One of the things that I thought ghastly would be losing my memories, if I got something like alzheimer's when I was older.
I think of memories as a core benefit of life. Reliving funny events or even just tiny events that made up, my life. I love them and enjoy them in my head.
In Christchurch we have seen endless photographs and YouTube videos of the ever changing inner city landscape. I am a city person, I am not a mall person. Every day I was in the central city. Karl works there, we went there in the weekends to eat or shop or walk about.
I have been upset at the destruction of so many heritage buildings and concerned about what would rise in its place. But I did keep telling myself they were just buildings. I started taking notice of buildings that would be repaired and thinking, it will be okay we will still have some old ones remaining.
But it was only last week as I drove past a part of the cordon again, that I realised quite what had happened.
This part of the cordon used to be a row of shops, half in collapse. Wood and bricks everywhere. Little bits of signage or a partial glimpse of a small section of still intact interior - a reminder of what used to be here. Now it is all gone. It is an empty piece of concrete stretching an entire two blocks.
I saw a clip on YouTube of a street I had been down many times but now one side is blank. Nothing remains. The other side is so familiar and though I try to dredge up what used to be opposite I can't.
I hadn't realised I had stored my memories in those facades. Now nothing is left, not a sign, not a piece of metal filigree, not a lump of stone or brick.
The memories are going too. There is nothing left to tease the thread to pull them back.
They are only stories from the past but people I have met starred in them and I had thought they were always safe inside my head.
Last week it was pleasant, having not felt an aftershock for seven days. The kids were sitting on the couch together and then Tristan said, "I hope we get more aftershocks because I like doing the turtle." It seemed an odd thing for him to say - the boy who took until November last year to be able to go to bed without having be reassured it was safe. We even did fake aftershocks, by rocking his bed, to show him he would be fine.
Lucy joined in, almost slightly guiltily, saying she hoped there would be too. This was from someone who was in the city centre in February and whose behaviour becomes terrible if she sees footage from that day.
They definitely get an adrenaline hit every time a decent shake wobbles us.
After the big ones, such as the ones in June, rules get relaxed, we usually have a random tea of something easy to cook (if we have power), and very tasty. If the water is off, they get to wee in the garden - which Tristan thinks is fantastic. They get to sleep in our room, if they are scared. We have treats and spend time with our neighbour.
They are kids from the southwest, so don't fear liquefaction and for Tristan, quakes have gone on for a quarter of his life.
The idea of the quakes stopping, for them, seems now as unbelievable as if feels for us that they started and are still going.
Rugby fever has hit the country and we in Christchurch have only managed a slight cough. We were watching the opening celebrations for the Rugby World Cup in Auckland and the mayor, Len Brown asked the crowd to cheer for Christchurch and they all did, very enthusiastically and I shed a tear.
It hit my heart, just how big this situation is. This is a party our city was to be part of. I care little these days for rugby, but the city would have been full of life. We were to have English and Argentinian supporters here for the first game. The atmosphere would have been great.
Instead I watch much of our city centre slowly being pulled down. Every time I drive past it, I see people standing at the fences looking in.
I think the rest of the country understands this was a big tragedy but I am not sure, in Christchurch, all of us quite get the scale yet. We are too busy dealing with the practicalities of it in our daily lives to sit back and take the big picture in. But despite the tragic big picture, all over, the city lives and works on - we are in the middle of an Arts Festival with a wonderful series of events. This is not a dead city at all.
When I hear support and sympathy from outside, the reality of just how big a recovery we have to make, starts to dawn. The officials are talking of a fifteen year strategy to rebuild the city. I love the new central city plan but I will be fifty three years old before it is complete. Lucy will be twenty one. If we stay here long term, her complete childhood will be in a city in transition and rebuild. I have to pause, - because I never added up the years before and it makes me very sad.
Yes, we are still going on about the quakes here more than the rugby, because it dominates our world. At least by talking about it, we keep moving on and it is easier to bear together.
While there are the big issues of insurance, reinsurance, red zone residents packages and land as yet waiting for a decision on zoning these are the little things that surprise me in their sadness and their happiness:
Things that make me sad:
- Watching the light turn green at what used to be a busy inner city intersection, but only my car goes through the intersection and the traffic waiting on the red are two huge trucks for carrying demolition material.
