Tag Archives: earthquake

Christchurch Earthquake: “the relief as people start checking in”

Dave Jackson is a university student from Hamilton whom I discovered on Twitter, somewhere in the lifetime of the #eqnz hashtag (which has become Twitter shorthand for everything Christchurch has been through over the past year and a half). He was in Christchurch until before Christmas 2011, studying at Canterbury University (where I also studied). He thus experienced both the first September 2010 quake and the big one a year ago today.

Dave was kind enough to let me cross-post a few words from his blog. The full entry is here; his words below are about getting home at the end of the day.

*

I sat down at the computer and the full extent of what had happened hit me, the checking in of people being OK and telling friends that you were fine. Then bed, snatched grasps of sleep between aftershocks. The booze and the sleeping pills looking tempting as hell, but you want to make sure you’ve got all your faculties about you if you need them.

Emotionally it was a frantic day. The initial panic of the quake, followed up by a sense of relief. Then the unease as you hear what happened, about the destruction and deaths. Then there’s the panic as you haven’t heard from people, the relief as people start checking in, and then as you get home to find power is back on you take a break, because you know that tomorrow is going to throw some challenges at you you never thought you’d face.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Zealand

Christchurch Earthquake: “sirens and news helicopters”

Mel and I worked in the same store in Christchurch. I last saw Mel in Japan four years ago, when we walked around Shinto and Buddhist temples in Kamakura. (A lot of my connections to Christchurch are also connections to Japan.)  She now lives in Christchurch again and has been a regular participant in the volunteer silt-shovelling that follows each bad aftershock.

*

I was meant to be in High Street around the time of the quake to tutor a Japanese student but ended up changing my plans at the last minute to travel to Hanmer to see a friend from overseas. So I wasn’t in the thick of it as such, instead felt the quake while I was driving around Amberley somewhere.

What was a negative emotion you felt on Feb 22?

I felt a mixture of shock and fear. My friend and I arrived in Hanmer at her family’s bach and got told by her parents (who happened to be there for time out) that there’d been a major earthquake in Christchurch. I also felt extremely worried when I finally managed to speak to my mum, dad and sister on the phone. In the aftermath, I felt scared and confused due to various things, most notably lack of running water, electricity, the presence of the army and police, continual aftershocks, liquefaction in the flat I was living in and the constant sounds of sirens and news helicopters.

What about a positive emotion on that day, or over the course of the following week?

The only positive emotion on that day was gratitude for the fact that I’d changed my tutoring plans at the last minute and may have missed the unthinkable (although, who knows?) and that my friend’s parents let me stay the night at their bach as it was meant to be a day trip only. During the course of the week afterwards, I felt touched at the amount of caring and attention shown towards the people of Christchurch.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Zealand

Christchurch Earthquake: “We all knew.”

I met Neil Purkiss on Twitter this week. Neil was living with his family in Christchurch on Feb 22 and, a few months later, wrote this detailed blog post reporting his and his family’s experience of the earthquake and its aftermath. He says that writing that post was “very therapeutic!”

*

What was a negative emotion you felt during Feb 22?

I had a feeling straight away that Christchurch was doomed.

I was in Caxton Press, Victoria St. I tried to drive home to Brighton and it was chaos. We left in June and live in Melbourne.

Thinking about it, the sense of doom maybe crept up on me in the next week. You could see it was bad on people’s faces. We all knew.

What was a positive emotion you felt during Feb 22?

Just when all family was together.

Leave a comment

Filed under New Zealand

Christchurch Earthquake: Listen.

It’s February 22, one year since the major earthquake in Christchurch that resulted in 185 deaths.

One thing I notice is that in many of the blog posts and news reports about Christchurch since that day, very little context is provided or needed. Virtually every New Zealander knows about the earthquake and its aftermath in incredible detail. We’ve read, seen and, for about ten percent of us, experienced the disaster over and over again, with fresh perspectives adding new layers of clarity every day. It’s for this reason that sentences like the first one in this post are practically redundant. Everyone knows.

