Wednesday, March 30, 2011


On the surface, you would think there would be nothing controversial about the call from New Zealander of the Year, Sir Paul Callaghan, for ex-pat student loan debtors to make a dent in the amount they owe. The logic seems pretty simple: to lighten the load on the NZ economy, we could siphon small amounts out of other country's economies through payments made by Kiwi ex-pats on their student loans. This educated diaspora collectively owe NZ $2billion for their education, with approximately 35,000 out of the 85,000 overseas-based borrowers behind on their repayments.

Many Kiwis overseas want to help and not everyone can attend a fundraising concert, rugby match or celebrity auction. Donating to the Red Cross or the Govt quake fund may seem impersonal or just not enough, so surely this is a win-win solution? Not according to two overseas-based graduates, who say that asking New Zealand's "poorest and most indebted demographic for a hand out is not appropriate". I wonder whether they have missed the point (that it's voluntary), and also forgotten that while current students may have restricted incomes, many of the graduates now working overseas certainly do not.

Sure the letter is aiming to trip the guilt glands and tug the heart-strings but if these student loan debts are not attended to, it becomes yet another financial barrier to returning home. If home is where the heart is, it is also where the need is. As Christchurch falls from the headlines, our need for support - emotional and financial - will not diminish any time soon. This is the most expensive disaster we've had to deal with as a nation, and Kiwis far and wide can play their part as our whole country deals with the enormous rebuilding project for the next few years. You can read Sir Paul's open letter at the HEKE website here... the dude's a world-leading specialist in nanotechnology and magnetic resonance, he's got an awesome brain and he's come up with a tangible and sensible suggestion that has the potential to benefit not only Cantabrians but New Zealanders both here and overseas.

And now for something completely different, a little light relief in the form of a reworked version of Tim Finn's "Fraction too much friction", a classic Kiwi song from 1983. This one has a distinctly Chch flavour...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Future tense

Today saw the announcement of the CERA - Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority - the new agency that will lead us through the sure-to-be turbulent process of demolishing & rebuilding Christchurch. There is a place called Rolleston just outside of C-city that for years has been proclaiming itself as "the town of the future"... but what will future Christchurch look like?
^^ I snapped this while walking back from the polytech campus the other day...

People used to have all sorts of grand ambitions for cities of the "future" but as yet none of us have a flying car and the domestic robot of the Jetsons is still a long way off. We can (and should) dream big for our city but it's a safe bet those dreams won't include high-rise buildings. Before the February quake there were already discussion forums and ideas sites on what to do with Christchurch... some sites, like Gardensity, existed even before the first quake on September 4th while others, like Ideas for Christchurch, have been set up in response to that event.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hello Kitteh

Yesterday was an interesting day... finally allowed onto the CPIT campus for a mandatory safety briefing which included a video tour of some campus buildings with explanations on how they behaved during the earthquake. Fascinating stuff... I now have a deeper appreciation of the old ex-Ministry of Works & other industrial buildings that make up a fair amount of the polytech. Solid as, bro!

We were allowed into one of the 3 buildings that make up our part of the campus. Unfortunately the NZBS admin block & TV block are on the other side of the street and we haven't been allowed in those two buildings yet.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Danger Will Robinson!

Playing the danger card two weeks ago was a calculated move - one that might just pay off. It's either that or my new 'Zen & the art of dealing with insurance company' mindset, but who cares, we're finally seeing some movement on the home front and this time it's not just the blue bricks.

What a difference a day makes... yesterday it felt like I had hit a brick wall and today we seem to be making progress. I actually received a phone call from my insurance company in response to my email of two weeks ago, in which I expressed concerns about the danger our house posed to our neighbours' safety. The only thing stopping the entire brick wall from coming down is a very thin sheet of metal which is really only there to keep the rain out.
^^ Our builder AJ capping the brick wall, September 2010

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Zen & the art of water boiling

The other night my husband watched me pour boiling water from the jug into a large pot (as I do many times a day) and asked me whether it wouldn't be simpler just to boil the water in the pot.
"No" I replied, "because then I'd have to pay attention".

