I remember feeling pretty out of it when I arrived in Christchurch. I hadn’t got a lot of sleep, I’d changed time zones again, and I hadn’t even eaten yet (always a terrible idea, but I was in a rush!) when I finally tucked into a coffee and muffin in a highly recommended cafe around midday. It’s hard to look at the city without trying to imagine how it must have been before the devastating earthquakes of 2011. There seems to be too many gravel parking lots and large grassy areas on the edges of the town, and I wonder what stood there before. Although it’s been a while since the quakes, and dozens of big,glassy new buildings are dotted between the older buildings which survived, there are still reminders of what happened wherever you look. Shipping containers and vast metal struts hold up several historic buildings, including the famous cathedral, while they try to decide what to do with them.
My favourite thing about this new incarnation of Christchurch is the way they’ve used art to deal with the disaster. There are beautiful murals adorning walls everywhere you look, and the optimism of the city is summed up by the neon lights on the side of the art gallery: “everything is going to be alright.”
I was born here, this was my first home. I see landmarks which are familiar from the photo albums and family videos, including the flat we lived in. My parents loved this city, and I’ve grown up hearing stories about it. It was hard to believe I was finally there in the flesh.
I have a pounamu my mother bought for me when we were last here, 23 years ago. I found the man who sold it to her, and I bought one myself. I hike, and I try to come up with stories. I tend to limit myself to facts, and inventing things feel more challenging.
The botanical gardens are visible from my hostel; everything is in bloom.