It’s for this reason also that I questioned putting anything on my blog to mark the first anniversary of the biggest #eqnz. What could I add to the stack of reports that hasn’t already been said? I used to live in Christchurch, for five years; I watched in horror from my house in India as the TV reports rolled in, scouring Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other previously unseen corners of the Internet for new information, especially about the welfare of people I knew. But does the world need my detailed perspective, too?

I contacted some people who were in Christchurch that day, as well as spoke to others who had strong ties to Christchurch but were elsewhere on February 22. A few indicated that they had things to say. I figure that while the world (or New Zealand) may not need more words about the earthquake, some people affected by it might value a space for self-expression.

So, that’s what my blog is today and for the next few days. I’ve asked some just to write about a negative and a positive emotion linked to the earthquake and the days that followed; others have come up with something different. (If you’re reading this and want to contribute something, get in touch via Twitter or Facebook.)

I hope everyone who suffered through the big earthquake a year ago, and who continues to suffer through aftershocks and trauma, is able to mark the occasion on their own terms. Kia kaha.

2 Comments

Filed under New Zealand

An email from my Japanese former student

I had a lot of crazy classes during my time working as an English conversation teacher in Japan, but without doubt the most rewarding and enjoyable was the one with steelworkers at a Toho Corporation office. Every Wednesday eight burly Japanese men would join me, resplendent in hard hats and overalls, in a nondescript company classroom for an hour of (possibly dreaded) English tuition.

One of these men, Kazu, has kept in touch with me by email in the time since, which is – gosh, more than three years now. In class he was the boisterous one, quick with jokes (in English as well as Japanese) and boasting an impressive vocabulary. On the page, he is decidedly less effusive. He continually expresses a lack of confidence in his English, no matter how much I tell him how good he is, and his short messages often include an apology for his poor grammar.

We have been in touch a little more frequently since the Tohoku earthquake of February. He lives in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, so is not directly affected by the earthquake or nuclear fallout – at least, not yet. Yesterday, I received an email from Kazu that moved me deeply for various reasons. I asked him if I could reproduce it here, and – admittedly after some gentle coaxing – he agreed.

This may be meaningless to the rest of the world, but it is so meaningful to me. I am putting it here to give a sense of a regular Japanese guy’s outlook in the wake of the earthquake, and to just see if it resonates with anyone else.

Thanks, Kazu.

*

Dear Banz

Thank you for the mail and thinking of me.

About 7 months have passed since the earthquake and tsunami hit the northeastern coastal area in Japan.
There have been several facts reported about it. I was surprised to find out that the tsunami was estimated to have reached 38 meters in height.
This was the second biggest tsunami in history. The biggest one hit the same area in 1896.

Prime Minister of Japan announced his determination to reconstruct the devastated area into one of the most desirable places to live in the world.
I am very much interested in his plan, so I will follow it closely.

We still have many aftershocks every day. However, the life is getting back to normal in many ways,
although we worry about the effects of radioactive leaks in Fukushima Nuke Plants.

I wish everyone a safe and peaceful life.
Kazu

Leave a comment

Filed under Japan

Music, An Anchor for Memory

Right now I’m listening to ‘Province’ by TV on the Radio and it’s hot and humid, but the feeling inside and around my body is bitterly cold. The sounds of music and exploding crackers are pretty much constant outside from the three separate temple festivals going on near my house in this little tourist town in rural India, but through these headphones, the song takes me back to an inner silence deeper than most I’ve known.

Return to Cookie Mountain, TV on the Radio’s second album, came out in 2006 and I bought it the same weekend it was released. It was the middle of winter and I was living in Christchurch – yeah, that place that got hit by a big earthquake a month ago, but not as big as the one in Japan, but still pretty big.

