Earthquake! (Part 2)

January 21, 2013

The most common question. Why would you move to Christchuch?

So I mention our reasoning for moving here. It’s beautiful (outside of the damage), it’s on the ocean, the mountain biking is phenominal, we’re an hour from the snow, we’re centrally located for exploring the whole south island, and there’s an international airport.

When the most common question is asked, this is what they mean: Why on earth would you move to that place that had that horrific natural disaster?/Are you crazy?!

Maybe we’re crazy!!! Ha. But actually, we are quite happy here. And our reasons for moving here are exactly as stated above.

Are we at risk? Sure. But so are you. Christchurch, New Zealand wasn’t considered at particular risk for a large earthquake until after September 2010 when the first big one happened. Then, the risk-o-meter was upgraded to very high risk. Obviously, no one knows or can really truly predict where and when the next big earthquake will be. We don’t know where all of the fault lines are. Geologists can only predict based on the past. Sure, there are more active places (Japan, California, here), but personally I’d take some little shakes over the certainty of tornado or hurricane season any day.

As I stated in my last post, we were in New Zealand during the devastating February 22, 2011 earthquake. We didn’t feel it. We were largely unaffected. Our flight wasn’t even delayed leaving Christchurch Airport a week later. But we did sit in a crowded bar, soaking in the near silence as every person somberly watched the news of the disaster unfold on live television. We listened to the radio every day and heard the Red Cross pleading for money and assistance, the search and rescue listing the names of missing persons, the stories of hope and of tragedy emerging from the ashes.

What I remember most clearly were ads on the radio for those in need: neighbors and community businesses were offering free day care, free clothes washing, clean water distribution, free towing, etc.

There were no stories of looting. There were no stories of robbery from private homes. I have read about scams and looting in the year following the earthquake (much by Australians!), but during the time of need and suffering, the community seemed cohesive.

Our landlord told us how until the earthquake, he didn’t even know the neighbors. It really brought them all together, as disasters like these do.

Below: Pictures from walking around downtown Christchurch and the Red Zone, and my musings, random and disorganized.

This photo is through a chain-link fence. The container stores are behind me. This is part of the Red Zone. Notice the fliers haven’t even been taken off the bulletin board, the shops still have sale signs in the windows.

Do you see the building in the center with the rainbow colored levels? That is Hotel So. That is where Scott & I stayed for 2 nights when we arrived in New Zealand a few days before the earthquake. It was also the smallest hotel room I have ever stayed in. Although the building is still standing, I am eternally grateful that we were not inside our little cubicle room during the quake.

The photo below: looking 180 degrees from the photo above, standing in the same spot.

Holiday Cheer in the Red Zone. In the background, a building untouched since the quake. 
The Bridge of Remembrance is dedicated to those who lost their lives in WWI. Incidentally, it is located at the heart of downtown, just outside the Red Zone. It seems there’s a lot to remember here.

Many buildings with historical meaning will be reconstructed, if possible. I don’t know how it will turn out for Vintage Watches.

Typical Christchurch. Construct a public rugby field for all to enjoy on the edge of the Red Zone. People joke that downtown has “much more parking than it used to” (due to demolished buildings becoming gravel parking lots). Might as well use one for a little fun.

Scott & I enjoyed lunch just on the other side of this building. The Antarctic Learning Center was in here. I discovered New Zealand is home to many types of penguin while I was here… I’ve still yet to see one!

There is a lot of street art in downtown, because in some spots, that’s about all there can really be. This was the one in my parking lot.

Another street of container stores, bustling with holiday shoppers and summer sun.

View from my side of the chain link fence…

View on the other side.

One of the hundreds of parks that Christchurch is famous for. And turn to your left:

A demo truck in the Red Zone.

My photo of Christchurch Cathedral. The jury is out on if they will rebuild her or not. They have the funding (churches and historical organizations world-wide have offered millions of dollars in donations) but the decision of restoration vs. demolition vs. something in the middle has yet to be made. Info on this can be found here.

Scott and I had breakfast in a cafe on this street. It would have been under the blue painted section, just about in the middle of the photo. We had french toast stacked with bacon and bananas. That’s how they do it here.

You know that scene in Titanic where Old Rose is seeing images of Titanic underwater, and starts remembering what it was like when she was aboard as Young Rose? The theme song starts playing (cue Celine Dion), and the the audience watches the watery green image of the ship turn into the glorious scene of pre-iceberg Titanic luxury and Leonardo DiCaprio. Anyways, seeing the above cafe, and some shopping malls gave me a similar feeling (on a much smaller, less important scale of course). I could hear the people bustling around cathedral square as Scott and I ate lunch and took in the beauty of the square. I could taste the banana bacon french toast and the flat white that we ate in that cafe. I could see the line of restaurants along the water that looked so inviting, and made me exclaim, I am going to live here some day!

And then it all kind of faded back into rubbish and brick piles.


I’ve grown to view containers as multi-colored mega-legos that hold your stuff, hold up cliff walls, hold funky little bars, and hold up traffic.

Creative entrepreneurs like this one are all over Christchurch, and add flavor (pun!) to the city center.

An un-commonly common sight.

Business as normal: college boys work as punters, delighting tourists with scenic boat rides on the Avon River. The Avon runs willy-nilly through Christchurch city center, and continues to be beautiful amidst all of the orange cones and dust.
There you have it, a short tour through downtown Christchurch and the Red Zone. It’s helpful for us to remember that all the demolition and dirt is working towards a clean, new, earthquake-proof downtown. So it’s all good. Or as the Kiwis say,
She’ll be right.

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