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!