Thursday, September 4, 2014

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

Friday, February 21, 2014

Three Years On....

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

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Chicks and Chickens

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