Sunday, September 16, 2012

Inspirational TEDxEQCHCH

When most of the central city I have grown up in is now empty space, it is easy to spend too many hours depressed, angry and upset. It is even harder when future plans come out and it is difficult to know if they are good or whether money and certain sectors of society are having an undue influence.
I arrived at TEDxEQCHCH, almost two years after the quakes started, weary and wanting inspiration. I went to TEDxEQCHCH last year and came away inspired. There were many exciting plans and ideas, mostly from the overseas speakers. But I did leave with a big question as to what could I do and what influence did a mere resident had?
At the start of this year's TEDx I thought it wasn't going to be as good as last year's. But then the day gained momentum. Ryan Reynold's talk received a standing ovation and it was inspiring. I loved his idea of not worrying about the long term plans but there was opportunity right now to try things in this city. He pulled my fears of the future of this city back to look at the great activities going on now. We didn't have to wait for a good city to be rebuilt, we could be part of making that good city now. He showed, with a positive outlook on regulations, there was a world of opportunity in this city.
Jane Henley's talk was also inspirational about people getting together and collaborating to achieve local projects. It all seemed quite possible to make a difference.
Abbas Nazari received a standing ovation for his moving story of shifting to New Zealand as a refugee. He showed just what faith and hope could achieve.
I was intrigued by Jamie Fitzgerald's talk conclusion. It was different to what he had said earlier. The bit I liked the most was his comment during a difficult trans-Atlantic rowing race their manager said whatever conversations or process they were using to make decisions, it was the right one  and to keep doing it. He also made a good point that the times you move the least can be the most crucial and to not give up. I am a person who always wants to be moving forward achieving something and this was a thought I will store away.
Ernesto Sirolli had no slides and held the audience just with his talk. He showed just how important listening can be. He also pointed out we had given standing ovations to the locals. It was a reassuring thought that we had the good people here.
I purposely spent most of my day with people new to Christchurch since the quakes. It was refreshing to listen to a perspective that was not carrying around the sadness of everything lost or the underlying stress of living through all the aftershocks. They were looking at what is still here and what can be done.
My take home messages from the day were; planning and strategies are over rated, know what you are aiming at and do everything to get there and collaboration and co-operation are the way of the future. It should an interesting future, if we are prepared to get involved or support others doing the fun things.
As a first step we went on Sunday to help artist, Kiel Johnson build his cardboard city.
It was fun despite my limited artistic abilities with cardboard.
Unfortunately the week following TEDxEQCHCH, other consequences of the earthquakes hit us again.
That is Christchurch for you, one day on the up, next day heading back down.
The talks from this year's TEDxEQCHCH should be up here soon. Alexandros Washburn and Ian Taylors are also worth a watch.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fiction story published!

Exciting this week as a short story of mine was published on
It is always thrilling when someone else reads your work and says that is good enough to pay for and share with others.
So I am now a published fiction writer in the United States of America.
Hopefully this might lead to the publishing of my more of my fictional efforts in the future!

With huge thanks to Helen Lowe who told me about as well as being frank, honest and encouraging.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How New Zealand Made Singing Cool Again

