Friday, October 29, 2010

The Good Samaritan

Did you read the story about the thirteen year old boy Daniel?
He was waiting at a bus stop in Sydney.
The bus driver came with his bus but it was full. He had been told not to take anymore passengers. He saw Daniel by himself and thought he would be all right. He drove on.
A lady driving a car passed Daniel and saw him with a scruffy looking man. The combination of a tidy teenager and a scruffy looking man didn't fit. She felt uneasy but she drove on.
Another lady was driving passed with her husband. She saw Daniel and the scruffy man with evil eyes and pulled over up the road a bit. She watched them in her rear view mirror. She watched for Daniel to wave to let her know he needed help. He didn't, so she drove on.
You know this story, it is like the one Jesus told and we know who comes next.
It is the Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan comes, cares about a stranger and takes the risk to stop. But this is not a story Jesus told. This is reality at a Sydney bus stop. There was no Good Samaritan who came along after the others.
Daniel has not been seen since.
I am sure everyone in this story and all his family wish to God the Good Samaritan had come along. So do I. Where were they when Daniel needed them?
It makes the Good Samaritan story's point pretty scary.
What scares me most is would I have stopped?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Earthquake and business

I know, it has been over a month already - get over the earthquake!
We are in nothing like the condition of Haiti but there are long term consequences from the quake and I think various businesses are going to struggle for awhile.
There are things you don't think about and of course everyone wants to put a positive spin on things but these are the realities after talking to people.
Real Estate is really tough. Banks won't give loans unless there is insurance to cover it and insurance companies were having 21 day stand down periods to cover property so no insurance, no loan, no house sale. The figures for Canterbury in September were well down on last year. It is easy to look at figures and and let them slide off the screen but those figures are connected to real estate people's wages who were possibly thinking spring would bring good things after a very wet winter and suddenly it is not so pretty a spring.
The damage for many businesses from the earthquake was minimal. But talking to a commercial insurance broker in Canterbury there is a minimum excess on natural disaster of $2,500. Imagine you are hairdresser or a fast food place and sustained $2000 of damage. Even though you pay a hefty insurance premium every year, when it counted, you get nothing and have just wiped $2000 of profit off your year. That is a lot of hair cuts or curries to sell to recoup that loss. Then the broker suggested that after this big quake, Canterbury's minimum excess for natural disasters may go up to the same level as Wellington of 5% or a minimum $5000 excess. No doubt insurance rates will increase next year too just to make the little guy hurt even more.
Everyone stopped spending after the quake, retailers enjoying the upswing in sales with spring were suddenly back in winter again as people put away their purses. Just as things were getting back to normal for many retailers in less damaged parts of the city, the GST rise occurred.
Then there are the businesses still trying to relocate and find new premises. If a property is damaged so much you can't tenant it, the tenant can stop paying rent immediately in many leases agreements, but not all are like that. Also one company relocating said the offers were changing all the time, initially there were open ended leases that could be done month by month and then very quickly landlords were wanting people to sign up for three years. Some businesses in undamaged buildings, find themselves next to buildings badly damaged and either have to move themselves for demolition work to be carried out or have to contend with big cordons of wire fences putting off potential customers.
Then for every business affected, there are the suppliers affected and so the trickle down occurs. Restaurant suppliers suddenly have goods no one wants because either the restaurant is damaged or the restaurant didn't need so much because the central city was cordoned off and no one was out eating. Karl went passed a wee Thai restaurant in the central city one night after the cordoned had been lifted. The smells coming from it were divine but it was totally empty.
How many restaurants currently still shut owed money to suppliers and without any income coming in, I wonder if they are paying the bills.
Not only is landscape of Christchurch going to be changed with the demolition of a number of old buildings but the landscape of local businesses is going to change too and they really give flavour to a city.
Of course, the aftershocks keep happening too. We might get a few days without them and then another hits, rocking the house. They are now more an annoyance than anything but there is always that thought of, what if the next one is bigger, in the back of your mind. Christchurch definitely doesn't need that now.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Good from the earthquake

So we are still getting aftershocks but they are fewer and we can go for a few days without feeling one, which is nice. The assessor guy comes on Thursday to check our house is okay. I think it will be fine, but it will be good to get the okay from someone who actually has knowledge about these things.
Now it is a new reality and it feels a life time ago when every night we were woken from sleep - now it is only some nights.
I look back to the day of the quake and the day after and how I felt. For most of the year I have been battling anxiety issues. Those two days gave me a window into a new way of living and a reference point. My anxiety, which is apparently irrational, is mostly over the future. It has been quite some steps even to admit that what to me seem perfectly legitimate concerns and anxieties are actually irrational and not really legitimate at all.
Those two days of the earthquake were different. I couldn't think about the future at all. I had to stay in the present. I had to make sure our family was safe. I had to make plans for cooking without power. Everything I had to deal with was just for now, because we didn't know what would happen next. I was anxious about aftershocks but so was everybody. This wasn't crazy anxiety separating me from the rest of the world. This was normal anxiety that we all could talk about and share.
For two days I felt quite free.
I dealt with things as they happened and had no thoughts of the future, other than getting through, that day and then the next. I didn't have to think about what would happen later in the week because there seemed to be little point. We were here today and in 5 minutes or even 10 minutes there might be another big aftershock, so just deal with now and be glad for what we have.
It was a different way of living for me. When other major things have happened in my life, you do live in the moment but whatever it is, dominates the moment. In the case of the earthquake, our house was fine, we were fine - so my mind was free to think about what ever it wanted but there seemed no point thinking about the future.
It didn't last of course, because you do have to think about the future and make decisions for things that might happen. I now know what is like to not be anxious about it and when the anxiety starts to build, while I am still learning to control it, I can remember the feeling of freedom of the quake and think I did it then, I can do it again.

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.