Sunday, February 27, 2011

Earthquake Post

Disclaimer: this post is about the earthquake and is therefore it would seem that none of it should be funny. But some of it is a little bit funny because even in tragedies funny things still happen, and that is how I deal with crises, and goodness knows we all need a bit of a laugh at the moment, especially me. Please don't think I'm being insensitive - this is very difficult to write about without being overly emotional or pompous or inappropriate and I hope I've done OK on that.

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.

It's going to get sentimental and mawkish for a minute here, so brace yourselves.

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.


Isaac said...

Of course, people will need to consider how much they like spearmint milkshakes and blowing bubbles before trying this. There might be as much as 10% of the population who don't like these things. Obviously they're wrong, but the schools are very resistant to teaching this stuff.

Nathaniel said...

Well written and not at all offensive. Love your writing style, and don't you dare stop. ;)

Holly said...

After reading this post I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I think I'll go with laughing (Haha! Cows falling over! Haha!) 'cos if I start crying I probably won't stop, and that's not something I want to contemplate.

LOL at you shaving your legs in a bucket! I shaved mine with moisturiser! It actually worked rather nicely. I may repeat it.

I feel so shallow, but the thing I am most concerned about right now is my bag of "essentials" that I abandoned at TColl! I KNOW it's just stuff (phone, laptop, iPod, wallet etc), and I never thought I'd be so attached to it, but I am. I will be greatly relieved when I get it back HOPEFULLY undamaged.

chris.dadness said...

Good post. I did actually want to know What You Did On Your Earthquake because, you know, you are my Christchurch Correspondent. I hope you'll occasionally give us updates on how the new Christchurch is coming along. I hope they go with that all-mosaic idea of yours.

I heard that the ex-mayor who runs a pub in Cathedral Sqr wants the whole place rebuilt in wood, which sounds kinda neat n' Twin Peaksy.

I think it was Picton where we saw 8th oldest boat in the world. Which is when I decided that the 8th most of anything is definitely the saddest.

Amy said...

Funny and poignant. A good balance, I think. And oh goodness, the image of you shaving your legs in a bucket is priceless. I'll keep you and your city and country in my thoughts.

Adrienne Ford said...

I'd only just started reading your blog a couple of months before this event - but strangely - you were one of the first people I worried about when I heard the news. I'm really pleased to see you posting again with the same sense of humour, albeit a little reserved in respect.
Kia Kaha

Molly said...

Good to hear from you, our 'Christchurch Correspondent'. Been feeling so shit for all of you this week :(
And water restrictions? Shaving your legs in a bucket? Drinking all days of the week? Essential shisha pipe? You're ready for Africa baby!

Em said...

That was just right :)

I couldn't stop laughing when you described what the 'essentials' were from your friend's flat. Bacon, yes!
So happy you're still shaving your legs. Best you drink after though - think safety.
Take best care of yourself and, hopefully not sounding weird, there's a spare room in Auckland if you need a break (not that you'd want to go past Picton).

Sarah-Rose said...

Gallows humour is always a winner with me.
And the one thing that I've been amazed by in all of the CHCH coverage is the resilience of the people, the ability to keep on and retain a sense of humour.

We really must find out about the cows though.

Christina said...

Great post :) It's definitely at the "if I don't laugh I'll cry" stage. On Saturday night our flat had two extra flatmates because one had a hysterical flatmate and needed a break (yes, not having water and sewerage sucks, but no, you won't actually die from shame if you use a portaloo, people are dead, please don't make this ALL ABOUT YOU), and the other had just evacuated from his home.

One of them mentioned that the news had been talking about how the army "liberated" food from one of the closed supermarkets, and how amazing that was. We all burst into laughter at the idea of the army sneaking up on the food and busting it from the cruel, tyrannical clutches of the prison I mean supermarket shelves. It's the little things.

We've also gone through an entire bottle of Baileys in like, 2 days. Time for a top up?

slommler said...

Resilience and humor!!! Good things for sure!! Glad to see you have both and going strong!!
Loved your essentials list...the pipe had me laughing out loud!!!
Take care now and keep us posted!!

Vancouver's Enviro Girl said...

Your blog and twitter were the first I checked to make sure you were OK. And I am glad you are coping so well, and that your very-trademark humour is still intact :)

Also, one of your first tweets about having room at your place, as long as people understood that Charlie would bark at each aftershock because he was "looking" for the quake? CLASSIC! I'm still giggling at it.

Nadine said...

I just saw your letter on The Bloggess. Wow. I've never come across your work before, but big hugs and love from the North Island.

Kate @ UpsideBackwards said...

