Monday, February 28, 2011

Flight of the Cantabs

History is littered with great migratory moments... the Irish potato famine, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and now Christchurch after Feb22's great shake. There's no squabbling over the naming of this one - while the September quake became known as the Canterbury quake, there is no doubt that this one is the Christchurch quake. It may have been centred under Lyttelton Harbour but it is the Garden City that has born the brunt of the devastation.

Growing fears over the state of some hillsides have seen streets in Sumner and Redcliffs evacuated. Officials are worried about boulders crashing down onto houses below and some hillside areas with million-dollar mansions are thought to be too unstable for people to stay there safely.

People are not only leaving their homes and suburbs, they're leaving the city in droves.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Mucking in

I was listening to National Radio the other day when someone suggested to host, Jim Mora, that what Christchurch needed was a few series of "Mucking In". The beautiful thing is... it's already happening - self-generated and self-propelled.

Chch residents are mucking in already, helping out their neighbours, joining the UC volunteer student army (facebook link), or just stopping by wherever they figure they're needed. As I type this I am currently tired and sore but also feeling more hopeful about the fate & future of this city... and just a little virtuous after some good old-fashioned volunteer labour.

Friday, February 25, 2011

One step forward, two steps back

On Monday I phoned the insurance company, to check on the status of our claim. They had the report from Arrow, our claim was being reviewed and someone would be in touch within 1-2 days. Suddenly we were really close to having our claim settled and getting the documentation we needed for the Government's rent subsidy and the Red Cross relocation grant.

On Tuesday the earth shook, buildings crumpled and lives were lost.

On Wednesday we watched queues grow like snakes at water tankers, petrol stations and supermarkets.

On Thursday we retrieved belongings left behind at the hospital and answered a few worried texts.

On Friday I phoned the insurance company, to check on the status of our claim. The line was engaged.
On Friday I phoned Studylink, to try and alter my expected weekly income to zero. The line was overloaded.
On Friday I took a look at the names and photos of those listed as dead/presumed dead. So far there are two names and faces I know - both worked in the CTV building but for different companies, on different floors. These two are just the start of what could be a very long list of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and maybe even loved ones who perished that day. Like many in Christchurch, in New Zealand, and around the world, I will just have to wait for the slow release of names, to find out who else will never brighten my life again.

Christchurch may be New Zealand's second largest city (shut up Wellingtonians) but it's still a small town. If there are six degrees of separation worldwide, in C-city it's just two. Everyone will know someone who died on Tuesday, that's the way it goes in a city of 400,000 people. Thanks to recently unreliable networks, lack of power, loss of phones, temporary relocations etc, the scale and the proximity of this disaster may not become clear to many of us until the names of the dead are made available to the general public.

Kia kaha Christchurch

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A new norm emerges

Tonight I did something normal - I cooked for my family. Although normal isn't quite the same as it used to be.
My 'normal' cooking routine tonight included only using water from a 20litre container (filled with deliciously clean Rangiora water) and swearing loudly at the earth as a couple of aftershocks rumbled through.
6:51pm, 4.0, 10k deep
6:56pm, 3.5, 5k deep
We have another small but important return to some kind of normality in that we are able to (sparingly) use our own toilets. No more trips down the road to use the portaloo that's right next to the footpath... it's not a place you want to be during an aftershock. Although we may have to abandon that 'luxury' when we move into our new rental place, as I'm not sure that the water supply has resumed over in that part of town just yet.

Like many Cantabrians, I no longer trust the ground beneath my feet. I'm in 'fight or flight' mode... it's a constant battle between the part of me that wants to stay and the part that wants to just run like hell. This is my city, it's where I grew up. My family's here, my work, my studies, my life - it's all here. I own a home here in this rumbling, shaking town (not that I can live in it) and until Tuesday I was anxious to get started on the rebuilding process. Now I'm not in any kind of hurry, in fact I'm not even sure I want to start planning a new home on such unstable ground as this.

There are people deserting the city in droves... flights from C-city are booked out and roads north & south are filled with people fleeing the constant shaking and the lack of basic services.
I will be staying... for now. I have to make my second shift in 6 months and I have two more honours papers this semester at UC... and providing there aren't any more major disruptions to lectures, that should be done by June. Then I will re-evaluate the situation because if this kind of disaster can strike almost 6 months after the initial quake, cause this kind of devastation and set the recovery effort back further than anyone could've imagined... wth might happen in the next 6 months? If this ground doesn't settle down sometime soon then I'm going to be looking elsewhere, probably overseas...

