace in the belief that God must be found in the midst of the chaos.

During this past week we've been planning a trip to the mountains for the weekend to enjoy the hotsprings. My son's birthday has just past and Izzi's birthday was coming, besides, Rosee had come home to see the for the first time since the earthquake. We needed the family time. It was hard to want to make the effort, but we needed to do it for the kids. Then the news about Japan broke. Ric and I sat there, watching the unbelieveable devastation hitting those people, feeling for them in a way we could only feel after experiencing the last six months of our lives. And we wondered if we should cancel our trip. How can we, of all people, go away and relax in hot pools while so much suffering was going on.

We went anyway. We couldn't cancel the trip. Our children needed family time, and we must go on with life. We all have to laugh, eat, celebrate and live even if we do it expecting an earthquake.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

I Don't Like the Moon Man

If you live in Christchurch, you are sure to have heard about the Moon Man, and you probably have an opinion about him. If you don't live in Christchurch (other than being lucky at the moment!) you may not know about him. No, I'm not talking about the Man In The Moon. Truth is I've never much liked the Man in the Moon either. Chaps with scary faces are just not my cup of tea.

I don't know if the Moon Man is as scary looking as the Man in the Moon, but how he talks is scary. The Moon Man makes predications and right now, can you guess what he is predicting? You got it, more trouble for us. The Moon Man reads the moon, it's position to the earth, tides and especially something called a Kingtide. He predicted the two earthquakes that have hit us. At least, that's what I've heard recently, and yes, it was after the events! Which I admit is a bit suspect. But looking at his website, it appears to be true. He says the earth is in a particular position since September that has caused the earthquakes and that the earth and moon will be positioned in like manner on around March 22 and April 18. I don't like this at all. I don't like it because I don't want any more earthquakes. And I really don't like it, because April 18, is my birthday!

That's why I don't like the Moon Man. He is saying stuff I don't want to hear! It could be just me, because I generally don't like people who say things I don't like. (The tax man comes quickly to mind here too!) I think I'm a pretty smart girl and usually consider myself above and beyond nutcases. I'm a Christian and I don't much care for those relgious nutcases that show up on TV. Okay, so maybe its that they say alot of stuff and don't want to hear, and we all know how I feel about that! So when I start hearing about the Moon Man, I'm thinking about dismissing him as just another useless crackpot who predicts events after they have happened. But I'm not sure the Moon Man is a nutcase. He bases his prediction on moon and tide cycles, like the almanac does. I think that is pretty old wisdom. I decided that I should read what he says myself, instead of just reading what people say he says. I found out a bit.

He does believe that the earth and the moon are going to have what he calls a perigee alignment, and something may happen. He says the alignment is closer and stronger than the last two, which are what caused our last two earthquakes. I try not to believe it, but I do. I don't want to believe it, but I've always believed in the earthy wisdom of the almanac.

I'm in a fix. Has the earthquake not only altered the world I live in, but my brain as well. I'm l left so vulnerable by these earthquakes that I am going to become a follower of any and every nut that has something scary to say? Oh dear. Trying to think clearly in the midst of earthquakes is hard work. I'm having a hard enough time replacing my iron and my dishes, thinking straight about someone's predicitions about more earthquakes is just too difficult. Especially when we go to bed after a 4.6 and wake up in the wee hours to a 4.1. It is easy to believe earthquakes will never stop, and after living through two big earthquakes, it is easy to believe something worse could happen. Don't you just love all these people who keep saying 'bad things come in three's?'

Okay, what to do about the Moon Man. He doesn't actually say something is going to happen, he says it might. Everyday in life, something bad might happen. The world we live in is an unstable place. I can believe that there is truth and wisdom in the almanac view of earth, moon and tides, but I also know it doesn't control the earth! I know who does, and I've had some pretty long talks with Him lately! As a logical girl (despite the blonde hair), I also know what happened here was extraordinary. Two earthquakes, the second being the worse, is considered something like a 2000 year event. A third event happening? A fourth? I logically I know it is very un likely.

