How are you, I was just thinking about writing to you!
I'm okay, I am in Christchurch, although still living in Ohoka for the moment. It has been a very strange and hard few weeks, and as the dust settles (literally) we are all beginning to work around what everyone here is calling the 'new normal'.
It had been such a huge upheaval for everyone, that things that we would have found unbearably inconvenient in normal circumstances, have become part of the way we all live. My office building is full of business refugees, unable to get to their CBD offices, so we have people working in the hallways and the conference room, and there is a bizarre but strangely comforting camaraderie in the air.
It takes 3 times as long to drive anywhere, so the traffic flow is appalling. We all drive around with bottles of water in our cars, have our mobiles fully charged at all times, jump at the sound of buses and trucks, and the sound of helicopters overhead has become commonplace. My sister has taught my two year old nephew to do a funny little boogie dance every time there is an aftershock, and sing 'rumble rumble in my tumble'.
I went to Dunedin for a few days to escape the whole thing, and before I went I was seriously considering moving down there, but the strange thing was, that after I had been away for a day or two, I began to realise that I do want to stay in Christchurch, and that even though it's going to be a hard place to be for the foreseeable future, it's going to be an interesting place in a couple of years. It confirmed to me that this is my hometown, and I want to be around for the resurrection! I know that may sound mawkishy sentimental, but I think we have an opportunity to rebuild it, and I would like to see it. Both my sons have also stressed that they want to stay in Christchurch, and are determined to live on our section again one day.
It's almost as if the greater loss this time has pushed us beyond our grief at losing the house, has brought home even more that things are just things, and given us a more tangible determination to stay here and rebuild. It makes you realise that change is actually the only constant thing!
Things have changed so much. On the way down to Dunedin there was a hold up at Rakaia with a road accident, there were an awful lot of cars getting out of Christchurch, and we all had to stop and turn off our cars for about an hour while they cleared the road. Once upon a time we would have all sat in our cars and just waited, but it was the strangest thing - everyone got out of their cars and sat on the grass, or wandered up and down talking to complete strangers. My boys and I sat on the grass and talked with a very nice older English couple and a couple of heavily tattoed truck drivers, and drank ginger beer and ate jaffas!
We are also all only several degrees removed from the grief of losing people. A friend of my sister's was killed, as she was shopping in Manchester St; 43 years old, 2 young children. My poor sister was very quiet for a few days, as they had met for a coffee in town only a couple of days before. Unfortunately for a lot of people here, attending regular funerals for the next few weeks is becoming a terrible reality.
My insurance company has been really great, and as I have no land damage issues, I may be one of the first places to be rebuilt, even though it will be months before they can start. We are going to be moving into a 3 bedroom townhouse not far from my old house in the next couple of weeks, and I can begin planning in earnest!
It's so nice to hear that people are enquiring about me, and I would love you to pass on all my heartfelt thanks to them. In the wake of all of this, it is so encouraging to know that they are thinking of us, and do let them know we are all still smiling, albeit with gritted teeth, dark shadows under our eyes, and with slightly hunted looks on our faces!
Story: Elizabeth Woods