Prior to moving here, we had been warned about the series of natural disasters that had occurred in Christchurch. With two major earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks, the situation seemed dire yet we couldn’t quite wrap our minds around the enormity of the devastation. The pictures and descriptions online made the circumstances feel abstract and remote at the time.
And so, after three months of settling in, we finally took the time to do some serious exploring around the cordoned off “Red Zone”. My coworker, Elisabeth, and her husband, John, both came from the UK around the same time that we did. It took awhile for all of us to adjust. Seeing the major financial district and how a lot of it is under rubble or planned for demolition left us at a sheer loss for words. Despite having heard that a lot of the buildings were damaged, finally being there in person allowed us to take in account just how badly the area had been hit and how long it will take to recover.
By far, it’s the country’s most costly disaster as well as being the world’s 3rd costliest earthquake. With city officials and engineers scrambling to rebuild or raze down entire sections of the town, Christchurch is caught in this surreal limbo with a future molded rapidly day by day. It will be extremely interesting to witness and even experience how the heart of the city will be brought back to life again.
On the upside (yes, there are definitely a happy few), folks in NZ are known for being friendly and pretty approachable. We’ve found that most are very welcoming and easy to talk to. Despite the enormity of what has happened in these communities, many of the people we’ve spoken with continue to convey a genuine and resiliently optimistic outlook. After many business and stores were forced to close, a sign of cheery hope emerged with the creation of an innovative downtown shopping area. Known as Re:START, this array of shops and eateries built out of colorful shipping containers is a true stroke of genius!
Some newfound local lingo we picked up along the way:
onions=good, choice=good, choicea$&=very good
eh= addition to the end of any rhetorical question
sweet as= excellent
As in, “Last night was all onions eh? Lost my lolly but my sweet as flatmate found me some choicea$& jandals from the boot.” Cheers!