I will wait and see. As I said, I don't believe in nutcases, but I do feel emotionally vulnerable. I've already told my husband, if something happens around March 22nd, then the only thing I want for my birthday is tickets for my whole family to go on a long trip on April 18!

By the way, the Moon Man also says this moon, tide, earth postion is all going to be over after the April 18th. Now that I really like!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Living The Ordinary during Extraordinary Times....Attempts to Cheer Us Up.

We sang some lovely songs yesterday at church. My favourite was 'On Christ the Solid Rock I stand...all other ground is sinking sand.' You can imagine how we laughed when they announced the song. We had to meet at 2:30pm in different building because ours is made dangerous by the earthquake. It will have to be demolished. The pastor was tired. He'd been out seeing to all his people in the hard hit Eastern suburbs.

A church in Reefton made a nice afternoon tea for our people. They baked enough for every family to take home a cake and sent groceries. Another church (of different denomination) had baked cocolate chip cookies, and someone had sent water bottles and chocolate bars. All done to cheer us up and fatten us up as well, I guess.

In the bank the other day, they were giving away bottles of water. There were a fair few people in the queues, which is true of most every service in the city. I got to the teller and what happens all over, to everyone, happened again. We exchanged our earthquake stories. It's like a requirement to the start of every conversation. We must tell our stories.

After the teller heard my story, she excused herself and left me standing. When she came back, she brought a gift card for groceries. It was only fifty dollars worth, but still, have you ever recieved a gift from your bank? Don't they usually just take your money, smiling with great joy as they do so?

Everyone wants to help and there are so many attempts to cheer us up.

The whole country spent a day wearing red and black, the colours of the Canterbury rugby team. Annoucements of fundraising dinners and sausage sizzles and other ways get money to help rebuild the city abound. Farmer's Department story extended their special sale for Christchurch residents, requiring another trip to the mall. Live music was playing upstairs, a place I knew people had been badly hurt during the earthquake. And yes, I did think about earthquakes the whole time I was there. Those thoughts can really spoil a nice shopping trip!

It's hard to cheer us up. We go low again so quickly. It only takes a call to the insurance, a nasty little aftershock, a story in the newspaper, and we are soon sobered.

But I say --Go ahead. Cheer us up. The chance to smile or laugh, even for a few minutes, means an awful lot these days.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Living the Ordinary During Extraordinary Times....Old People and Earthquakes.

A few days ago I took yet another hot dinner to the Eastern Suburbs, a place still without power and water. Then Richard and I made our way further east to check on an old lady. Our dear fiesty friend is 86 years old and lives alone.

We travelled what should have been a 5 or 10 minute trip..well to tell you the truth, I don't know how long it took us. I was too in shock to watch the clock. We couldn't really even drive 10k an hour for the dips and rises in the roads. But the broken road was only part of the difficulty. This strange earthquake phenomenon called liquification had altered the area grossly. You couldn't tell the road from the grass.

Liquification has been a bane this earthquake! It is dark grey, a fine silty sand that bubbles up out of the ground, around concrete roads, through grass, up the footpaths, and even into floors of buildings. It pours out and covers the surface of the ground or mounds into little volcanoe shapes. It is heavy and has to be cleared by sheer back breaking shoveling. And during those fine warm days after the earthquake, it dries, and blows, and chokes and covers cars, faces, hair and everything. I've never been so dry and dusty and thirsty.

We found our friend. Alone in a dark house. She refused to come home with us, wanting to stay in her familar home, but agreed to be picked up the next day to come back with us to the house of the friend where we are staying. Ric picked her. She came and had a hot meal again but this time with company and even better, she had a shower and used a real toilet. 'What luxury,' she said, 'I don't know which is better, having a shower or using a flushing toilet.'

We had four old people at dinner aged from 86 to 90 years old. Our friend, another old woman, English-born, picked up from a residential home down the south-side of the city. (Where fifty old people are sharing one Port-a-loo and still have no power and no water.) Along with the elderly parents of my hostess, who are staying in this house as well. Though these old folks had never met before, they quickly begin to chat. They talked of their friends, all old, and how the earthquake had affected them, a stroke, a heart-attack and those leaving the city to residential homes in working order or to join family. It was a said conversation.