I love this city, my blood runs red & black and my eyepatch was applied at birth* but I'm having serious doubts about it being a safe and productive place to be. My family's livelihood depends on the events industry and that has been placed in jeopardy by the damage to venues, infrastructure and accommodation. We'll just have to stick it out for a while yet... the rocky ride has only just begun.

*overseas readers may have never heard of the term "one-eyed Cantabrian"... we're notoriously parochial down here and our rugby team is usually victorious. Except when we aren't... but we'll only go on about the winning ;)

Simple things

In times of stress and chaos, it can be the little things that make a difference.
Since Tuesday's major aftershock, we've been without basic services... you know, those things we all take for granted - power, running water, working sewerage systems. Our suburb seems to be faring better than others, we got power back late Tuesday night, and water started running from our tap again yesterday afternoon. We can't use it without boiling it for ages first, because the water supply is likely to be contaminated.

We're doing ok... my sister-in-law lives in Rangiora, where their water supplies and sewerage are still working, and she brought us in 3 large containers filled with fresh water. We'd drained our hot water cylinder to fill up our own containers, and yesterday made an aborted attempt to get water from a tanker... after looking at the massive queue we decided to go home again. People were waiting for about 4 hours to get to the front of the line so I'm glad we didn't stay.

There are lots of things we can't do without basic services... but you just make do. This morning, hubby and I went for a little walk up the road to an unfenced building site that yesterday I'd noticed had a portaloo... Hallelujah... it wasn't locked and some wonderful person had even stocked it with proper toilet paper. Oh bless you, whoever you are.

some writeups & images worth linking to...
Vicki Anderson, local music reviewer
my other hangout, our little port town...
deadly boulders plummet down hillside
Chch photos, before & after
50+ pics
taken seconds after... 

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rock & Roll, Pt 2

what a day.
We now have a new horror date here in Shakeytown, when the city rocked and rolled with yet another massive quake. The quake of Feb 22 at 6.3 was not as large as September's 7.1, but it was closer and shallower and hit at lunchtime when the city was full of people. Seismologists say the G-forces created by the quake yesterday were as high as 2Gs... that's a lot of ground acceleration, and certainly no surprise to those of us who were thrown around by it.

I was in the hospital cafe, waiting for my hubby to finish his MRI scan on the first floor, when it hit. The lights went out & everything was falling and crashing around me. We were being thrown around, shaken violently from side to side, with screams echoing around the building as the quake kept going and kept getting bigger and more violent. I spent an unpleasant 45 minutes before I found where my man had been evacuated to... he'd been thrown around the MRI scanner but thanks to the 'chill pill' to combat claustrophobia, he was quite relaxed the whole way through. Yay for good drugs eh? ;)

There wasn't a lot of other good news... as the mass exodus from the CBD grew, traffic was gridlocked and it took us over an hour to get to our temporary home (it would normally take 10mins). We drove past scenes of devastation & heartbreak... iconic buildings, neighbourhood shops, family homes... gone... lost for good.

our current neighbourhood has been badly damaged... liquifaction, sewer damage, cracks in buildings and the land... people's homes ruined, unsafe... family members missing or unaccounted for, residents who were known to be in buildings that now lay in ruins. Strange times indeed.. refugees gathered & consoled each other, shared stories, hopes and fears.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Give that man a hug

I never thought I'd say this but right now I want to hug Gerry Brownlee.
The much-anticipated announcement about government assistance for us earthquake refugees has been the best news I've had in quite a while...

The basics are this: those of us who have already exhausted our insurance policy entitlements for rental assistance can get help from the govt, of set (non means-tested) weekly amounts depending on the number of people in the household. There will also be assistance available for those looking for temporary accommodation.

A big thumbs up for this proposal... we were lucky in that we managed to find a place to rent that was in our neighbourhood and in our budget range. However, I can sense a reluctance in the marketplace when dealing people like us, who can say with certainty that we won't be there forever but cannot say if that will be closer to 1 or 4 years. We're nomads, constantly focused elsewhere and not really enjoying this turn of events in our lives. At least with this help from the government, we may just be able to claw our way back up into the black sometime in the near future.

