It's been an exhausting week. For me, probably not half so exhausting as many of the people who are still in Christchurch. I've been looking after my two nieces, both of whom were away from their parents for the first time ever - let alone having been through a major disaster. They've been little heroines, but it's definitely taken it out of me. I think it's more than that, though. There's an emotional exhaustion. I ingest as much of the news from Christchurch as I possibly can. I would sit with my ears glued to the radio all day, every day, if I could. This doesn't make me feel any better. But I need to feel involved. I'm finding it really hard to bear being away. I'm hoping to go back on Monday but I feel like I need to keep in check with reality a bit and remember why I'm here. If my sister and her husband need me to be here, I can't just go skipping back to Christchurch. But I wish I could. I know how fortunate I am to be able to shower etc but I feel like I need to experience what everyone else in Christchurch is experiencing.
Below is a photo someone took from the hills as the buildings of the city fell on Tuesday the 22nd of February:
It blows my mind. With the last earthquake, we all rolled our eyes a bit at the way the media was portraying the CBD. Of course, it was bad - we weren't denying that the buildings that had been affected were very bad - but it was just like the media to show only those buildings and not the ones still standing. This time, the few people who are allowed into the CBD are saying that the media have almost not reflected accurately enough just how bad it really is. A friend of mine burst into tears as she was escorted in to collect her car, because she could never have imagined her city so devastated. It's reported that the public won't even be allowed back into the CBD until Christmas. Christchurch is a broken city. It's very depressing to imagine, and to hear reports of the hardship in the suburbs. Thousands of people are suddenly homeless. They've lost everything.
As sympathetic as people in Dunedin are, it's just not the same as being with people who love Christchurch because it's their home. On the cover of the Otago Daily Times today, there was an article about how, although the earthquake is really horrible, it may bring growth to the Otago region through all the people who will inevitably leave Christchurch and bring their careers/businesses/skills here. It felt like a slap in the face. (That's not the attitude of most people, thank goodness. They're desperate to help, so sympathetic that I feel like a fraud because personally I've lost very few possessions. We've had three different people drop off meals at my sister's house simply because she was housing Christchurch refugees.)
Part of the difficulty of being away is that you can't help out practically, like the thousands of people digging up silt or distributing baking or taking supplies to stranded families by mountain bike. I'm not saying doing this is easy. But it is very depressing to watch from a distance, invested in it so heavily because it's your home, the city you grew up in, yet unable to experience the overwhelming community spirit of the people of Christchurch or the determination that does exist to survive this. Below is a photo a friend posted on facebook:
Sandcastles made from the silt currently covering large areas of the city... we can rebuild. Such an encouraging message, and exactly what I needed to hear, and it could only come from residents of Christchurch.
Voices from Christchurch: on video.