Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ms. Average Earthquake Survivor

It's amazing how many things you do on auto-pilot. Almost subconsciously, I find myself turning on the tap for all of those little things - my hands are dirty, I want to rinse a glass or espresso cup, I want to fill the coffee machine - only to be momentarily surprised that nothing comes out. Then I remember. I absently stack the dishwasher, even though I can't use it, check the letterbox, even though deliveries are suspended, wander into the loo, which can't be used, think about taking a shower (again, no) and consider going to the supermarket for a bottle of wine, even though it is closed while they scoop up the tremendously destructive liquefaction.

Our business also is at a standstill because I can't send anything and because the factories we use have either no power, no water or no power or water. Some have structural damage. If this was happening just to me, I might be feeling hard done by, but I'm not. My experience is the experience of most people in Christchurch right now. Some people have suffered the death of a loved one, there have been many, many injuries and damaged homes and people in welfare centres. But the majority are just like me - averagely affected. Shaken up and inconvenienced. The most pressing issue for most of us is water, although petrol and diesel are also becoming hotly contested items of desire.

Last night I looked on to see where we could get some fresh water. Earlier in the evening I had scared myself a bit. In the middle of catching up on earthquake news (not hard, seeing as some TV channels are playing nothing but), I was hit by a wave of nausea and raced to the garden to retch for 10 minutes. I'd been feeling a bit off all day but thought it was probably stress. After puking, I started thinking about the water I'd been drinking, which was primarily rain water collected the night before and previously stored bottled water. Since then I've learned that you should boil rainwater and that, when bottling water for storage, you should make sure that there is no space in the bottle between the water and the lid, as the air can allow certain microbes to grow. All of my bottles have air in them, and the last thing I need right now is a water-bourne disease, so I've started a massive water boiling campaign. Back to last night; we discovered through the ecan site that there was to be a drop of bottled water at Waltham Park at 9pm, so we headed down there in the car. It's not far but it was raining.

We got there at about 8.45pm and joined a crowd of about 30 people. By 10pm many had given up and at 10.15 we decided that the drop wasn't happening and went home ourselves. We found a Community Patrol car, who made a few calls and managed to ascertain that the drop had either a) not happened, b) had happened early and all the water was gone or c) was running very late. In other words, she tried but could find out nothing. I couldn't say that the effort was wasted though because it was a fantastic social event, even if none of us got any water - and some had come a long way for it. We learned about other points for water collection from those that had water but just wanted some they didn't need to boil. We met people in the community and were amused by passersby. A group of late teens shuffled past, rolling drunk, boxes of beers in arms. They had walked miles to a supermarket for beer and told us that they had been given some water while there, but had given it away because they couldn't carry the water and the beer. An Irish guy in our group agreed that beer was far more important than water and that he had been living on it since the quake. Naturally. When the water supply is finally restored, I'm sure everyone in Christchurch agrees that the many local breweries should be attended to first.

A disheveled fellow with a long grey beard, bicycled past in a rather wobbly manner, toothlessly yelling 'does anyone have a cigarette?'. Nobody did. Maybe its the non-smokers that are most concerned about their water? Or, perhaps the smokers are panic hoarding. I explained that we were there for the water and he nearly fell off his bike while gesticulating to emphasise the frustration of having a non-flushing toilet. A young fashionisto, in beret and knickerbockers strolled past while taking his dog for a walk. I could not believe the face on that dog and had to ask him about it. It was a British Bulldog which is honestly, the perfect dog for such a man and such an outfit. The dog was wearing a scarf. That guy alone was worth being out in the park at an hour I'm usually in front of the TV or reading a book. I also provided some light relief by inadvertently unleashing the comic within. I was sitting under a tree, keeping dry, when an aftershock hit and the tree dumped all the water in its leaves onto my head. Everyone laughed. Yes, yes, very funny. However, still no water, except on me. At least nobody tried to come in for the lick.

