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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Leaving the Zone

What one does not realize . . .

When I asked my friend if she would feel better if I went to Christchurch to personally check on her 85-year-old father (also my friend), she said there were continuous aftershocks. I was nonchalant. I arrived and everybody here was tired because the night after the damaging quake, the earth kept moving. Not gentle, rolling tremors, people told me, but violent, “what might this become” shocks.

It means nothing until you experience it.

Five days here and I am an old hand and the violence of Ruaumoko (unborn god of volcanoes and seasons in Maori lore) is like living at sea – one adapts to the conditions. Significant shakes are barely commented on, if at all, and life continues. But sleep can be difficult when you are continually being rudely awakened (ask my exes) and the total unpredictability wears on people. Especially when you remember that it has been like this for the past six months, and repairs/insurance payouts/lives have been put on hold until it stops. It has not stopped and shows no indication of doing so.

Technical note: Aotearoa/New Zealand is where the Atlantic and Pacific tectonic plates meet, interact and occasionally argue with each other. The Southern Alps are a result of these guys brushing up against each other. Christchurch residents keep telling me they were not on a fault line, but Aotearoa, by definition, IS a fault line.

Anyway, the plan Friday was to head back to Dunedin Saturday morning. P is fine, I’d done all at Civil Defence that they would allow me and, no longer being a help, became just another mouth to be fed, watered and toileted in a system where food, water and toilet facilities were at a premium. (Although the sewage system servicing Diamond Harbour was operational, just needed gray water to flush, and there’s a harbor at the foot of the hill with lots of that. There was also a Portaloo at the Medical Centre mere minutes away, flown in by an Air Force chopper in what was one of the most amusing scenes of my stay. It was so astonishing I didn’t think about my camera before it was too late. Wait for separate post for that story)

But plans change, especially in The Adventures of Tracie, and yesterday morning the wife of one of the ferry skippers e-mailed me that the ferry would be running to take people to Lyttelton, above the quake epicenter, for a street party that had been relocated to the school as the main street was totaled. I’m a sucker for parties so was on the first ferry across and didn’t bother taking the last one back. Knew I’d find somewhere to sleep.

I need to apologize to my many US friends if the “ugly American” image many other countries have of them is partly my fault. I definitely put some noses out of joint in Lyttelton (“You’re not from here, you don’t have any right offering help!”) but also made new friends and had a great conversation with a group of kids about how they felt, tectonic plates and Ruaumoko. (“Is this a lesson?” one asked.) Shared my cider, drank other people’s beer, invited a group of Indonesian sailors from the edge into the thick of things and set them up with good people and drinks (one of the things a local told me I had no right to do.)

“Whatever,” was my response. I found out the next morning when taking the ferry back home that those who didn't like me assumed I was American - sorry dudes. Those who I actually talked with knew I am tangata whenua.

Later in the evening, I was talking to a local Maori man who asked where I lived.

T: “Nowhere.”

Rewi: “Where are you sleeping tonight?”

T: “I don’t know yet.”

R: “I have a caravan beside my house, tho I don’t guarantee its safety.”

T: “Outstanding!”

Woke this morning to find sculptures everywhere and found he’s a carver, and met his daughter while we drank tea and she ate baked beans from the pot (less dishes to wash). Gorgeous young lady, a stunning mix of Maori wahine and Cree Indian from her Canadian mother and with a really interesting Canadian accent from living there half the year. I now have contacts in Rapaki! 

On the way to Lyttelton for the ferry back to DH, Rewi showed me his cousin’s and uncle’s homes, which were both hit by boulders he and a friend watched bound and barrel down the hill. Check out the photos above. The second house, to the left, had two rocks bounce off the road and through the roof in the kitchen and a bedroom.

Back to DH and P, who delivered me to the Main South Road to head back to Dunedin.

Ride 1: Christchurch to Timaru, with a guy from Christchurch who was taking one of his daughter’s friends through to stay with her. He lives in the Christchurch suburb of Shirley and had lots of liquefaction on his property and there was raw sewerage in the streets. No power or water but he had a sturdy home with no structural damage so wasn’t complaining. Had gas to cook and was going to pick up a generator to take home with him.

Ride 2: Timaru to Dunedin, with a lovely woman with whom I exchanged contact details and will keep in touch. She would have driven me out to the Peninsula but had clients to entertain at the Winery Tour concert, and I very nearly stayed in town to go along. Tickets were $65 tho and I would then have had to find my way back to the Peninsula so decided to keep moving.

Ride 3: Portobello Rd to Broad Bay, where the road heads up to Larnach Castle, with a lovely elderly woman with whom I discussed lifestyle choices, the difference between religiosity and spirituality, and an article she had read, “In Defence of Hypocrisy.” Was a shame to have to part ways.

Ride 4: Halfway up (steep) Castlewood Rd to castle turnoff – a Kiwi guy who now lives in Perth who was home to visit his mother and show his girlfriend around Aotearoa. Short ride, not much more info except a little on Christchurch.

Ride 5: Last bit of Camp Rd to church, wasn’t really worth getting in and out of the car for but they’d already stopped and rearranged themselves by the time I worked out they needed to turn there. Four young students just arriving to start university and familiarizing themselves with the area – I assured them they would love their time at Otago.

Ride 6: Remainder of Highcliff Rd to Sandymount Rd, with a chef at 1908 who was heading to work in a shiny red BMW.

Walked down Sandymount Rd to Ridge Rd, stopped at Gerald’s farm gate for chat with Ingrid and a hug, stopped at bottom of home driveway for chat with two women heading to Sandfly Bay, one of whom was a harpist with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra (it said so on her car). We discussed Christchurch, how lucky I was to stay where I do and I told them they needed more clothing for Sandfly Bay.

Made it home, ate dinner with mountains of fresh vegetables, gulping down vitamin C for a cold I seem to have picked up, can’t soak in bath because of blister beetle blister that got infected while living in less than optimum hygienic conditions (wait for the Medical Centre visit tale), so deathly tired but don’t want to go to bed too early or I’ll be wide awake at 0300.

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