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."