Sunday 25 May 2014

Leandra {downunder} #2

Leandra here with the next instalment of life downunder...

Sunday, May 25 had 2 objectives, to catch up with my best friend from school and university, Melissa, and to walk around the inner city area of Christchurch, as yet unseen and unexplored.

Melissa and I were pretty much inseparable at uni, we had been great friends at school in Christchurch, forms 2-5 (12-15 yrs), then I left to do my 6th form years in Mt Maunganui, Bay of Plenty. In 1986 I returned to Christchurch to start my degree at Canterbury university, and Melissa and I became best of friends once more, and from then did literally everything together. She in general was far more sensible than I, and I'm sure she got me out of many a sticky situation. What happened at varsity stays at varsity!

Today it was great to see her, her husband and gorgeous daughter, and catch up on who was doing what these days. She hasn't changed a single bit!

After a long and lovely lunch, we went for a long walk around the city.

We started out from the Arts centre, always a hub of weekend activity, in the past it housed plenty of arts and craft businesses and a weekend market with handmade goods and foos for sale. This being a collection of old stone buildings, it has been permanently closed, and so there was no activity today, just another propped up building awaiting a decision on its future. Every old stone church is propped up like this, unused, and waiting for restoration or demolition.

Next, heading towards the river Avon, we crossed to see this old visitor centre, again, propped up.

Alongside the river there used to be many restaurants buzzing with Sunday brunching people, again, destroyed buildings fenced off and closed, and more cleared sections awaiting new development. This one below used to house a wagamama, but now awaits demolition.

The most consistent survivors seem to be wooden building that coped well with the quake, there are some gorgeous wooden houses that are now commercial, residential, retail or B&B's, as below.

This site used to house the Clarendon hotel. An elegant hotel in its day. I worked there as a Saturday cleaner when I was 15, (not a nice job when dealing with the public bar men's toilets!) It was also where the Queen and Prince Phillip stayed when they visited in the 50's prior to her inauguration, and immediately next door was a cinema and beyond that the main town square. All those buildings have gone. In the distance on the square the remains of the cathedral can be seen.

This is Ridges hotel, now emptying 4 years, and uninhabitable

Temporary Banks In containers in Cashel street shopping area.

And shops in containers, this is Cashel street, the pedestrianised area always brimming with people, today, just a few shoppers by late afternoon, despite all being open

Containers turned into a coffeehouse cafe, who knew containers could be so versatile!

They have the containers arranged as small arcades.

It's resourceful, but sad.

The beautiful Anglican cathedral, where our school went for many special services that is to be demolished despite looking in pretty good shape, the roofline is perfect, it's just the front that looks bad, the rest seems salvageable. But apparently not. The catholic cathedral is in a far worse state, but they are repairing that. Logic does not seem to follow as to which buildings are being saved and which are not.

And here is it's temporary cathedral replacement, made from cardboard.

Opposite the temporary cathedral is the site of the CTV building that collapsed, layer upon layer. It was here that most lives were lost in February 4 years ago, and here are the chairs as a reminder of each of the lives lost.

If you walk a block either side of Cashel street, this is what you see, empty lot after empty lot...

Old building facades propped up by containers waiting for a new building to be constructed behind.

Closed off streets and buildings waiting for demolition

And then you come across weird things like this designed to cheer people up, perhaps a reminder of how small we are and how giant the task ahead. I found a munchkin!

As I said, Cashel Street is the only retail area open in the entire CBD, the blocks around it that used to bustle with alternative arcades, malls, shops, restaurants and pubs are all empty, devoid of any activity, just rubble.

There is another street, New Regent Street, that has been given a quaint makeover. However, sadly already many of the shops down here have quickly closed as there is little foot traffic to keep them open.

The last sad sight I saw was another old building on High Street, called Smiths, this was always an old fashioned store, and I remember working in here for a few weeks as a holiday job. It was a redecorating store with paint, wallpaper etc, and flipping freezing as I remember. To the street on the left were more older brick buildings, and there was no access, the entire block is destroyed, and still waiting demolition.

As I said, the main quake happened a few years back, but there have been thousands and thousands of aftershocks since, and this entire area we walked, shown in these pictures (apart from Cashel street) has only been re-opened for public access 3 months ago. Hotels, cinemas, shops, banks, post office, town hall, courts, pubs, restaurants and hundreds and hundreds of retail businesses are all gone, closed. The heart of the city is not beating. Imagine your high street with 95% of the shops shut, and then multiply that by an area of 20 centre city blocks, and you might get of sense of the area affected here in the Christchurch CBD. There are only a few tall building left in the skyline, where shadows once fell from many.

