Archive for the ‘Christchurch earthquake Observations’ Category

I Want to Get the Hell out of Here

10th March 2011

‘Forget about the bloody Cathedral’, she told me, ‘Just give me the money so I can get the hell out of Christchurch.  Where the poor people live, it’s patu mai (buggered)’.

There were 5 of us today, my last day on duty, at the domestic terminal at Auckland airport.  Having had a very rewarding day yesterday at the Welfare Centre, my time was to be spent with those arriving (escaping) from and the growing number returning to Christchurch.  Only a fraction in number of flights today compared to even two days ago so I was ready for what I would have thought to be an easier day. Before breakfast, there had already been a couple of flights, but most of these passengers were business people whom were scooped up by chauffeurs and carted away in shiny cabs.  Never the less whilst they seemed busy, who knows what mess their own domestic situation was in…they were on steady, non shaking ground and that seemed to make them smile.

A very vocal Maori woman however was far from happy.  She lived in the poor part of town as she called it.  Where the liquefaction and shit had flooded their suburb.  What I thought was just nuisance value silt, was also mixed in with the contents of the cities’ sewage pond which had been lifted up and had seeped into front and backyards, rendering the homes to be furnished with the dreaded red sticker (to be demolished).  She and her whanau of 13 (unlucky for some) had just had a 10 day stay on the 17th floor in 3 suites of a magnificent apartment block on the North Shore as temporary accommodation supplied by the government.  Ordinarily it might have been great, an expensive whare away from home as she described it.  But she didn’t like the idea of being so high should quake hit but more annoying was the money being spent could of helped her be paid out so she could relocate from ChCh.  From those I have spoken to this week, I estimate a third of the population would move from the shaken city that has had more than four thousand shakes since September I’m informed if they could.

I helped a couple of students forced to transfer Universities with their worldly goods.  Both of them had a laptop and large plastic bags …all they owned now.  They hoped to attend lectures the next day because they had lost two weeks already.

I met a couple of young boys (1 was only 9).  They were Afghan refugees (they had not met Borat as I found out later), settled with their families in Christchurch a couple of years ago.  Their families like most were frightened and wary of filling out forms they didn’t understand.  Using my best Borat impersonation was not going to help either I thought. These boys spoke good English thankfully and acted as interpreters for several families as their own parents waited for helpas none of the adults had mastered the new language.  When asked if they would be able to go back to being kids again, they were both adamant, this was important to them out of honour to their parents that gave them a better life and to the New Zealand that had helped them so much in the past.  Mature beyond their years.

I have enjoyed seeing smiles return to stranger’s faces, I have loved seeing the elderly, the young mums, the confused, the pissed off and families with no idea what they might be doing not only next month but not even now, get help from kind people, get excellent assistance from the usually unhelpful government employees and be amazed that the rest of the country is probably more aware of their plight than they are.  I met plenty of dick head Aucklanders too. But that, I was expecting.

I never saw the Red Bull girls again though… that would have bought a smile to my face too.

I’m back at work Friday, something else to look forward too.


Just Like a Jigsaw Puzzle

9th February 2011

I had a full day at the Domestic terminal yesterday.  It was like putting a giant jigsaw puzzle together only the pieces were people’s lives and not odd shaped pieces of worn cardboard.

Once all the scheduled flights in and out of Christchurch had been determined and chronologically listed as is my preference, my day was sorted.  Check that those leaving were coping and organised and then off to the extremities of the terminal to ‘welcome’ those arriving.  Jetstar and Air New Zealand are both enemies in the sky and at the terminal, separated by distance like siblings separated by a frazzled parent.  That meant a brisk pace was required all day going from departures and arrivals ensuring we were in place and on time.

My vigilance in watching all those Border Patrol programmes was paying off.  I wasn’t scanning the passengers for drug runners and unofficial importers of Chimpanzee testies or suchlike, but looking for the ‘signs’ of those still traumatised and confused … a bit like a North Harbour supporter after a home game.  Those wearing provocative clothing such as the red and black of Canterbury were quite easy to identify as ‘potentials’. Others were hard to spot.  It felt like we were there to start the process of putting these poor people’s own jigsaw together.  We were finding all the edge pieces for them, trying to get them sorted and in some kind of order for them so they had the strength and direction to make the picture complete with all the other bits they have. The picture seemed a bit hazy for many.

I had a couple arrive resplendent in floral gumboots, matching ear muffs quite confused as to just what to do next when they found out their online booked accommodation and rental car didn’t come to fruition.  Just another hurdle for these people in what has been an extremely long race already.  Within half an hour, they were on their way, happy little campers…for now.

A  lovely young lady I was drawn to (I know that sounds unusual), had little left.  Her car was on the 4th floor of an inner city carpark which she can’t get to.  Inside it was her friend’s suitcases that were destined for Europe with her friend.  Her friend flew out the night of the earthquake but her bags are still in the car.  Just another scenario that will never make the news but equally newsworthy all the same.

