So it turns out being in the middle of large natural disaster changes you.
In the last week, we've had some non Cantabrians stay with us and Lucy and I stayed outside the region with people who hadn't been through two major quakes.
It showed me just how much I have changed.
In Christchurch I am so aware of any shakes and rattles - teeny aftershocks are heard by my well tuned ears that pass by non Cantabrians unnoticed. Larger aftershocks are just shakes to non Cantabrians. There is no fear it might get bigger. My body reacts without me telling it anything. What is happening in this shake? Is it easing? Is it increasing? I don't seem to have much control over the reaction. Outwardly I may not move. but inwardly a little dialogue starts up. I am ready for whatever comes next.
In Christchurch, get together with anyone, even strangers and the talk is dominated with quake related stories. It is something we all have in common and at least it is more interesting than the weather to talk about. Outside Christchurch, if you are the lone Cantabrian, you don't talk about earthquakes at all, there is just no need.
Twice I also found myself sitting near a stranger. I felt I really needed to talk to them find out their name and where they were from. I wondered why - I don't normally talk to strangers. On the flight home beside me was a stranger. She started talking - "are you going home? How is your house?" Her home was also Christchurch. We chatted and shared enough information that should anything happen we could support each other. In Christchurch it seems it is still important to know those around you. You may need to help each other. I am sure this will wear off but it is actually nice living in a community that is acting like a community and looking out for each other - whether a stranger or not.
I enjoyed looking up at building facades and just admiring them, now knowing things can disappear so fast. I have also noticed I am finally thinking less about the future, enjoying today - this moment is enough. I have seen how everything can change in a few seconds. On Saturday night I was watching people dancing and enjoying themselves I didn't think what would happen next. I just enjoyed the moment and felt happy that others were happy and having fun. What happened after the dancing stopped didn't matter. I seem to have a new appreciation for other people's enjoyment. I don't even have to be happy but I can still enjoy others having a good time. It is hard to explain but I guess it is that community feeling kicking in, it is less about me now and more about everyone and how we can all get through life together. I am sure these feelings will change over time but it is nice to notice them now.
Driving on the edges of the shut off red zone, I saw the Hotel Grand Chancellor from another angle and realised just how much the building is not standing up straight. It is scary, that a building that big can lean like that but also impressive that it can and not fall down. It is also odd how once buildings are completely demolished and the land cleared, it is like they never existed. An empty space means nothing to those outside the city but to those familiar with what used to be, it is going to take some adjusting. It has not all gone either. The more we see, the more we notice what has survived instead of what is gone. It is the same with me, I am starting to notice the new person that has come through this.
5 Favourite Sights Seen
- 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
- 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
- 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
- 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
- 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.