I was living in the centre of town, in a building which apparently no longer exists, and working just a few minutes away next to the city’s main landmark: Christchurch Cathedral, and its Cathedral Square. I walked that 750 metres to work and back hundreds of times over a year and a half living in that flat, and while the brilliant blue skies and pleasant, dry and warm summers were wonderful, I’ll always remember Christchurch for its winter.

Christchurch winters aren’t desperately cold by global standards, hitting probably -5°C most nights in the July that Return to Cookie Mountain came out. This was cold enough for me, though, having grown up in the warmer North island, but luckily there was a trade-off: of the hundred bone-chilling nights of each year, one (or maybe two if we were very lucky) would be covered with real snow.

To warm that chill in my bones in the evenings, I’d take my CD player and listen to something as I walked. The walk to work was only a song’s worth, or half a song if I was listening to Orbital, and while I sometimes had my earphones in as I walked in the door of the souvenir shop I worked at, I usually felt like I was being a bit gratuitous. I mean, how hard could it be to walk five minutes without a personal soundtrack to occupy me, to handle the world outside my home without cutting out its sounds and replacing them with something which seemed more like part of me?

The walk to the video shop, however, was different. I would go to Alice in Videoland every Thursday evening to drop off last week’s rentals and pick up new ones. Wednesday and Thursday were my days off back then, my weekend, and I could hardly think of a better way to spend an hour than browsing the shelves at Alice’s. And being a full fifteen minutes away, I could fit in three songs, making the CD player a much more reasonable option – and for a good month or so, those three songs were the first three tracks of Return to Cookie Mountain.

I’d throw on my long black jacket, shove the CD player in the inside pocket, lock the flat behind me and press play as I got out into the street. Shuffling my gangly, poorly conditioned limbs along those gold-tinged, immaculately paved streets with TV on the Radio in my ears was pretty much perfect. I’d go into and through a near-empty Cathedral Square and as I came out the other side to cross Colombo St; a gust of icy wind from the Port Hills would throw my hair up and cool my face, and I’d wrap the front of my coat closed to ward off the cold.

Right about then, Province would start up. And I’d listen to it, Adebimpe, Malone and Bowie wailing about love in harmony as I walked on down High St Mall and then High St, past that cafe (whose name I’ve forgotten) I ate at with Ed and Rach, past Helen’s design studio, the song closing out just as I stepped off the street and into Alice’s – ah, heaters – the new releases there, as always, to greet me.

And I never forgot that feeling, somehow, without ever thinking about it. The music gave me an anchor on which to hang the cold, the coat, the flat and the paving stones, the cathedral and Alice’s, all those feelings enveloped by the sounds in my ears. On those 15-minute walks, ‘Province’ took on its own private meaning for me, one which I didn’t realise at the time: it would be the song that took me back to a certain time in my life, a particular feeling, the subtly indescribable emotion and physicality of it.

It’s simple, really. The memory is stronger than the song, but as an element of my life which remains constant however far I get from the memory, the song is what brings it all back. That’s to say, I can listen to ‘Province’ today in my hot house in India and it will still be the same ‘Province’ as it was four and a half years ago on the cold, dry, clean streets of Christchurch. The memories, dormant in this magnificent organ called a brain, come flooding back as clear as ever when I hear those simple chord progressions struck firmly on the piano.

It isn’t classical conditioning, but I’m sure there was something I concurrently studied in psychology classes that matches up. I see songs like ‘Province’ as an anchor on which I hang my memories, and it may have only been a flash of a millisecond back in 2006 where I felt the music, the cold, the city and everything else that stayed with me, but sometimes that’s enough to bring it all together and cohere into a memory that stays with you for the rest of your life.

Now, tell me your musical anchors.

(My brother wrote about this ages ago, so check out his post too. I give him the credit for getting the idea out first and for being an inspirational older brother who inadvertently plants ideas in my head.)

7 Comments

Filed under Music, New Zealand