Arrival in New Zealand
Trip Start Aug 21, 2011
49Trip End Jul 01, 2012
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First I was pleased to discover there were two woman speaking Mandarin in the shuttle with me. I was happy because I now know enough of the language that I can recognize the key sayings to determine what language they were speaking. (Hint, they were Ma-yo and Jigga)
Once all the other passengers of the late night hotel shuttle were dropped off, the driver began the expected small talk with me. But in Christchurch, small talk has a slightly different flavour. One of the first things the driver pointed out as we drove through the city were the fenced off areas of the city damaged by the Earthquake. Then he explained that the road was so bumpy because of damage by the earth quakes. Apparently they haven't fixed the roads yet because underneath the pavement are damaged pipes and etc, and there is no point smoothing the pavement if you're going to have to dig up the streets to fix the sewers as well
When the driver found out that I was a teacher in Asia, he told me about how Christchurch used to be a really popular destination for students from Asia to come to to learn English. But in the Earthquake, one of the large English Academy's collapsed, and 28 young Japanese students died.
So this made my first impression of the city. From my perspective, Christchurch seemed sad. It was greiving for the loss of it's people, the loss of it's landmark buildings, the loss of its downtown atmosphere and the loss of its future. The earthquakes have been rocking the city every few months for the last 2 years, and are expected to continue for 10 more.
During the day, I walked around downtown, or in what's left of downtown. A huge portion of the city is kept behind chain link fences and is labeled 'the red zone'. The only people allowed in are inspectors and construction workers, who seem to be doing a combination of demolishing old buildings, repairing the fixable and rebuilding the new.
I also visited the botanic gardens. even some of the greenhouses were closed for structural damage and renovation
However, Christchurch also has a huge amount of construction and rebuilding. A lot of people have left the city due to the recurring quakes, but the construction industry has created work for several thousand people as well. It wasn't a completely hopeless place, but It wasn't really a cheerful city either.
The next day I took a local greyhound type bus down to Dunedin. I was really excited because one of my best friends from college lives there now and I hadn't seen her in over 2 years.
We were lucky because it was a long weekend, so Becky, Alex, Jo and I hopped in their car for a road trip down to an area in southern NZ called the Caitlins.