I just saw your letter to the Bloggess - great work there! - and had to check out your blog. I'm sending more hugs your way, just like Nadine :-)

Emma said...

Hey- a fellow Christchurchian here- came across your blog from The Bloggess. Didn't know other kiwis read hers but then again, what the heck do I know?

Your blog is flippin hilarious and gave me a good laugh while I try to get my head round 'our earthquake'! So good to see some people still have their sense of humour! I shaved my legs with baby wipes and that worked to a point lol. I figured if i was to be wearing shorts and shoveling silt, my legs would be hair free dammit!

Now I do wonder about cows and aftershocks...

Lady B said...

I just want to point out that you are awesome. Both as a writer and a human being.

I had my own mini crises with possibly-skin-cancer-but-we-wont-know-till-we-remove-it thing and my entire coping plan?

Red wine, making fun of my freak skin and pretending that I wasn't losing my mind silently.

It worked. ish.

also - shaving ones legs in a bucket seems far safer thean my current method that involves and epic battle in which i attempt balancing on one leg in my miniature shower with a sharp razor.

~lifedramatic~ said...

Found you from your letter to the Bloggess. She's just got a heart of gold that one. Glad you and your family are ok. Look forward to reading more about you.

I think you'll agree with my most recent blog post that the worst month of the year is now over.

Good luck!


Barbara said...

Humor is the best way to get through anything, because it makes you a much happier drunk person, which means you're more fun to be around, and ultimately ends up attracting a lot of hangers-on who can be convinced to do your bidding.

We don't get earthquakes here in Colorado, USA, so I'll knock a few back in sympathy. Consider me one of your minions.

Janet NZ said...

I just found you via The Bloggess - bloody awesome THAT was! I love your style and your courage. Kia Kaha yourself x

Yandie, Goddess of Pickles. said...

I found your blog through the Bloggess after reading your wonderful letter after the Earthquake. I couldn't help much but I made a small donation to the Red Cross.

I hope that the people of Christchurch (I'm incredibly paranoid that I've been calling it by the wrong name so I keep second-guessing myself) are able to bounce back. My thoughts are will you all.

sas said...

a friend's husband has fashioned 'the best garden pooh facility in our street'. apparently they are being inundated with design and build enquiries.

'i mean ffs sas, he is USEFUL for the first time in 15 years. WHO KNEW?'

so there's that.

a cat of impossible colour said...

I am so proud of you! Sounds patronising but is true.

JallieDaddy said...

You shave your legs in a bucket in the garden?! Never mind earthquakes; that's truly shocking.

I spent the first 25 years of my life in ChCh & am pretty cut up about the death & destruction there. Great you can have a sense of humour about it though. Great post; Kia Kaha

Found you via The Bloggess, btw :)

The Absence of Alternatives said...

Came over through the Bloggess. Just want to wish you and people over there fast and safe recovery

Helga! said...

Very nicely done.
We have the most awesome dunny in town.

Awesomeness in the Flesh said...

Found you through the Bloggess and just had to tell you how awesome you are. As someone living in Fiji right now but with relies in NZ it's good to know people are staying strong. Kia Kaha Ally!

gwendomama said...

Saw you via HRH The Bloggess. I had to share this little bit in case it may help. Donations to come as well in case it doesn't help a fucking bit.

I don't think it's fair to take an alcoholic straight from a disaster like a mudslide - or an earthquake - and make them drink ice cream, but hey - I'm no expert.

Angela@BeggingTheAnswer said...

I came across your blog from the letter you sent to The Bloggess. I'm glad you've kept your sense of humor through all of this.

Also, is shaving your legs in a bucket in the back garden an option for those of us NOT in the midst of a natural disaster? Just wondering...

Jen said...

Dang, earthquakes just suck. I'm glad you are okay even if you have to crap in the garden. It might not seem like it now but this will make a great story in years to come.

I've been watching this on the news, my thoughts and prayers are with you guys on the other side of the world.

Marian Schembari said...

Ally, this post has totally rocked my world. I just moved to NZ from the States and I've been overwhelmed by the support. But I'm also surprised by some of the complete lack of humor. Sometimes, in crisis, you DO just need to laugh. Or poke fun. Or just say something wildly inappropriate otherwise you'll go insane. So THANK YOU for posting this. You cracked me up and we definitely all need that now!


daphne said...

Came over from the bloggess and spent last night reading your blog till 2 in the morning, it is that good. The haiku one rocks my world. Take care, you! Hugs from Singapore!

Catrina said...

FYI: Cows sit down. A farmer was about to milk at like 4am in the september one and was really confused because all the cows sat down and then the earthquake hit. Crazy things eh,