Christchurch Blog

Diary of a Newbie 

Deciding to move the family  to Christchurch & then doing it all within 3 weeks of that decision & coming to a city that has had such tragedy & still has such complex issues has inspired me to recall & share the experience.  
These are my thoughts & perceptions through my eyes as a mother, wife & photographer.  In sharing them I hope that Cantabrian's enjoy the perspective of those who still see a city worth moving to despite these troubled times.  It reading back through some of these I see that I'm talking to you the reader, and I am wanting to give a message of hope.  The benefit of a blog, giving you a voice. 
Most of all that you realise all is not lost, not everyone is leaving town & that there is a strong future ahead for Christchurch.
6/1/12-7/1/12    Today, I lived in Christchurch.   I felt like I had stepped into someone else's story.  Once I've read & seen so much of in this past year.  This morning I have more understanding of what until then had just been a distant perspective. To ensure no false sense of security I was welcomed, while still unpacking, with a 5.2 at 1:21am.  With an increasing heart rate & while grabbing for something solid to hold on to the sense of the unknown gave me cause for moments of panic.  My next thought as a Mum was my boys & in rushing to check them I found them blissfully unaware sleeping soundly through it. 
 Today, I became a Cantabrian, now sharing this experience as late in the story as my arrival is.  I too now live in a quake damaged home.  Nothing serious, all fixable, how very lucky we are.  There is a different mindset required for unpacking here.  You need to consider where you put everything & how secure  it is. What surface is below it?  Will it break if it falls down or if you open a cupboard. 
8/1/12- 9/1/12              As you drive up our hill the sight of scattered, broken & abandoned homes is the visual scar of the pain suffered by so many displaced families. You can see the fractures in the roads with the patchwork of tar, bumps & cracks which speak of the torment felt by all those who were here that day.  What you can't see are the fractured souls of those who have endured so much, & the end still not in sight for a lot of people. Security, peace of mind, schools, jobs, business's, history,  future plans, precious loved ones, gone, changed or lost forever. 
Yet through all this struggle & heartache, resilience & strength has become your power. We've been welcomed with open arms.   You're absolutely delighted that all you'd read about those leaving was only half the story.  We are fresh ears,  we have light hearts with plenty of room to empathise & feel for the those heartbreaking stories of survival & loss still needing to be shared.     A city is more than its buildings & ChCh was a beautiful city & while the landscape may have changed in some ways, it still is & still has so much  to offer.   For a photographer, as I am, visually it's a kaleidoscope of impressions but the real strength of this city comes from the people. 
11/1/12               I'm wondering if I'm confused!  It feels like I've woken up in Wellington, it's so jolly windy.  All of our deck furniture has been blown into the corner of the deck & you certainly can't go onto it to enjoy the sunshine without hanging onto your toupee!  The down side of living on a hill.
14/1/12                I've held  back on my strong desire to get out with my camera , creating & capturing  images,  the excitement of what a new city can offer in the way of backdrops. But it's time to throw off the homemaker hat & put on the photographer one.  Coming down the hill to walk the streets collecting  new memories for myself and my family. The first for our Christchurch chapter. That's one of the things I absolutely love about photographic memories they can be shared and viewed by my great grand children.
15/1/12                Almost a year on, yet yesterday when I went in to the city & peered in through the cordon fences  I could feel the ghosts of those that worked & lived there.  As an outsider looking in I know that I can't possibly comprehend the fear & terror that would have been just part of the cauldron  of emotions felt as the Feb 22nd shake took hold.  What was left behind gives just a small peak of understanding but I was strongly affected by what I saw.  The most poignant images being the messages that were written on windows by people that were trapped in their buildings.  "SOS", "We love Kate & Alicia"  Who were Kate & Alicia?  Who loved them?  They had me asking lots of questions.  Who was it that wrote HELP on the 8th floor of the Clarendon Towers building? 
In the midst of what would have been terrifying, anxious time not knowing if anyone knew they were there & trapped, they had the presence to write it back to front so it could be read from the outside.  What was going through their mind? Who were they thinking of?  Were they hurt? How long did they have to wait before they got out?   
Cafes & Bars with things left as they were as people would have been running for their lives.   The Tap room, this should be left as it as a memorial to that moment. In fact I think the value to tourism would be huge in keeping some of the evidence from that day, because it asks the viewer to consider the enormity  of this event that changed the lives of so many.
The irony of The Arts Centre building text " untouched world"  Its been shaken, rocked, picked up and dumped right back down again.
 The power of photography means their stories will be remembered & will give viewers the opportunity to consider these moments in time that shattered such a lot of people's lifes.
16/1/12 - 17/1/12           I have never been made to feel so welcome anywhere else.  I believe this experience has probably changed the social fabric from a loose to a tight knit one where you care more about those around you & are genuinely interested in those people whose life's cross your paths. Sympathy & empathy from a shared experience.  Taking an interest in strangers & neighbours. 
 It certainly seems to have brought people together in creating an almost common language.   Did you feel the quake today?  Are you alright?  Do you need any help?  Really, my goodness why on earth would you want to move here?  Are you crazy?  
I now know more people that I share my suburb with & have had more conversations with strangers than in my 12 years living in Auckland. 
19/1/12 - 20/1/12           We are so lucky to have to have found a home which offers such magnificence views of this beautiful city.  This morning we awoke to find the city hidden below us by thick cloud as we sat in the sunshine above it.  It reminds me of the shutter of a camera on a really slow shutter speed, slowly exposing parts of the city as it lifts.  Some days we just watch the clouds roll in & pass us by, at times close enough where you can almost reach out & touch it.   Timing was the secret as we're hearing how very difficult it is to find any type of accomadation here this side of New Year.