When I was a teenager, I belonged to a youth group and we always sang songs at the start. Most of us joined in quite happily and it was fun. By the time I became a youth group leader, the singing was not seen as so cool anymore. In the end, if I remember correctly, we dropped the singing altogether because most kids just weren't joining in.
I did wonder at the time if singing would ever be considered cool again or if it would be forever consigned to a quirky thing only some kids took part in.
Then I noticed the coolness factor of singing had changed again. Now, it seems, singing is cool again. I wondered what had led to the change?
I turned to that internet font of knowledge - Wikipedia.
Finally I got around to writing it up. I present here my proposition that an idea originating in little ol' New Zealand, made singing cool the world over. (With thanks to Wikipedia)
In 1999 producer Jonathan Dowling made the programme "Popstars" that aired on TV2 in New Zealand as the Reality Television show that formed the band TrueBliss.
Joanathan licensed the show to ScreenTime in Australia who then also sold the license to a company in Germany. The format was immensely successful.
The show was the inspiration to Pop Idol that aired on ITV in Oct 2001 in the UK. This spawned the hit Idol series in America and elsewhere around the world.
American Idol first aired on the Fox network in 2002.
If you read about the conception of the television series "Glee" - again according to Wikipedia - it says Ian Brennan originally wrote a film rather than a series. He based it on his own experience as a member of a show choir in high school. He finished the script in 2005 but could not get anyone to be interested in it.
In 2006 High School Musical became the most successful film Disney Channel Original Movie ever produced and led on to another television movie sequel and then a proper theatre movie. Also, not surprisingly, it was repackaged into a reality show.
Meanwhile the Glee script was redone as a television series and pitched to Fox, since they screened American Idol. According to Wikipedia, the guys that pitched it to Fox believed their success for the show being accepted was because the series fitted well with Fox's biggest hit show - American Idol, a musical show. No doubt the success of High School Musical also helped. The pilot for Glee aired in 2009 and as we know has become a bit of a sensation.
So that is the theory I uncovered one day surfing Wikipedia.
New Zealand made singing cool!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

20 months later the house is being fixed

Shift in paint on the floor from when the
house was built shows the floor movement
on the other side of the crack
The message on my phone, said call home urgently. I rang Karl and he said he had finally found out at 1pm, the date we needed to be out of house for repairs to start - the movers were to come the next morning at 8am.
To rewind, the date we had initially been told was 2 April so we had packed up most things, (with the help of my fabulous in laws) and had been living for the last two and half weeks trying not to reopen already packed boxes. The standard answer when going to do anything was a frustrating, "it's been packed."
Now it was all on. With the help of Sam we finished packing everything up and surprisingly were ready for the next morning. I went off to work awaiting a text to tell me where to bike home to in the evening.
Yet again wonderful friends came to our aid and looked after the kids so Karl could help the movers. The earthquakes have definitely showed me we can't do this living thing alone, we need each other. Without help from family and friends, we would not have even been ready.
That night we finally settled in a motel for four nights. The kids had gone a bit crazy, with the uncertainty of it all. They went north to Nelson.
The builder began working on the house.
I thought it would be like being on holiday, but it was not. We were trying to live our normal lives and then there was a whole extra level of detail going on regarding our house, finding accommodation and adjusting to living somewhere different.
When EQC came after September and again after February they did all the assessment, we showed them things we knew were caused by the quakes and they found other damage. Then that report went onto Fletchers. Now they had started fixing things, EQC seemed to want to change things or at least seemed to be trying to make us feel guilty for the repairs. Because our slab was cracked right across the width of the house - through the toilet and bathroom, hall and bedroom - it was decided to pull up the carpets to see what was happening. You could see where the floor had moved one way, while the wall had remained. We knew when the carpet was pulled up either it would be good news and there would no more cracks or there might be more, but we were happy it was coming up so that could be checked. Thankfully there were no further cracks but then EQC questioned why it had been done. We were already tired, and trying to get on with work and life, it seemed like another attack from the quakes. My brain felt overloaded with everything
I knew at the end our house would be repaired and lovely. We were taking the opportunity to pay extra to get work done, we had been about to do before the February quake hit.  We had been waiting for EQC to repair the quake damage before we could do what we wanted.

We have now been out for  a week and are currently staying at the neighbour's. Today we organised motel accommodation for when the kids return because it would be too many to stay here. We finally have all the nights we are out of the house accounted for. This was the annoying thing about the dates being moved, we couldn't book accommodation in advance as we had initially planned.
Two years ago if you had asked what I thought about sending my daughter to Nelson during school term time for a week and half, I would have wondered why and how much she would miss her friends, but it was the best thing to do. They have had a chance for a break from the craziness we are living through.
When looking for accommodation, one motel asked us who we were insured with. They smiled and said we would be fine and would be looked after by our insurance company, it would appear others are not being so helpful. The motel guy said the bigger units were in constant use by families moving out for house repairs.
There are so many houses to be repaired and it seems despite agreeing to work EQC are prepared to keep shifting what they believe needs doing. It is hard when you are tired and just wanting to get back into your house. For those further down the track, I am guessing the fighting will have to be more vigorous.
After the house, there is still the driveway, that was looking good to get repaired, right up until the December 23 quakes and then it all went quiet from the insurance company.
It is a long journey for this city.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Christchurch - remember that story?