- The filter jug sitting on the bench. One of the things I have always loved about Christchurch was our beautiful water but now it tastes of chlorine and we use the filter jug to make it drinkable.
- Hearing on the news that of those hit by Hurricane Irene in the States only 17% have federal flood insurance. Living through Christchurch 2011 has made me feel much more for people in the aftermath of natural disasters. They linger in my heart instead of being replaced with the next headline. I now realise just how long and tragic recovery is.
Things that make me happy:
- Joining in the mass hug for Christchurch on Sunday September 4th - we talked freely with strangers and that lovely community spirit we felt after Sept 4th & Feb 22nd was right there again but without a shake.
- Laughing with a stranger in the supermarket at tall glass bottles of coffee flavouring on a top shelf. Had they learnt nothing in the previous twelve months?
- Slightly odd but thinking someone I haven't seen since just before Feb 22, was back in town. Are they really back? I am still not sure but as I try to find out - it makes me surprisingly happy to think they maybe.
- Seeing all the hearts, crafty people made for Christchurch, on display in the Museum. It is lovely being able to visit the Museum again. It is almost exactly as it was other times I have visited and that was so relaxing. Something that has remained the same in twelve months. The hearts almost made me cry. Someone had cared enough, from seeing our city on the news, that they had made a heart and bothered to send it over -it was quite overwhelming and there wasn't just one, there were loads. Some had wee messages cards like, "thinking of you and praying for you all from Val, Oxfordshire" and the one from Pat in New Orleans. They may seem frivolous and not practical helping, but our spirits need help too. Since I saw them on Sunday, I keep thinking of them and that people cared when we were broken and it makes my spirit glad.
A week on from the start of the quakes - this was what I was thinking last year. It feels so long ago now and so innocent of just what we had ahead of us in February.
It is hard to believe we are almost a year from September 4th 2010 when our region started its sporadic shaking.
On the day the headline in the paper was about the increased cost to EQC we had our house assessment. We had heard so many stories of bad EQC assessments, so were quite nervous about what would happen. It was like our house was sitting an exam and we waited, hearing snippets of comments and answering questions. Our house will be repaired and the EQC guys were excellent. But we are also part of the increased amount EQC need to pay. We have gone from damage of around $1600 to damage over $10,000 from the February quake. We now join another queue for Fletchers to fix it back to how it was a year ago. It may be a year but we haven't got very far to being back where we were pre September 2010.
It is so very strange, I still find it hard to face what I lived through. I can't believe everything that has happened and how afraid I have felt in my own bed at times. I now understand just what aftershocks mean. I am disappointed that even as the aftershocks get smaller, my reaction to them as not grown smaller with them. We had two fours on Wednesday but they made me feel uneasy for a few minutes. Fours never used to worry me when we were having them all the time. I think as we get further and further out from the big shakes, the emotions come more to the surface. I haven't been dealing with those while busy dealing with getting on with normal life. Then last night we were woken at 3.30am by a 4.9. Long and rolling and we could hear a few things fall down. The kids didn't come running in like they used to in the early days, they are used to this new world we live in. They said on the news this morning we'd had twenty-five shakes in the last week but I felt three.
Christchurch is such an unusual place so much of the city is going as it always was, making it ridiculous for any suggestion the city should be completely abandoned. Other parts just aren't. Anyway insurance doesn't let you get out that easily and we have jobs and much of the city is busy like any other in New Zealand. Driving around I see restaurants or shops from the central city relocated and open, it is like visiting family and finding old friends are there already.
One good thing to come through this whole experience has been the community spirit. It is okay to help strangers and to ask strangers for help. But it is also sad to see the cracks start to appear and the media try to push us all apart. East verses West. We have enough issues without taking it out on each other. I really hope we can all keep caring for each other - not passing judgement on each other's experiences and thinking before we speak whether what we say will put others, already under stress, feel worse.
It is hard to hold everyone's comments lightly. We are all tired and even it we don't admit it, emotionally affected, by the last twelve months. It is easy to say one thing now and feel different later. Things are constantly changing here.
I am glad for the lights they are putting up in the central city to mark the anniversary. It is so sad to look in at a desolate, dark central city when it should be alive and bright on a Friday or Saturday night. The light will stop that stomach clenching sadness.
On Sunday we will go and join in the hug Christchurch - the place definitely needs a hug but when you hug someone, it is in support and you do it because you know together you can pull through anything.