Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Home Again, Home Again, Jigerty-Jig

We celebrated Molly’s birthday on Saturday 12th March with pizza and homemade chocolate cake and beer and coca-cola. We played cards and laughed a lot. We talked of the Christchurch family visiting us in Western Australia, maybe in April one year when the summer has cooled but it is still warm enough to swim. Molly’s birthday bash at the ice skating rink will have to wait for a time somewhere in the future; now is a time for consolidation and saving money.

On Monday 14th March I packed my tiny suitcase and headed for home. Despite some 40 aftershocks during my two week visit, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world. We said our good-byes after breakfast and while I waited for my taxi driver to take me to the airport, I picked up Joe’s wonderful Vicente Carrillo guitar and started to write the chorus to a new song.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A Hug 4 Christchurch

I had the privilege of waiting inside the school grounds at the end of the first day back at school. I was spell bound by this little school of only 100 pupils. It took me back to a time, long ago, when I was going to River Cross Primary School in Luanshya, Zambia.  Molly rescued me from my reverie when she gave me a big hug and handed me a little card which read: “This hug comes from Room 5, Ouruhia School, Christchurch. Please let us know where it gets to and when.” I looked at the card and said “Molly, it will break my heart to give this card away.” “You have to, Aunty Janie. Please take it to Australia and find someone to take the card to London!”  With a tear in my eye, I placed the card in my wallet, in the sure knowledge that somewhere in Sydney Airport, I would find an international traveler to take the card on the next part of its journey.

Sam has settled in very well as a temporary student at Ouruhia Primary. Yesterday he came home and said “Mum, if I like Molly’s school, can I stay there?” Joe has only just paid Sam’s private school fees for the whole year! I have offered Annie the use of my favorite T-Shirt which reads “I am a Psych Patient, give me a refund - NOW!”

The aftershocks have become more frequent, and the rumblings have been louder and lasted longer. There is a sense of unease in the community incase there is another “big one.” I only wish Paul the Octopus was still alive to give us his prediction! I said to Annie, only last night, “even if I don’t make it home, I will still be glad I came to help out here in Christchurch.”

Breakfast Maker, Lunch Box Builder and Taxi Driver!

            * Boil eggs.
            * Wrap separately:
                        3 packs of crackers.
                        2 bread rolls.
                        1 cheese slices.
                        1 capsicum slices.
                        1 cucumber slices.
            * Cook 2 slices of toast and make egg and spring onion sandwich.
            * Make 2 hot chocolates:
                        1 with choc and strawberry Quick.
1 with Milo.   
* Cook 2 slices of hot buttered toast.
* Cook 2 slices of hot honey toast.
* Add chips and lolly pop to lunch boxes after Annie has left for work!
* Pick up neighbor’s daughter.
* Take kids to school.
* Come home:
 Do the dishes
 Sweep the floor.
 Lie down, exhausted!

It’s got me thinking, it’s easier to go to work!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Castles in the Liquefaction!

Today is the first day I have been out of bed before sunrise. It is 7am. I have drawn the curtains and a gentle mist is hovering above the fields. The sky is clear and the day looks like magic, enchanting, and I know the forest will be full of goblins, wizards and gnomes!

We have just heard there is one street in Christchurch where 50 houses are sharing one port-a-loo! Joe is laughing hysterically. I think it is because he is sitting on a flushing toilet! Actually, Joe has earned an extra point from his sister-in-law for always putting the lid down after using the loo!

As soon as the children have gone to school I go out for a walk, pleased to be free of the responsibility. When I am taking care of them I am always listening, watching, and wondering what they are up to.

I walk deep into the forest. I am looking for toad stools – the red ones with the white dots. I saw some a few days ago, but none this time. All of a sudden I look up at the wonderful trees towering above me and an uneasy feeling sets in. I know it is time to head back to the road. The forest is not the place to be caught out! 

The children are home from school now and I am watching them play outside in the sunshine. Oops, another aftershock! Even the cows stop grazing for a moment. The children take no notice at all, they continue to scream and shout and build castles in the liquefaction!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Kiwi road rules – Uh!

“Remember” said Annie as she handed me the car keys, “in Kiwiland you:
1) Give way to the right when turning left.

2) When turning right, off a busy road, you must pull over to the left, and wait for both lanes to clear, if you are unable to immediately turn right!

I had heard about number one, but number two was too much for this little black duck. What with my kangaroo braking, and the rain, and the road rules, by the time we muscled our way through the afternoon traffic, I handed over the keys to Annie and said “babe, you can drive us home!” The following day I was offered the use of a car but I declined!