This morning we were up early to do a few things, including locating some water, checking on relatives, making a local Sana delivery (business must go on!) and retrieving The Programmers belongings from his office. The office was first and the mess was impressive. Nobody was hurt at The Programmers work, but that is because they are all sensible programmers that get under the desk as instructed on TV. All the ceiling panels are down, heavy lights hanging from cords and also heavy air-con units precariously suspended from their cables. He had to wear a hard hat and go with a safety escort. He'll be working from home for a while. We then made my delivery, experienced the thrill of driving through a hefty aftershock (rockin' and rollin') and went to Grandmas, where we suspected there might be water in the garden tap. There was! There are pipes here and there that are directly connected to the artesian water supply, you just have to find them. I'd noted that the Pioneer Stadium, currently doubling as a welfare centre, had set up a water station, taking water from a pipe sticking out of the road outside their facility, which is 1 min walk from Grandmas. That tap must be on the same pipeline. We filled our San Pellegrino bottles and went to find my mum, assuming she had gone to her preschool to clean up.

Indeed, she was there and very glad to see us, especially one of us, not me. She needed a man, and I had one. The issue was water for the George Manning old people's home and they needed lots of it. Can you imagine a huge complex, full of frail old people that can't get their own water and need a lot of care? She loaded us up with large empty containers and directed us to the West Spreydon School, where there is a tanker parked. While I was in line a woman came past and told me that there was no queue at the pool. I questioned the chlorination of the water and she said it wasn't, so I headed down back and found that the pool was empty, having drained out through massive cracks in the bottom of it, but that the pool inlet, which is bore water, was continuing to flow. With the help of an angel, in the disguise of a woman that was donating her day to watering the masses, I filled the containers. Some bastard swiped one of my empties while I wasn't looking. Then again, as pointed out by The Programmer, I had so many that he/she might have thought they were free and available. While I was filling receptacles, The Programmer was appropriated by an old lady that needed a man (it seems that men are very popular in times of crisis!) to carry her water back to her car. Later he told me she hugged him. I said that was ok.

There were more than a few people carrying inflatable water bladders that have a detachable spout and a little bit of nosing around informed me that these were being distributed from the Pioneer Welfare Centre. Certainly that's a better idea than the many small bottles, kitchen pots, crock-pots even (!) old oil containers that people were using to get their water. The man of the hour delivered our water haul to the oldies and I ran down the road to get some of these nifty water bladders, mentally noting that my t-shirt bra does not do well as a sports bra. at. all. By begging on behalf of my preschool tidying mother, I was allocated two 20L bladders. Awesome. At that moment I could have been given a Rolex and not been more pleased.

Back at Grandma's we filled the bladders and checked in with my cousins that live in another house on the same property. They are all fine. My Grandparents have escaped town and headed to Hamner for the relaxing. While we were there, one of their friends came around, asking about water and it was nice to be able to show him a tap that works. Unfortunately his house collapsed in the quake and he was visibly upset. I know that it's more important to be alive, but it's still very difficult to lose everything you have built over a lifetime when you are in your 80's. At least you are alive, I kept saying to him; it was the only thing I could think of to say.

On our way home I dropped in to my butcher and one of three organic shops that I frequent. The organic shop is partially damaged, under a 'restricted use' proviso, which is surprising considering the building is less than two years old. The butcher shop is fine and I got chatting to my butcher guy who told me he was fine but tired of people coming in and whinging about things like cracks in their plaster. I agree. If you are averagely inconvenienced, like me, you really don't have a right to whine. It was ok in Quake#1, but this time people have died and been hurt. If you are not dead or hurt or homeless then I think the only acceptable thing is to feel bloody lucky. I know I do, bucket washing and all.


Mum just called (which means the phones are working!!! yayyyy!!) to tell us to get around there and help eat some food they have cooked too much of. As she also insinuated they have wine therefore I will post this without proofreading (priorities...) and get myself over there now. Please excuse any typos or grammar boo-boos.

Also, thank you so much to everyone that has emailed me or posted on my Facebook page. Although we are both fine, it is still trying times and it means a lot to know that you are thinking of us.


  1. Glad to hear you are safe and sound.

    Hope you enjoy that wine!

  2. thinking of you and all in chch xxox


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