From someone who was truly this >< close to parking a couple of caravans onsite and shivering through a southern winter, the fact that I have a nearby house and some help with the rent will make all the difference in the world to my mental & physical health over the coming months.

So thank you Gerry and John and all the rest of you in Wellyburg. I may not have voted for you and I seriously question the scope of the powers you have under the new Canterbury earthquake response legislation, but I sincerely appreciate this financial assistance. This is not a normal insurance event - it has gone beyond the scope of what responsible people are able to protect themselves against with standard-issue insurance policies.

The September earthquake kinda ruined 2010 for a lot of us round these parts... this rental payment will go some way to ensuring it doesn't also ruin 2011 and beyond.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Nope... still nothing from the insurance company... just a timely reminder that life carries on.
My 'baby' turns 18 today so to commemorate the occasion, and the fact that she'll never live in her childhood home ever again, I got a little crafty...

I spent a very happy hour or so in at Beadz Unlimited in the Arts Centre, staring at rows and rows of jars full of beads, trying to find the colours that evoked our sad old house...

There are 10 blue beads, for the number of years we spent there, and 18 beads in total surrounding the broken house charm. The beads are strung on purple and black ribbon - our driveway fence is/was Cadbury Purple, and purple is darling daughter's (and my) favourite colour.
I did quite like the silver and gold charm at the bead shop but given the price tag (& the amount of money we shelled out today for bond & rent round 2), my commemorative necklace will have to wait a while.

The charm really is gorgeous... a fitting way to note the passing of time and home, and the start of a new part of life.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Rent Rant

I know people mean well... but sometimes I wonder whether I'm sharing the same planet as all these 'well-meaning' people who have brilliant ideas about temporary accommodation.

While searching for rental properties recently, I came across a webpage that had been set up to collate offers of assistance, discounts & accommodation for earthquake victims. Most of the housing offers were from people who had 'a spare room available'. And just last week, in The Press Property section, the lead article was all about housing options for the recently displaced. The number one idea for temporary accommodation? Empty-nesters with spare rooms who could 'extend the hand of friendship' and 'put someone up' for a while.

Now, I can't speak for others but I know for a fact that after spending the last 20-odd years as an independent adult, bringing up my own children under my roof, with my rules... I've picked up a few quirks (and a cat).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The story so far

I wasn't ready to be a refugee in my own city. Staying in a hotel room with 2 teenagers is not my idea of fun... it's kinda like all the downsides of being on holiday without actually leaving town! But a hotel room is where we found ourselves exactly one week after the September 4th earthquake, after a structural engineer deemed our house unsafe to live in.

Like a lot of Chch residents, we spent the first couple of days thinking how lucky we were to have survived such a major shake with no injuries and only minor damage. Or so we thought...

As the week - and the aftershocks! - went on, we became increasingly concerned about the state of our house and whether it was going to stay standing.

Planting trees

When inspiration strikes, run with it. This blog reminds me of a quote I've had in my head for a long time...
    The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
Sure, the best time to start this blog could have been anywhere up to 5 months ago, when it happened. The second best time is now.

What it is will become abundantly clear soon enough... I will attempt to piece together a very quick action highlights package in order not to unduly bore those of you who are also living in the seismic hotspot currently known as Shakeytown.

But not tonight Josephine, it's late already. Inspiration struck at precisely 11.15pm.
Tomorrow is an important day - we are getting a full damage assessment & cost estimate done by our insurance company's "rebuilding partner". Soon we will know for certain if our house will be demolished so we can finally start planning and getting on with life.

We've been waiting very impatiently for this day and, all through this process, the thing that keeps scaring me the most is this: our house and family are at the front of the bow wave. It's been five months and five days since the earthquake and it's taking a long time for anything to actually happen. I don't think any of us ever thought things would take this long or be quite so complicated. So, as we break a path through the red-tape jungle, allow me to share - our journey, assorted links, hints & tips, and other random thoughts. I mean, God/dess knows I need another writing outlet like I need a hole in the head... but then again, I hadn't exactly planned on building a house this year either.

I can do this. Christchurch, we can do this.