Everything is closed, the beaches are closed, the parks are closed, birthday parties have been cancelled. Luckily the suburban shopping centres are open, and a little retail therapy is good at a time like this! In my hand luggage I will be bringing home a family of hedgehogs, for my garden, to remind me when I came to Christchurch in March 2011.

Only six more sleeps and I will be heading for home. The children start school tomorrow and I will miss them so much. I will always remember when they snuggled up while we watched TV, how they comforted me when I cried, and the number of times they said “I love you.”

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Aftershocks, more Aftershocks!

Just when we thought it was safe we are nudged by an aftershock measuring 4.8! It is 8pm on Saturday 5th March and we are resting in front of the TV, thinking our day is done. We all stand up in one fluid motion and move towards the “safe place.” I am holding onto Annie. The rumble lasts for five seconds then it is gone.  The house shrugs it off once more. We sit down again but it is hard to settle. The children are a breath of fresh air, unaware of the danger. Just as well. Joe said to me, “When Annie and I are at work, if you get an aftershock, the safest place is in the house!” “There are dangers outside,” Joe continued “you don’t want to get caught out in a mud pool - could bury you alive.” Comforting thought!

It is a strange feeling not to feel safe in you own home. I may have the early stages of quake-brain myself. I take very short showers now, feeling afraid that if the house moves I may be trapped inside – unable to open the shower door.

School has been postponed once more. Today we did some school work at home – reading and mathematics. Afterwards we made cup cakes and decorated them with pink and blue icing and jelly beans and marsh mellows. Then Molly and Sam played Lego. Sam said to me “no offense, Aunty Janie, but you are too old to play Lego.” Sam obviously didn’t appreciate my antics when I played the country cop on the only Lego motorcycle. Lucky me!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Kids and Quake Brain

We have had many aftershocks since I arrived in Christchurch. The first one, in the dead of night, had me out of bed and groveling in the dark to open my bedroom door. While I struggled to get back to sleep I kept telling myself “I must be brave for Annie and Joe’s sake.” I knew I had felt this sense of foreboding before and I traced it back to being stuck at Steep Point for 10 days, aboard our yacht Roma II, while waiting for the gale to abate so we could make safe passage to Geraldton.

By sun up, on my first day, I was ready to do what I had come for - take care of the children so my sister Annie and Joe could catch their breath. My niece, Molly, is 12 years old and Sammy is 9. Kids’ cooking was high on their agenda, so we made a shopping list and headed to the supermarket. While Sammy and I were wandering around the isles he looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said “hey Aunty Janie, people might think you are my mum.”

When we arrived home, we made chocolate “bugs” and gave them eyes and ears and ate them sparingly! Then we all lay down to rest, the kids were more exhausted than me!

I have learnt a new term since arriving in Christchurch - “quake brain” - hope I don’t catch it too. Although we are still pooping into plastic bags, the aftershocks are much less now but I still sleep with my bedroom door open!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Christchurch Bound

I survived the night flight from Perth to Sydney, dosing all the way. At first I had the middle row of seats all to myself, but as I was undoing my boot laces and retracting the arm rests, a hostess ushered a large dude to my row of seats and that was the end of that! The only question I have is why would Qantas serve stirfry chicken and rice at midnight? Otherwise the service was excellent! 

I Navigated the rows and corridors of Sydney Airport, leaving behind Bailey's Irish Cream (2 for $47 - expensive) and 1.2kg of Toblorone for $20 (cheap but Sammy can't eat nuts). I had a little haste in my step as the boarding time for my connecting flight to Christchurch was now only 10 minutes away, however when I arrived at the gate the plane was running 45 minutes late - no mention of this on any of the monitors! So I retraced my steps and topped up at the water fountain and slurped at a tasty flat white, accompanied with cheese and biscuits and a chocolate - all that was left from my midnight snack.

I was surprised how many people were traveling alone. Some sleep in air port lounges, some read, while others seem to look far into the distance as if contemplating what the future might hold.

At 1pm New Zealand Time, while the plane was flying high over the Tasman Sea, the crew held two minutes silence for the victims of the earth quake. As the cabin fell silent I wept into my cup of tea for all those who had fallen and for those who had lives to rebuild.

When I arrived in Christchurch, there they all were, Joe, Molly and Sam. We hugged each other as if we had waited along time to see each other again. It was such a shame that our meeting was under such tragic circumstances.