Three weeks following the 6.3-magnitude earthquake that shook New Zealand’s South Island city of Christchurch, an estimated 70,000 people have fled amidst uncertainty about employment and further quakes. Christchurch and its remaining residents continue to be rattled by frequent and significant aftershocks, but - no surprise - the Kiwi spirit remains strong.
We’ve all been inspired by the bravery and resilience shown by the Kiwis—from Prime Minister, John Key, who showed practicality, coolness and optimism under pressure, to the man christened “IncrediBro” (his real name is Ahsei Sopoaga), whose desperate attempts to pull rubble off the wounded made him a YouTube phenomenon.
I was reading some of the many Facebook pages set up following the earthquake yesterday and one volunteer wrote, “I've just come back from Christchurch after spending time helping about down there. Through the devastation, through the loss and through the sadness comes the spirit of the people who continue to fight to survive and won't give up. It's been an experience that I will carry with me forever.”
One of our favorite New Zealand press writers, Vicki Anderson, also recently wrote, “It’s time to dry those tears. And Kiwi “humour” kicked in.” Writing about “it” (to minimize use of the word “quake”), Anderson says the situation is pretty funny. For instance, she recently conducted an interview on her cell phone, something she normally would’ve done from an office overlooking Cathedral Square. “However, under the regime of the ‘new normal’ I ended up conducting the interview surrounded by goats,” coughing (unsuccessfully) in an attempt to block out the loud bleating noises . Plus, she added, “I am currently wearing a disgusting floral dress I bought in the only open shop selling clothes - an old ladies’ dress shop. I look like I could be cast as an extra in a remake of Anne of Green Gables or a stray member of the Waltons.”
The country also has a new obsession with toilets, and “shared tales of being on the dunny during an aftershock.” Anderson’s own tale was a watershed moment. “It’s a little sick, but if you don’t have a toilet for a few days and you’re competing with the cat for the best place in the garden, believe me a nice porcelain number well deserves its ‘throne’ slang.”
She wasn’t the only one. New Zealand blogger, Ally Mullford, wrote: "Over the last few days I've heard a ridiculous number of claims from people who claim to have built the best backyard toilet in Christchurch. Anyone for a competition?" No surprise, Show Us Your Long Drop showed up online. The winning throne has already been selected.
Alas, it’s not all dunny humor here. Christchurch Mayor, Bob Parker, livened things up with an online auction to sell his own parka to benefit earthquake victims, and believe it or not his now infamous bright orange parka earned a whopping $7,650!
He also issued three levels of “muntedness” for the city of Christchurch: the minor-munt, medium-munt and mega-munt.
For those of you who don’t know what “munt” means, the short of it is “damaged, broken, deformed, drunk, stuffed up, wrecked and a few others we can’t mention here. As in, “We'll have to walk; my car's munted!” You have to understand that to get the next portion, a Facebook page that’s sprung and now has 10,000 members (with good reason). Here are a few of our favorites from You Know You’re From Christchurch When….
...you call the little shakes "cute"
- ...you see a lovely park in another city and think it would make a good evacuation point
- ...just as the Eskimos have 200 words for "snow", you've now got 200 words to describe various quakes
(rattly, wobbly, jerky, rolling, sharp.....)
One of our locum doctors was sightseeing in Christchurch the day before the earthquake and took this picture of the cathedral (note the same building after the earthquake). He wrote, “The devastation that we saw on the news only served to enhance our appreciation of the beauty of the city. It is very walkable, with the Avon River winding through the city, beautiful willow trees at its banks. The botanical gardens are incredible, and the Canterbury College across the street is full of picturesque old squares. We know that the people there will persevere.”
Yes, they will. Cantabrians will sell their MASH t-shirts, they’ll shovel silt, and they will rise again. Canterbury Development Corporation (CDC) and Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (CECC) have combined resources to create a joint venture responsible for driving Canterbury business recovery.
Yesterday, The Christchurch Earthquake Appeal balance stood at $8,348,834,83; global sporting giants Wimbledon, British Golf Open and the Mclaren Formula One Team are offering the trip of a lifetime to raise money for Christchurch quake victims; a cricket match raised more than $500,000; the Foo Fighters band will play to a small crowd at Auckland’s Town Hall on Tuesday 22 March with all proceeds going to the CHCH Earthquake Relief Fund; and the list goes on and on.
“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,” tells Ally Mullford. “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.”
One of the first signs: a New Zealand search and rescue team has headed to Japan to help after the 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami devastated the country on Friday. Prime Minister Key and Mayor Bob Parker both agreed that sending New Zealand teams to help out quake-stricken Japan was the “least we can do” given the amount of help that Japan gave to Christchurch. What’s more, the Japanese Government accepted search and rescue team help from only four countries, which was "big recognition" for the Kiwis.
By the way, if you’re reading this on the dunny, count your blessings that you've got a real throne. Oh, and if you have a great "You Know You're From Christchurch When...." or "watershed moment" of your own, bring 'em on!