I've settled into a certain routine about water preparation and it has its own kind of weird logic. I mean, who has time to wait and watch while a large pot of water boils? For those of us in Shakeytown lucky enough to have running water in our houses, there is a 'boil water' notice in effect. With all the pipe breakages and system issues, the quality of our city's water supply cannot currently be guaranteed so all water for consumption must be boiled first.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Feeding the addiction

I'm a coffee snob, I freely admit it... I'm a Coffee Supreme-trained barista and have also worked with Cafe L'Affare, Switch & C4 beans, and dammit I have high standards and a full-on caffiene addiction. Hubby and I feed our habit via our own commercial-grade espresso machine, a 2-group La San Marco with dark red trim. Perhaps the only upside of this whole house-destroying earthquake is that we'll have the opportunity to plumb that puppy into our new kitchen.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Can we fix it?

sure.... eventually...
On my way home today I found myself travelling down the back roads behind AMI stadium and what I saw made me stop and snap... as you do when every single neighbourhood around you has changed. Every time you drive somewhere around Shakeytown, you notice the destruction, the broken roads and buildings... nothing is the same as it used to be.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Show us your crack

Today's post is brought to you by the letter M and the number 3, and has nothing to do with windscreens.

M is for Memorial Day, a hastily arranged public holiday for the province of Canterbury complete with 2hour memorial service in Hagley Park... lined with grieving families, random dignitaries and local residents.No, I didn't go... I couldn't cope with the thought of all those people, all that traffic and the sheer earnestness of it all. I wanted to be able to dip in and out, to wander off and do something else when the prayers and the calls to God/Allah/Budda etc were going on... and boy am I glad I was able to walk away from Dame Malvina Major murdering "You'll never walk alone".

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jumping through hoops

Sometimes there is absolutely no joy in being right...
But anyways, moving right along (just like our RWC games)... yesterday I actually achieved something. Just under a month ago (it seems sooo much longer!) Mr Earthquake Minister, Gerry Brownlee, announced a rental assistance package for those displaced by the Canterbury earthquake which would kick in after their insurance cover ran out. We've been only too aware of the impending end to our insurance-paid rent and had already secured a cheaper rental property to move into before this package was announced, and before Feb 22 shook everything up.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Heads you win, tails I lose

A friend came to visit me today and, as often happens, the talk turned to whether Shakeytown would be hosting any Rugby World Cup matches this year. Disclaimer: I have a vested interest in the Chch RWC matches as I was supposed to working at the stadium, in the stands, for each of the games. As well as working at the event, my ideas for further post-graduate studies had been based around the media coverage of the RWC matches and the sports tourists' experiences in Chch post-quake. I'd already been collecting newspapers and documenting the state of the city as it worked to recover from the September quake...
^^ the RWC countdown timer in Cathedral Square, Dec 9th, 2010.

Monday, March 14, 2011

from Wellington, with love

So we ran away to Wellington for a couple of nights, just to escape the insanity of Shakeytown. Not that we could truly leave it all behind for the Christchurch quake was the topic of conversation all over the city during our visit... well, until that Saturday night when the massive earthquake and tidal wave hit northern Japan. My heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods over there. Even before the Japan quake, we have been constantly reminding ourselves that we've been lucky. The phrase that keeps popping into our heads is "We don't know how lucky we are"...

We're also lucky in that we're surrounded by a generous well-meaning country, with local communities as well as ex-pats around the globe getting involved with fundraising events and organising vital supplies. There have been charity sports matches between NZ & Aus Golden Oldies rugby teams, a Legends of League game and a star-studded cricket match at the Basin Reserve.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dance Yourself Clean

Although this isn't a music blog, you may have noticed the occasional song title creeping into my posts... I've spent a large amount of my professional life selecting and programming popular music, I've even managed to incorporate it into my studies on mediasport - it forms a soundtrack to my life, as it does for many people. For whatever reason, sometimes certain songs will attach themselves to moments in our lives, forever reminding us of a particular time and place.

Such a thing happened to me today... a pairing of music and moment that has now etched itself into my memory. It was caused by another small step towards normality - the resumption of production by a local marketing firm that employs my vocal chords. Situated on the edge of the CBD on Fitzgerald Ave, they had only recently regained power, water and access to the building.

