After two and a half years in NZ, we finally reached its second largest city: Christchurch. As you well know, this city has had a pretty rough go over the past couple years with the earthquakes that have changed the city forever.
The effects were noticed immediately with the amount of demolition and construction throughout the city.
While we both agreed that it would have been cool to visit the city pre-earthquake to experience the “Garden City” as it once was, it was moving to visit the city in its recovery process and see people living life, even with the destruction that surrounds them.
One of the hardest hit areas of the city was the downtown core, or central business district.
Many of the streets have been baracaded and closed off to both vehicle and foot traffic, making it tricky to navigate. Gravel parking lots abound where buildings, both new and historic, used to stand.
At the centre of the city is the Christchurch Cathedral, in Cathedral Square.
A current point of controversy and public debate is whether or not to keep and restore this iconic building, or destroy it and rebuild a new one.
We got to experience a mild 3.7 magnitude earthquake aftershock during our stay in Christchurch, when we were woken around 4am. There was a bit of shaking and a bit of a rumbling noise, but it was obvious nothing compared to what the people of Christchurch are used to.
In the midst of the sorrow and stress of picking up the pieces of this broken city, there is a spirit of hope and determination.
The Re:START mall is just one example of action taken to bring back normalcy and functionality to business owners and consumers alike. This colourful shopping district constructed out of shipping containers boasts a vibrant atmosphere, and draws a number of people into the downtown core each day.
Just a few steps away from the Re:START mall is the Dance O Mat, a coin operated dance floor with a sound system and lights, constructed in one of the vacant lots.
It serves for good entertainment and a chuckle for the dancers as well as the passers by, boosting morale and making creative use of the extra space now available in the central business district.
It will most definitely take years to rid the city of visible evidence of the quakes, but the people of Christchurch are well on their way to re-making their city . While this process of picking up the pieces and rebuilding is without a doubt a sad, stressful and taxing process, it is also a cool opportunity that Christchurch has to re-design itself.
We extend our hearts to those who lost loved ones, homes, businesses, schools in the 2011 quakes, and share in the hope that a new Christchurch will emerge through the rubble with continued persistence and support from fellow mankind.