But then the talk turned to the war years. I listened fascinated as they related their survival of those years, some of them living in Britian at the time. All of them enduring great hardship. An earthquake, it seems, is not much different. The fear, the wondering when it will all stop, the physical difficulties.

We cleaned up and got ready to take the two women back to these places where they lived, places so broken and made horrible by this Earthquake we had all endured, but still their homes and where they want to be at night. I was struck by just how resilent the human spirit is.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Earthquakes. Living the Ordinary during Extraordinary Times. Car Parks, Malls and Getting On With It.

My eldest daughter, Molly, had taken her car to be repaired in the city just before the earthquake. As the city is shut now, she and her husband are down to one car. Her husband works for a structural engineering company, so these days his work starts early and goes late. So with no car, their house declared uninhabitable till further checks are made, her job and university at a stand still, she helps me. I just have to get her from her friend's house so she can.

I went to pick her up at the closest mall to where she is staying. Her friends were going there to do some jobs. Actually, most of Christchurch seemed to be heading to that mall that day. I think that might be because it is one of the few malls not damaged by the lastest quake. It was bumper to bumper traffic. Really.

In Christchurch, BE (BEFORE EARTHQUAKE) we could come in late and say, 'Sorry I'm late, the traffic was terrible." This would produced awful visions of sitting at red lights with ten or twelve cars in front of you. The sympathy of evey person in the room would be with you. AE (AFTER EARTHQUAKE--gosh you had the figured out didn't you?!) with the city center roads blocked by police and army (and yes, they are actually parking tanks at some of the barriers...INCREDIBLE SIGHT!), and many other roads full of workers trying to repair the infrastructure of the city, the rest of the roads are clogged with traffic. It doesn't seem to matter that 70,000 people are rumoured to have left the city if you are trying to get to the mall, because the rest of the people here have hit the road, headed to Hornby Mall to find them.

Or maybe they were going there for that forty percent off all clothing that Farmer's Department Store (the only nation-wide department store chain in this country) has offered to the people of Christchurch as gift. I must admit, the temptation to drop into to Farmer's was too great for me...and I needed to pick up my daughter from the mall anyway! Richard was informed of the decision to check out the sale, after all, I've been through an earthquake. Okay, the rest of the city has too, but come on, most of my clothing are in a house that I'm not allowed to enter. Richard agreed (did he really have any other choice?). Go ahead, get a Stress Dress. Isn't he clever?

But hey, it works for me. I've never been much of a career girl. Couldn't do the Power Dressing thing. Never dressed for sucess either. But these days...I can Dress For Stress.

When I finally reached the mall, in that bumper to bumper traffic, finding a parking space was impossible. There are wonderful stories of genoerosity all over this city since the earthquake. But I don't think any of them are centred around parking spaces at a malls. Irritation and anger levels looked to be at an all time high as people waited for those precious spots to park their cars. I drove around and saw the ramp heading up to the car park building. It isn't exactly high, only one story, but there are now visions in my head of places I have been, places I have parked, where cars are crushed. I almost passed on by, to go fight for a spot on the flat when I saw that little neon sign. You know the one, often on those ramps....89 spaces available. There were 89 spaces available in the parking building, while people tooted their horns at one another on the flat. I bit my lip, and drove my car, with my precious Maddee in the back seat, up that ramp.

I said to myself as I drove up, as I say to myself now...I will not be afraid. I will not live in fear. I will not expect an earthquake. I will not change who I am. I will live on. I will do the business of life. I will love my family. I will pick up my daughter. I will boil my water. I will help my neighbor (especially those in the Eastern Suburbs!)

I'm a Christian. I believe that life and death lie firmly in the hands of God. I do not need to fear that an earthquake will take my life or the life of my child (though I sometimes have that fear), for that life is God's and one day it will be taken. But when it is, it will be by the will of God and that is that.

I bought my Stress Dress. Actually, I bought two. And I think I rather deserved them. There was no earthquake, not even a little aftershock, but I thought about them the whole time I was there, and they dominated the conversation of my daughter and I. But that's okay. We did what we needed to do. We got on with living life. And we even laughed about how scary it can be to park a