The drive to get there however, was anything but normal.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The times, they are a-changing

Living in the disaster zone previously known as Christchurch is like continuously doing the time warp and not because we're often doing a jump to the left (or right, or both). Time moves in mysterious ways round here... some things seem to take forever while other changes happen quicker than you can blink. And so it was with the Operation Suburb team: one day we were feeding 5-600 people for dinner and the next, it was 30. Teams were being sent home, stood down, relieved of their duties. The rescue operation in the city has already changed to 'recovery' phase and the welfare centres are closing as people find their own places to stay.

It is now over six months since the September quake that cost us our home and we are among the thousands of local residents still waiting for a resolution. These days I find myself getting angry and frustrated whenever I see a house or building being demolished thanks to damage sustained in the latest seismic outburst, because ours is still stubbornly standing with no firm demolition date in sight.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Tears for fears

Last night, for the first time since that day, I wept. Nine days after the quake that destroyed our city and left more than 200 people dead, I finally let the tears spill out. I can't tell you what triggered it... maybe it was just the unrelenting build up of pressure that comes from living in a disaster zone or the enormity of the fact that my immediate future is now so uncertain.

Two weeks ago I could have told you in great detail about my plans for the next few years - further study, more hours working with students & at major events, and the rebuilding of our home. Now I find myself questioning everything, as all the plans I had in place have been compromised to some extent. It's not that these things will be impossible to achieve, it's just that the ramifications of this seismic event are so huge and so wide that normal life will be anything but normal in Chch for a long time yet.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Band together, the backyard edition

It's been a quiet day both personally and seismically... I took a break today from packing and there's been no aftershock since 7.22am (touch wood, hopefully I haven't jinxed it!). Things have been happening behind the scenes though :)

News of The Eastern's backyard concert tour has been spreading - today they were in the NZHerald and in Vicki Anderson's column for The Press.

Tomorrow I hope to be able to tell you about something really rather special that was organised today after hubby's brilliant idea this morning.

One fun linky today: you gotta love the Sumner Style

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Harbour SouNZ in C-City

Community is a wonderful thing and in times like these we need to be able to rely on those around us for comfort, support and also for distraction. Two years ago I took a summer course at UC on the history & development of NZ popular music (best uni paper ever!) for which my final submission was a radio documentary on a group of Lyttelton musicians. The documentary first played on National Radio in November 2009 and was a finalist in the 2010 NZ Radio Awards for Best Music Programme (you can listen to the full documentary here).

Now I'm not actually a Lyttelton resident but over the last 3-4 years I've spent a lot of time there thanks to my involvement with The Loons. It's a town I feel at home in and I have many friends who live and/or work there. At the time the documentary was recorded, the town was dealing with the sudden death of a young local woman, who I'd worked with at The Loons. The sense of community support and love that was captured at that time is just as applicable now in these times of widespread hardship... as you can see by this video of the street party they held on the weekend (which was on the 'grassy' due to the wholesale destruction of London St).

This afternoon an edited version of my documentary played on Jim Mora's afternoon show on National Radio, introduced by Spectrum's producer Jack Perkins. His statement about me living in Lyttelton is a popular misconception even among portside residents, because I've spent so many evenings there working, and plenty of afternoons in the bars and coffee shops. Here, with the lead-in from Jim and Jack, is the edited version of Harbour SouNZ that played today, followed by the interview they did with me while I was at St Albans Park.

What I didn't get a chance to mention on-air was that this is just the start of the neighbourhood concerts planned by The Eastern and friends. If you're in Chch and on facebook, check out The Eastern to see where they'll be playing next because they may be coming to a park, backyard or bar near you. They're also donating all profits from their music sales for the next 6 months to earthquake relief. It's an amazing two-for-one deal really - you get to listen to their awesome music and donate to earthquake relief at the same time! Just go to iTunes or Amplifier and get your fix of The Eastern while donating to a good cause.

As for the C-city sense of humour... here's the best example of it I've seen yet - an auction on TradeMe for a newly arrived, unwanted boulder.