‘In recovery from chaos comes creativity’
Our time in Christchurch really affected me, not necessarily in a bad way but it moved me in a way I never thought it would. I knew the earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 were bad, but I suppose in my ignorance and as the media coverage subsided I assumed that as a developed country ‘everything would be OK’. The second earthquake in 2011 basically reduced the city centre to a flat mass of rubble and dust killing 185 people, and it was completely cordoned off for at least a year whilst building integrity was checked for safety. The worst hit of the city centre wasn’t reopened again until 2013.
Arriving two days ago on the 12th I don’t think we knew what to expect really, the first thing that I noticed was the amount of cranes and flat empty areas of land. As we ventured further into the city centre the scale of the effects of this disaster really hit home, five years later and streets are still closed, buildings are being held up by shipping containers and the majority of the city is still being rebuilt not to be completed to another 20 years. You could turn 360 degrees and there were buildings being constructed all around you.
The beloved cathedral, once a tourist attraction is now a tourist attraction for another reason- because the spire and half the cathedral completely collapsed. It is still there in ruins due to disputes of whether it should be demolished or restored. Bus tours (we went on on of these) traverse the city pointing out the buildings that survived (not many) and proudly highlighting new earthquake proof buildings as the tour continued. One of he most touching things I saw was a memorial for the 185 people killed, a white unique chair for each, some donated by loved ones, maybe the loved ones favourite chair. This unique memorial stood in the city centre, next to the CTV building where the majority of the deaths occurred.
In Quake City, a new museum, which opened to relay the stories of survivors and show what happened is a touching display of how this really affected the people of Christchurch – some who now still do not have proper homes.
The thing that struck me the most though through all the disaster and sadness is the resilience and strength that the people of Christchurch have shown through all of this. Their city is still being rebuilt but they have done everything they can to carry on with their lives using some amazing and quite genius ideas to get their lives back to normal. A shopping mall made completely out of shipping containers sits in the middle of Christchurch and it is so busy, so artistic and full of cool shops and pop up restaurants. Concrete pipes have been used as planters and a children’s play area has been made by painting a replica of the game ‘Twister’ on the ground with a ruler as the spinner.
Another thing that struck me was the amount of artwork and little gardens and sculptures set up in areas around the city to brighten areas up and take away from the empty shops (you wouldn’t know they were there if you didn’t look closely). A group set up called ‘Gap Fillers’ dedicate their time to filling the urban spaces under construction with innovative and quirky things – such as a dance floor or a cycle cinema powered by you pedalling your bike.
I really loved Christchurch for all the energy and positivity I mentioned above and I just didn’t feel like a jokey blog fit the bill on this one for obvious reasons- so people of Christchurch keep doing what you are doing because you and your city are amazing!
Another part of our time in Christchurch involved meeting a friend in Rangiora (about 20 minutes outside of Christchurch) for coffee. A month after me and Chris moved to New Zealand the daughter of my mums friend moved out stay with family in New Zealand. As the mothers work together they are always comparing stories about our adventures and telling me and Victoria what each other have been up to. So yesterday we finally met – so Victoria it was really nice to finally meet you 🙂
We are really excited about our next stop – Whale Watching in Kaikoura (fingers crossed).