Earthquakes, aftershocks, quakes, shakes - so many and so many ways they have affected this city.
Recently two visitors from out of town have mentioned the hope they noticed. Before, they say, this city was patching things up, making temporary solutions. Now, it feels big plans are happening, more permanent decisions are being made for a city on the rise again.
I know that hopeful feeling but living here, it alternates with a feeling of utter despair - which only makes me wonder, if I feel that way, how much worse must it be for people in the red zone areas.
There are days when I am just tired of the rubbish traffic, tired of not knowing where shops are now, compared to where they used to be, tired of having to pack up the house, tired of endless headlines of parts of my city beyond repair and being pulled down and tired of not knowing if there is another big shake coming or if December was it.
There are so many contrasts. I work at two places. One that is still in its usual premises, suffered minor damage but it is business as usual - albeit with a more intentional focus because of consequences of the quakes. The other is displaced from the red zone. Desks are tables, plastic bins are filing cabinets and everyone is doing their best to work  in far less than normal conditions. I said to a visitor from out of town, we could meet in the portacom and they thought it a weird thing to say. Portacoms and shipping containers are so normal now, I hadn't even thought about what I had said.
I think I know all the stories of those around me from that fateful February day but then someone tells theirs and I am undone.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sunday Again

This morning, while standing in church, I was suddenly remembering a year ago.
A year ago on this Sunday it was a sunny day in Nelson.  I am a planner and that week I had packed for Nelson at 3am - pretty useless packing job it was too and we had left Christchurch that morning with no real plans of what would happen after that.
We had gone to church that Sunday at my late Grandparents old church. It turned out quite a few people from my past go there now and it was like being surrounded by family but it was also foreign. They acknowledged what had happened that week in Christchurch and then moved on with their service. It felt so far removed from the turmoil of feelings inside me.
Every time someone had opened the doors at the back, the rattle had reminded me of an aftershock and my heart had leapt. We were in the process of finalising our decision to shut our relatively new retail business so it could become an online only shop for awhile, we had already enrolled Lucy in the local primary school in Nelson and were planning to head back to Christchurch the next day leaving our children behind in the safety of Nelson and their Grandparents, the first time we had left three year old Tristan without us for longer than overnight. At that stage we knew our home still didn't have water or power.
This year it is so different. Tomorrow is also a new beginning as we swap over, Karl taking over the online business to build it up further and caring for the kids during the day and I am off to work. This time we planned the change.
We needed a new change, we've been living a temporary, dealing with things way of life since last year. Putting up with decisions made in haste or changed because of Feb 22. Tomorrow it is our change.
The quake backdrop will still be there though, the first task for Karl is to pack up everything ready for moving out in just over a month to move out so the house can be repaired.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A year on but still in it