Just another one of the major problems that the earthquake has left Christchurch with.
21/1/12 - 24/1/12           I'm loving Christchurch,  I'm excited to be here.  It is now our home & we will be proud to be part of the future of ChCh. I am so glad we decided to move the family here with my Husband having spent the last 18 mths back & forth to Auckland with business.  He was here on Feb 22nd & I've never been so anxious,  the distance between the 2 cities seemed profoundly large.  It created a connection to this city for me  that made it an easy decision to make & not one we were afraid of.   His company has developed software for the building industry that greatly hastens the speed of the estimating & quoting  aspect of the rebuilding that's needed. 
We had a pot luck dinner tonight inviting the parents of all of the neighbourhood children my son had befriended.  What a great night getting to know the families of those we share our little hill with.  Hearing about the difficulties most people are having with trying to fix all that was broken every time mother nature chose to roll over.  The complexities, the issues & the cost in time & emotions is huge & I feel so sorry for all those trapped in this cycle.  My biggest hope is that the political heads can get together & find ways to ease some of this pressure & solve these issues with a degree of haste & human kindness & consideration.  People are desperate to be able to move on & rebuild their personal & family life's before they can start to think about rebuilding the city.  It really enforced the realities of this tragedy.         
27/1/12        Well it's been 3 weeks and I'm still unpacking:(   Les told me today that in the 3 weeks we have been here there have been 1000 shakes!  Of those I only felt about half a dozen. That makes for ChCh over 10,000 since September.  Those are crazy numbers!
1/2/12          First day of school & it was delightful to see my son so excited & looking smart in his new uniform, eager to get there, dressed & ready by 7am.  For me, coming home to a quiet house, no children running around, peace was a gift after the crazy busy month we've had.
I had to pop into town & drove past this image.  The painted garden gives hope to these sad buildings.  When they are gone I hope to have the pleasure of capturing the gardens that replace them.
5/2/12          I'm maintaining by Auckland studio while I establish myself here & in returning last week I discovered the profound difference was that Cantabrians have a shared purpose & direction which gives unity.  With no disrespect intended, but as a generalisation Aucklanders are in their isolated cultural & social groups with little thought beyond their own needs with little or no sense of community.  All going in their own direction.
So I found myself  really looking forward to returning to Christchurch, home,  where no one seems to be a stranger, where drivers let you in to the traffic, or out of a side street not because they need to but choose to. Just kind consideration to everyone. 
So use us, new people haven't had the wind taken out of our sails so pass the baton along for a while.  Take a deep breath & take stock for a moment, relax & allow yourself to just be.  Refill the energy tanks, ready to step strongly into tomorrow, whatever it may bring.  Give yourselves the chance to no longer live in fear of another yesterday.  
Live & enjoy today never forgetting but working towards a fantastic tomorrow.  There are going to be  frustrations & delays along the way & it's going to be a long  trip for some on so many levels. There is still a lot of healing & work  to do  & that is going to happen slowly over time, if time is gracious to us all.  Time that many of you may  feel you don't have, and many of you may still leave, but let's hope time will be generous to  all.  
If the strength of character we've seen in those we've meet so far is the backbone to this recovery then all bodes well for the future of this beautiful city.
6/2/12              Oh my god, who knew 8 years could pass by so quickly as Jamie turns 8 today.  To think in another 8 he'll be half way through the crazy teenage years & I'll have a full head of grey hair!  What a treasured blessing he has been & everyday ( minus a couple) have been a pleasure & delight watching him grow into the man he is going to be.
8/2/12               I heard it , I saw it but I didn't feel it. Weird!  I certainly  felt the 4.2 earlier which I wrongly guessed at 5.2. I 've still got a lot of learning to do & being 10,000 earthquakes behind most people, it's going to take me time to join those that can guess them down to the point.  It's an interesting game to play & feels unreal at times to have this as part of your day.
10/2/12              I have the pleasure of living with the panoramic view of Christchurch & I often, when looking out over the city imagine the sight it must have given on the 22nd.  I've seen the photos & it would have been  terrifying  to witness on so many levels.  There are times that I wish I was here just to be part of that now shared history that know binds everyone so strongly.   
12/2/12             I often spend my evenings looking out over the city contemplating all that is before me.    It's so quiet, almost eerie . At 9 - 10 pm all is still, there's little movement, with only the occasional car moving through the main roads.  You can almost imagine you're the only one left.  The saddest sight though is the darkness where the city lights should be shining bright.  The soul of the city sleeping, waiting for life.  The spot lights searching for all that has been lost.
16/2/12           You wake during the night.  Was it a quake that woke me or just a disturbed sleep.  Is all well?  It seems so & as I check the geonet site this morning, yes there was a 4.1 at 4am.  So not my imagination but the reality of living in ChCh.
I've just got back from the city & I'm really disappointed to see The Tap room has been tidied up.  No longer holding the memories of the 22nd of Feb.  It makes, for me anyway, the image I captured even more valuable. 
Maree Turner is a Portrait & Fine Art Photographer in Christchurch and Auckland
22nd Feb ChCh - A date etched in the history of our country & all of those families that were so greatly affected on that day. My heart goes out to all of those still suffering in so many ways. I wonder how they will fare today. All of the reminders, some of them will be in the images shared around the country today.It's going to be such a painful day for some, the day some of them almost lost their life's or someone they new who did.   The stories & images that have been running in the press in the last week & of course today, are heartbreaking & bring tears to the eyes.

