Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our home, the refuge centre.

        The city of Christchurch sits at the base of the Canterbury Port Hills which separates the main downtown core, which is similar in size to Hamilton, from Lyttleton harbor and onwards to the Banks Peninsula. The city is also home to a luscious coastline that lays down alongside the Pacific ocean which had allow it become one of the primary settlements of the country. The historic quarter of Christchurch winds its way through the flourishing and present-day business district. That district seems to have been proudly adopted by the brick-bound structures which had been laid centuries before, one of those being the timeless Anglican Cathedral. Along with the CBD (Christchurch Business District) is the region's tourist epicenter which is all held within the five avenues; Moorhouse, Deans, Harper, Bealey and Fitzgerald.  Last Tuesday the cultural, economic and spiritual microcosm of Canterbury - held within those five roadways - experienced one of the most traumatic events in the country's history. The contemporary businesses which had scattered all over the downtown have crumbled upon their weakened and historical foundations and now lay scattered on the roads that had laid before them. The very heart of the region, the cathedral, can now be found in shambles amoungst the vacant artisan's booths which lured in so many visitors from around the globe. A array of gaping wounds plagues that church's structure as if faith had been literally torn from her underbelly.

        Within an hour of the quake our flat had become both a meeting place and wine cellar. There are nearly twenty Canadian students enrolled at the University of Canterbury and more than half had made their way to our living room, drink in hand. Amidst a plethora of conversation and laughter I made a phone call to my family who sat at home still unaware of the true impact of what had happen not 40 minutes ago; I was fully aware of their sudden realization when my phone rang, it was mum and it was 2am. The rest of the afternoon was spent amoungst friends in the partial shock of the days events. Maybe it was that shock or maybe it was ever-growing bottle collection found on our kitchen table, but spirits were high; solemn reflection would have to wait, we had company!

        By mid-afternoon I was in a state of exhaustion. I had slept fine the night before but somehow I knew that amidst a barrage of aftershocks, which still plague the very ground we walk on hour after hour, that rest would be hard to come by and so I laid down for a nap. I awoke around supper time which, in our world, occurs whenever one is hungry. Our living room was still a buzz with new faces, new stories and new friends. People would come and go during the day, some would stay the night for God only knew what remained of their downtown hostiles, and then there was Chris and Ashley. If there was ever a more resilient couple I have yet to find them for those two had truly become the iconic faces of the Christchurch tragedy. Their photo dawns the cover of New Zealand's most read national news paper, The Press. Heads towards the ground the two are captured in, what I can only assume to be, one of their bleakest of moments carrying their very livelihood for the past months in three large suitcases. Their aging and colonial home, now on her last legs, lies off in the distance, a brooding reminder of the mercy to which such a disaster is void of.

        Later on in the week when that picture had finally filled newspaper shelves around the country Ashley explained to me that, "we weren't really all that sad, we were just so damn tired from lugging all our stuff to your house!". As you can probably guess the two of them have moved in. We have gladly adopted them as our own. Us Canadians stick together, you know?

        For the better part of the week our flat has been a bustling halfway house for all those who needed to come and either relax, eat, sleep and in most cases drink with friends from around the world and around the corner back home in the great white north. Plans are being made to leave Christchurch for 'higher ground', safer ground. Grounds with safer drinking water and a more stable infrastructure. Some of the girls are heading to Queenstown, some off to Wellington for a vacation - but we've only just arrived! I have decided to tough it out alongside my newest flatmates. It will take more than an earthquake to scare off some of us Canucks, hell, the weather is still fine by me!