A sand sculpture we made on 18 Feb
2011, when we had a different 2011
planned to the one that it became
on Feb 22 2011 at 12:51
It is hard to believe it is twelve months since the fatal quake hit Christchurch. The big quakes of September, June and December were nothing like February.
Its ramifications haven't gone away. We may have got through the first lot of temporary measures but for things like Lucy's school displaced from the city centre, there are the ongoing decisions of what the future might look like. So many times today, I realised things were different whether it was what I do with my day or driving down a road, now changed daily with traffic cones so one way is always two lanes, or driving past buildings that are gone. All of these little things I don't notice anymore but they are all due to February 22 2011.
The weather this afternoon was eerily like last year. When I think of the big September quake, I think of a loud mixture of noise that reminds me of Dr Who's TARDIS on the move. When I think of February I think of incessantly sounding alarms and that night of the silence between aftershocks - no power, no buses and little traffic on the road and the numbness of knowing people were dead.
I am still buoyed by the awesomeness people showed in those early days. The vast majority helped each other, whether we knew each other or not. I will never forget that. It took away my often cynical view of our city - when we needed each other, we really stepped up in a multitude of small ways.
I briefly saw a snippet of one of the memorial services on the television this morning and the sign guy was signing and it made me smile, how he became an instant hit. Flowers in the traffic cones - a little idea that spread city wide - have made me smile all day.
It is hard to know whether good or bad decisions are being made here about demolitions or cordons or city planning but it is a city where we all have to live intentionally. Small businesses have been hit so hard in the last year and without support, could easily disappear. Many other organisations and schools that have suffered are also working hard to keep moving forward. It really is a place that what we individuals choose, does make a difference to what will be here in the future. I think that is why I liked the flowers in the cones, in many small ways, we can decide what the city will look like.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Behaviours picked up from a year of aftershocks

Building being rebuilt in Lyttelton
Almost 12 months since February 22nd, 18 months since Sept 4th and I hate having the kitchen cupboards open, especially the one with all the plates and glasses in. It is a tall cupboard and the one we put strong magnets on, after the June quakes, to help keep it shut. The shelves have never fallen in our cupboards and nothing has broken. But I hate having them open, in case a quake hits. It will seem careless, if we lose stuff now, having gone through this far and lost so few breakable items. Doing the dishes is always a little stressful with them open to put everything away.
The only time stuff fell out of the pantry was when it was open during quite a big aftershock, I think in October or November 2010. If I sit down to dinner and realise the cupboards or pantry are open, I pop up to shut them - because you never know. It seems stupid, paranoid and ridiculous. But it is, I think, about gaining control over the uncontrollable and I don't feel so silly now because I found out other people have their rituals too. Recently someone admitted that every time they empty the kettle, they refill it and boil it. They know it is unnecessary but they like having a kettle full of water.... just in case.
I always have the ipod under the pillow and listen to podcasts to go to sleep. The first night I did that was Feb 22 - when I listened pretty much all night since sleep was hard to come by. Now I feel a bit exposed without it. I need it to go to sleep, it means I am thinking about other things - comedy from the UK or funny life stories from people in the USA.
There was a 4.0 aftershock quake the other night at around 10pm Lucy woke up really crying, not knowing why she was so upset. It took quite awhile to calm her down. I thought we would all be emotionally fine by now. We thought our kids were coping well but I am not sure anymore what is going on in their heads, but we keeping living and laughing.
We were sitting on the couches a few days ago when there was a long rumble.  We've had aftershocks with no shake and I thought it was one of those and then it started to shake. It did scare me because I thought if the rumble was that long what will the shake be like? But then it stopped, after it shook the TV. Lucy said yesterday, "You know those aftershocks that go like this," and made a particular noise to try to describe the shaking - even a six year old is distinguishing differences between them.
Anyway, life for the most part is so normal for us compared to other people living in this same city.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Again

Yep, that shop looks pretty closed to me.
It is an odd feeling coming to February again. February has been such a loaded word for twelve months.
I thought as 2012 was a new year we could leave quake stuff behind, which I could while on holiday but not once all the normal yearly things kicked in. Lucy is back at school and it is still at its temporary site and while this suits us very well, in the future decisions will need to be made about its permanent site and where that is and what it looks like.
I am going to start working and the jobs I am doing have really come about because of the quakes.
Our house is still to be fixed. I am starting to come to grips with how much everything has really changed in this city.
It is perhaps with a little trepidation that I take part in all the annual beginning of the year things that I did last year. I realise how little of the year we had before it was turned upside down. I remember the things I was thinking at this time last year, that became irrelevant in a few short weeks.
It is in doing these things again, that I see how crazy last year was. The things that just became normal and I didn't question, I am starting to see were not normal before February at all - like helping strangers and accepting help from strangers or showering at other people's houses.
There is so much still to be done in this city and sometimes it feels so much easier just to leave it all behind but I also know the events of the past year are stuck inside me too.
And we still have the CBD red zone cordon with us - see below for city comparisons and we are twelve months on now.
Christchurch's current CBD red zone no go area cordon
Wellington if the cordon was there