An afternoon of mixed feelings. Thinking of the people who will be walking in the footsteps they traveled this time last year. I hope they have hope in their hearts on this day with still so much uncertainty but they face it with such strength. Jamie's school had a lunchtime special moment today combining 2 minutes of silence & then set of red ballons into the sky with messages of hope attached.


Another symbol of today that will remain for a long time is the road cones that cover this city as roads are repaired & buildings & homes cordoned off. Flowers were placed in them today & all that saw them were touched & it bought that huge feeling of community to the forefront again.


I don't know how they prioritise all that needs doing. Such a very long list. I do know that for young people, early teens, a lot of their facilities have fallen - Now they are idle and bored.  Temptation towards mischief  and the desire to leave this beautiful city as soon as they can. Do we lose a generation?  I hope not!

I'm having so much fun creating art out the these fantastic Christchurch buildings that I'm almost feeling guilty for the visual pleasure it's giving me. Is that wrong?


A chance to see the Cathedral, whats left of it.

So many different opinions.  Should they repair it, or bowl it? It is a really symbolic building to locals and there certainly is some passionate debate.  My thoughts on seeing it...  I think parts of it should stay in it's present state as a symbol of the power of nature and as a memorial & rebuild a new one else where.  A lot of people believe it's been the strength of attracting tourism in the past, this way it remains that & more so with not to many places in the world with one just as it is now.

Coming back from our Cathedral walk it felt like another minor quake hitting.  But no..   as we walked around the corner we saw a crane had tipped forward giving the driver a scary moment or two but he was unhurt.  Can't say the same for the car the arm fell on, which thankfully had no-one in it.  So boys this shot is for you!



Another interesting observation is that as you become used to your enviroment and things around you, you become fimilar, you see less!  On that note as i get consumed with my life here in ChCh I find myself having less to write in this blog. Will let you know through Facebook when I do have more to add here.


Pulling down to rebuild....Who worked in these offices? Everything as it was when the quake hit, all the personal belongings, the business assets, every piece of paper now a pile of rubble. Moments lived & worked, memories recorded.  Gone!


Another old lady falls victim to the Christchurch Earthquake.