Can't adequately describe the shittiness of the last week and I'm not going to try to because I'm sure you've all seen the news. Somehow, though, this has still managed to be a really long post.
It's weird writing about the earthquake because I was really lucky - I'm ok, family is ok, house is ok - and I'm extremely aware that so many people are so much worse off than I am, and I don't want to take anything away from that by talking about What I Did On My Earthquake. But I do want to write about it, just as much to clear my head as anything else. I hope that's OK and you're welcome to skip this post.
Firstly, a huge thanks to everyone that I talked to online on Tuesday and Wednesday, when I was in shock and a bit mental and kept saying insensitive things. I was doing 'keep calm and carry on' but it's pretty difficult when you aren't really eating or sleeping, and have to travel everywhere by pushbike. (Yes. I know. Pushbike. Fucking earthquakes.) Thank you for putting up with my nutterish rambling.
I was safe at home when the quake happened, but spent most of Tuesday afternoon/evening thinking about how there were people trapped in the Press building (where I worked until a month ago) but not knowing how many or who they were, then on Wednesday I found out that a friend didn't make it out of the CTV building and, no matter how much you attempt to keep calm and carry on by digging silt out of backyards (hint: silt is gross) there does come a point where you think, "if I hear one more siren or news bulletin I am going to SCREAM" and so I went to Picton for the weekend. You know things are getting rough when Picton seems like a treat.
Post-Picton I feel much better - didn't realise until I got out of the city how much I needed a break. Christchurch people who are feeling the pressure, get out of town if you can, it's amazing the difference it makes.
Do you know what else I learnt during the earthquake?
- People have the most interesting questions. Questions like, "Do cows fall over in earthquakes?" Realised I don't know the answer to this, but I hope it is 'yes.'
- During the water conservation phase, I learnt an important lesson about washing your teeth with juice. The lesson is 'don't'. It seems practical and clever but actually it's fucking disgusting. Ever brushed your teeth or had a mint near an orange? Like that but worse and your mouth feels, if anything, grosser. Have heard from other sources that V and Coke are also bad, but milk is quite nice really because you can pretend you're having a spearmint milkshake and blow awesome bubbles.
- Also during the water conservation phase, I learnt that 'carrying on as normal' after a point turns into 'behaving like a mental patient.' Realised this as I was shaving my legs in a bucket in the back garden. Earthquake? What earthquake? I'm still sexy!
- Still in the water conservation phase, I learnt that the novelty of crapping in the garden wears off rather quickly, but it's fun to have a list of plants that 'require nitrogenation' and behave appropriately, and that some people take a state of national emergency as an opportunity to urinate freely wherever they please. ("What? No! No, you cannot just pee on the side of the road. God damn it. This is a crisis, not a treat.")
- I learnt that sometimes ridiculous phrases pop out in times of crisis - phrases like 'the port-a-loos are being deployed,' which makes me think of an army of port-a-loos marching into Bexley, and, during a bulletin featuring search and rescue dogs, 'he continues on...' dramatic pause '...sniffing for miracles.' Sniffing for miracles? Goodness.
- I learnt that 'essentials' is a very flexible term. We went into a friend's central city, cordoned-off flat to get 'essentials' and came back with teacups, electronics, clothes... and a shisha pipe, a gas mask and a bag of bacon.
- I learnt that an earthquake makes it socially acceptable to be drunk all the time. The city is full of people in various stages of coping and a lot of these stages involve copious amounts of vodka. Drinking on a Tuesday night any other week? Time to stage an intervention. Drinking on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday night this week? Earthquake! Totes ok. Also, someone commented on how I always seem to have alcohol in a crisis. This is true. No emergency radio, bottled water, or tinned food but goddammit we are going to be able to get drunk.
Also learnt about the amazing amount of support we have in times of crisis. We've had Search and Rescue teams flying in from all over the world, we've had reinforcements from the rest of the country (on the way to Picton we passed three vehicle transporters filled with police cars), we've had local volunteer fire crews and paramedics and students and donations and offers of help and support and accommodation flooding in to our battered city and, thank you. I have never been more proud to be a part of this city and this country. (Except possibly for a couple of the more dramatic moments in the All Whites World Cup games.)
On the highway to Picton between Seddon and Blenheim there is a hill which has a cluster of white stones that people use to spell out messages. It's usually sporting HAPPY BDAY BAZZA or something equally entertaining, but when we drove through this weekend it read, KIA KAHA CHCH.
It roughly translates to 'stay strong, Christchurch,' and Christchurch will.
Even if the cows fall over on the aftershocks.
Normal blogging service will resume shortly. If anyone would like to donate to the earthquake appeal, the Red Cross page is here.