Auckland if the cordon was there

Monday, January 16, 2012

Lego man vs the weeble wobble - Christchurch aftershock headlines vs real life

We went away for a week in early January. I was checking the Stuff website most days first thing in the morning, to see if Christchurch was okay. I just wanted to know it was still there.
While we were away there were headlines about Christchurch suffering more shakes. There were about three 4.8s, a couple of 5s, a 5.1 and a 5.5 as well as all the usual littlies that you don't really feel. The 5.5, surely would mean the earthquake art had rearranged itself - we had set it up again after the larger shocks on 23rd December. I wondered what else had fallen over.
We got home and very few things had fallen. Even the little canvas picture that usually falls off in anything over a five was still sitting merrily on its little shelf.
This was the earthquake art.
Before we went on holiday
After all the shakes while we
were away

Yes, that was all, one little lego guy took a tumble across the desk. The weeble wobble was still sitting merrily on its rickety tower.
That is the weird thing with news articles, of course they have to tell the worst but it doesn't really tell you what it is like, which you think it should.
These current aftershocks were now out further east. We were the furtherest we had ever been from all the shaking. So at our place, it would appear things were pretty good. I didn't realise until this whole sequence started back in Sept 2010, how unique is everyone's perspective, even when a natural disaster hits an area. The shakes feel different everywhere. I have heard quite afew people be reassured once they have felt a shake in a new location - it gives a reference point to know how that building behaves. It helps you know how to react.
So the short articles of widely felt aftershocks told me very little about my house and if you ask someone who is there, the reply is standard and it is one, I say all the time too. "It's fine. They are no big deal." But I guess if you are the lego man - it does feel quite a big deal.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year

Like so many in Christchurch my thoughts at this New Year are different from the start of 2011. My friend sums it up so well on her blog here.
Last year we were very glad to see the end of 2010. With its September quake and for us other stresses and strains, we couldn't imagine a tougher year. We were so keen for 2011 to start.
2011 made 2010 seem like the appetiser, (I can only hope that means 2012 is the dessert).
Everyone is at different spots in their quake experience. Some of my friends have moved house and moved on. They have already started new lives, post quakes. The start of our 2012 looks like it is going to be messy with floor coverings all being lifted to check the extent of our damage and moving out a few months later to fix everything once a complete picture of the damage has been worked out.
All this makes me feel a little tired before we have even started.
And the quakes seem to be continuing. I think they are now saying we are having the pleasure of a 1 in 10,000 year event. Lucky us!
But despite that, we went camping after Christmas and it was stunning. We had the area mostly to ourselves. We went to sleep and woke up to bird calls. We spent a morning on a beach with only a seal for company and the odd kayaker and boatie. I felt lucky to live on these shaky islands because regardless of natural disasters, they are hard to beat.
Our malls and our airport may have shut temporarily on the 23 December but it was temporary and it was proactive. The buildings weren't falling down, they were shut for them to be checked carefully by engineers and then reopened if safe. The majority of the houses keep standing through all the thousands of shakes.
There are some things that are harder to control - like the body. I am still reacting to rumbling noises, even if not in Canterbury, before my brain can catch up and tell my body it is okay and there is no need to be on edge. This past year has definitely given me a better understanding of my body and other people.
The story in this radiolab podcast at 9 minutes 20, by Steven Johnson explains why my body reacts as it does to sounds that might be quakes. I understood this podcast because I feel this all the time at the moment.
There was another story in a podcast from the Moth in which Elif Shafak describes the response of her neighbours after they had a big quake in Turkey. I was listening to this and I knew the ending before she gave it. I knew how humans acted after such events.
It may have been a really crappy year but I learnt a lot. I don't know what will happen in 2012 but I think we are ready to roll with whatever is thrown at us and support each other.
It seems strange to have found some sort of inner peace in the most disturbing of years.

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.