I was living in NZ during the major quakes that devastated the city of Christchurch. The first, in 2010 was around 4am. I woke from a nightmare and 30 seconds later I was thrown backwards into bed. It felt like the earth was screaming. The next major quake, the really famous one that decimated nearly three quarters of the city's infrastructure, struck at lunchtime. It was quieter, all I could hear was people's gasps of shock and the sound of concrete and metal grinding together. It felt like rolling waves of nausea but on the outside of my body, not just in my stomach. People fled. People died. It was chaotic and tragic and I haven't been back to Christchurch much in the last few years if I could help it. The city is crawling back but the progress is slow.
I spent a few days back here recently with the intent of rediscovering a city I had once known and loved quite well. The streetscape has completely changed on me. All the markers I knew have gone, all the cafes I used to eat at have disappeared replaced with food trucks and a mall made from shipping containers, entire buildings have been demolished leaving gaping holes in the landscape (the house I used to stay in ended up at a 45 degree angle), the beautiful cathedral remains untouched, exposed to the elements. Truthfully the city is still a bit of a mess. Part demolition zone, part construction site, fenced off vacant and condemned lots pepper each street. Local and international creatives have taken over these spaces and transformed them into striking works of art. Between all the recovery efforts, the murals and street art installations offer a theme of unification against so many ruptured connections.