Friday, January 3, 2014
Art Attack was going on at Christchurch’s new Container Mall, and there were tons of vendors, music and people filling the street. Despite the amount of recent earthquake ruins, it felt vivacious like a Friday in a city should feel. I visited Quake City, a museum about the recent catastrophe. I watched a documentary of a few survivors and listened to a testimony of a local policeman that completely blew my mind. He was working at the courthouse when the earthquake occurred. The quake was literally earth shattering and he illustrated how the silt from below the Earth’s surface was breaking through the cracks of the foundation in the basement where the inmates were being held. It busted the sewage pipes, and as the building started to flood, he knew he needed to evacuate the six incarcerated inmates who he described as “some of Christchurch’s finest.” A standard evacuation consists of driving them to a new location, but since this wasn’t an option with the current state of the now destroyed infrastructure, he resorted to handcuffing them together. This is a visual I found quite amusing coming from an American standpoint. He continued, stating how he found the nearest judge and quickly and informally wrote up a bail bond for two of the less threatening criminals and released them into the wild, so to speak. To his knowledge, neither has yet to become repeat offenders. As for the other four, he could not radio or telephone the nearby penitentiary to notify them of their new residents, and essentially had to show up unexpectedly. Even after seeing the city two years post-trauma first hand, I still can’t wrap my head around the magnitude of this disaster.
As I wandered around the City Centre, a local told me to make sure I visit The Cathedral as soon as possible. The City declared that it would be officially knocked down in the next couple of days and a historical monument would be lost forever. The front of the structure looked like it was in complete shambles and must have been deemed damaged beyond repair. Alternatively, the Kiwis had already erected the Cardboard Cathedral, a transitional church constructed of cardboard, local wood and steel with a polished concrete floor and a strong polycarbonate roof built to the standards of the current New Zealand earthquake code, making it an incredibly stable and safe structure that will last at least for the next 50 years.
A block behind the Cathedral, I paid my respects to the 185 victims who lost their lives that afternoon in February 2011. In honor, there is a site of 185 empty white chairs representing each individual. I did not know this, but apparently empty chairs are a symbol of honoring a loss and have been repeatedly used in history to even include a painting by Van Gough. Christchurch is full of transitional art. I found it such an inspiring way to put a spin on the eye sores of the countless construction sites. I even came across a traffic cone chess board on a street corner. The innovative Kiwis seem to think of everything!
On the walk back to my hostel, I came across 96.1FM The Attic. I’ll have to be sure to share that one with Slightly. The Jailhouse Accommodation where I booked in for the next two nights once use to be a real life jail, and has been converted into a livable hostel for weary travelers. It is actually far less creepy (and cleaner) than I expected it to be. The original solitary confinement cell even had a window. The hallways upstairs were narrow, and the noise travels throughout the building something terrible, but it’s a pretty fun novelty experience nonetheless. I made my attempts at cooking dinner and to my surprise, got complimented again! Who would have thought that I would start to learn how to cook at 25 by living in a hostel? No, my Mom didn’t teach me, I didn’t learn a thing in college, and living by myself proved essentially worthless. I sat down to enjoy my fixings, and pulled the label back on my Speight’s just like I was still in Queenstown playing beer for life…