There is a significant redevelopment plan underway, and in 10-15 years Christchurch will have a new city, but for now, there is nothing except a small handful of shops struggling to survive.

Business has moved to the suburbs. The buds of renewal can be seen in the city centre and on the CBD edges. We went to a few pubs that have recently opened, where 12 months ago there was only one temporary bar made from2 buses and a temporary roof. Wounds take time to heal. I hope Christchurch can regenerate, and I hope the thousands of people whose lives and livelihoods were deeply affected can also see the light at the end of the tunnel. The kiwi spirit is to overcome and be strong. It will happen.

It's so hard to observe, but so much harder for those who have lived through it all and have still many hurdles to overcome. Strength to them all.



Helen said...

Oh my word!! It's hard enough seeing these photos just as a "casual observer" but to have a connection with a city, even at such a lengthy distance as you and Mark have, must be absolutely heartbreaking. It does seem strange as you say, how they decided which building to rescue... maybe they played "ip dip" ...

Mark said...

Hi Leandra and Mark. We were in Christchurch CBD in December 2012. We were very impressed by the sheer devastation caused by the quake, but for you it must be even harder to watch. We walked to Cathedral Square through a fenced-off corridor. The restaurants in that street were still displaying the menus of February 2011 and looking like they would open the next minute. The shops in the containers showed us some of the kiwi spirit, never to give up. Enjoy the rest of your stay in NZ!

Mark and Ineke

Carol Plume said...

Its strange, we all knew about the quake and the devastation in its wake, but, until you posted the pictures I, for one, didn't realise that things had not improved… hope your having some good times as well as seeing this very sad sight.

Hazel Agnew said...

Just like Helen says, it's depressing to see such devastation even when you have no connection, so it must be total heartbreak for you to see it. Lovely that you met up with your school buddy, bet that your accent thickened up. Thankyou for sharing your trip with us Leandra. Xx

craftimamma said...

Hi Leandra & Mark. Leandra can I first congratulate you on your beautifully written post. So well written in fact that I struggled to hold back the emotion so heaven knows what it is like for you to see the reality and the people of Christchurch to actually live it.

glad you have had such a lovely reunion with your friend & I hope the rest of your visit stays happy.

Lesley Xx

massofhair said...

How wonderful to see your old friend and her family, a rare treat for you all.

Sad to see old Christchurch in such a bad way. Hopefully the new Christchurch will be worth the wait.

The one thing that has struck me is the spirit of the people who despite the quake and aftershocks have found a way to survive in such circumstances.

Love seeing the containers being utilised for shops and cafes etc, they look amazing & very chic.

Thank you for another eloquent post. Take care:-) x

Keren Baker said...

What beautiful architecture and yet how sad to see some of the devastation and damage remaining. Love how you've showed people's creativity in the face of difficulty. Enjoy making lots of new memories x

Julie Lee said...

How sad for you to see the devastation to a beloved city. Let's hope something really great grows out of the destruction of the quake. This was a brilliant post, so interesting. How lovely that you met up with your old uni friend. You give me hope when you say you were not very sensible in your youth! Just hope my crazy daughter grows up to be as level-headed as you are now! Julie Ann xxx

ellen vargo designs said...

Such devastation... hard to see and read about but can't imagine how hard it is for you to be there after so many years, and have so many memories from your life be just.... gone. Glad you are able to re-connect with old friends and family. Cherish those memories and make new ones! ~ ellen x.

Lucy Edmondson said...

It is so sad, Leandra, to see those empty white chairs. You must have so many friends who have lost someone. It must be so hard for you to see it all.

I hope you have some happier times on this trip and make some happy memories,

Lucy x

Cocofolies said...

How sad it is indeed, oh... thanks a lot for sharing Leandra because it's probably not an easy post to do. I miss words in English to say all what I feel, couldn't imagine such sad stories and bad changes happening in big towns in so little time! Hugs xxx

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're getting to meet up with old friends, but my goodness, those photographs are so sad. I stupidly had the impression that practically everything would have been rebuilt & back to normal by now. Just goes to prove how bad the devastation was, we really have no idea what Christchurch went through & is still going through now. Very, very sad.

Etsuko said...

How sad it is and you had a big shock! Japan was hit by a major earthquake of twice in 16 years, Hanshin district is almost revived( It took in 18 years.) but Tohoku district is more worse situation and there has a another problem...Disposal by the tsunami was almost over, but still many people have to live in temporary housing. However, Your journey is not over, Have a nice journey! xx