There were many older people (even older than me) that just needed help with their bags etc, there were mums with screaming kids that just need some help before they found a bullet and fixed the problem permanently.  I carried a little boy around so long he fell asleep on my shoulders while his frazzled mum tried to find a lost bag which subsequently turned up on the next flight all the while she had to deal with the fact her dad was gravely ill in hospital.  Then there were the obvious walking wounded, some wearing their bandages with pride.  One gentleman had just got out of hospital having sucked in too much of the liquefaction dust.  It is toxic, riddled with sewage but now in a convenient powdered form.  His face was still puffy and his voice gravelly like Toni Marsh (but not as good looking).  He had no property damage so was off helping others less fortunate and that’s what he ended up with for his efforts.

It is definitely slowing down in terms of those in need.  I have another shift to do at the Welfare Centre and one more at the airport on Thursday.  I’ll be back at work on Friday but something tells me it will seem a lot less value adding as has this week, helping those in need that have nothing much left and a whole lot of time to fill in.

When I finish today, I will catch up with my Auckland daughter, have dinner with her, give her a hug knowing we are safe and thank our lucky stars I live in the Waikato that only has to deal with motorway Taniwhas and not  the trembling ground and all that it brings.

My jigsaw may not always make a picture perfect scene but all the bits are present and in place just as like it.

With nothing to lose, I put my hand up to help those escaping Christchurch and the devastation caused by the earthquake

I’ve Got Nothing

8th March 2011

It is 1 in the morning and I have just returned from a debrief from my first session helping those internally displaced as we are instructed to call them, refugees from Christchurch.  Who would think it could be so exhausting?  All I had to do was talk to them and direct them like some pointsman at an intersection when the traffic lights had broken down.  Some of you know I can talk and have a predisposition to wave my hands and arms around like a bloody windmill so I thought I’d be quite used to it.  Why am I so buggered?

These bleary eyed, emotional wrecks are shuttled from the airport to the Welfare Centre in Manukau, where there is a one stop shop of all the appropriate government agencies that have set up camp in an old warehouse that now serves the community as a modern church with a fantastic stage furnished with all the instruments a modern day band would require and a sound desk big enough to direct all space shuttle missions!  So not only was I there to try the drum set, I was there to help these lost souls.  To help them start the journey of getting back on their feet.

As manly as I recon I am, I had to go out the back at one stage for a few deep breaths and a wipe of some stray tears (don’t know how that happened) as it is an emotional strain far worse than I had prepared myself for.  A lady arrived with another that turned out to be a social worker looking as spaced out as a front row sitter at a Bob Marley concert only drugs weren’t the cause of the vacant look.  She told me, “I have nothing.  I am alive but I have nothing.” She was at her wits end and had been displaced to Auckland with her 5 children all under the age of 6 and had no idea what to do next.  Within an hour, she had temporary accommodation for all 6 of them, an emergency grant and a warm meal in her.  All free because of the magnificent generosity of fellow kiwis and the infrastructure our government has in place. Still very jittery, every time a plane flew over head, she would panic and at one point fell to the floor and under the table.

There was a constant flow also of people off the street bringing in food and drinks (including some particularly gorgeous ladies from Red Bull dispensing product and pleasant scenery) for those in need like exhausted 50 year olds.  One local bakery turned up with 60 hot roast meals for anyone needing food.  The church we were based in provided people to man the canteen so there was always tea and coffee and hot meals for the masses.  I am in awe.

There is a store room full of donated food, clothing, personal hygiene products, lollies, blankets etc etc.  It was brimming with donated goods.  Only the consumable cupboard in Permeate is bulging with more products than this storeroom but at least there was some control at the welfare centre.

There were lots of kids oblivious of the real depth of their problems that I had a ball with so I could get their parents some free time to fill out the myriad of forms they are required to.  I was able to dabble in art, skipping and learning a foreign language from some little Muslim girls.  Their biggest concern was that they had finally made it to the seniors at school and were missing out on all that is good being a senior at Burnside primary because their school was closed. They worried about their friends.  I got to babysat a small dog of indeterminable breed as his huge master with everything he owned on his back including and M&Ms purse filled with doggie treats, tried to get back to Christchurch to be with his daughter whom was now in hospital.  He had been separated a couple of days ago where he got on a plane to Auckland and his wife at first took off to Dunedin until the daughter got sick.  Like many others, he has no form of identification, no money and even less idea of what the future holds.

Tuesday, I am at the airport from noon until the last flight in….probably the wee small hours of Wednesday.  The people of Christchurch are extremely grateful for the help and the good wishes they are being given but they mostly want to get home, get their stuff and start again but not all want their future to be in Christchurch.  If only we could get some of those Crusaders to move to Hamilton, the Chiefs might win a few more games.

I have a hanky in my pocket today.