We officially arrived in New Zealand-and we are happy to be finally catching up on rest and recuperating from jet lag.
We touched down in Christchurch 31 hours after starting our trip in Atlanta. We traveled from Atlanta, to Charlotte to Los Angeles, to Auckland, and finally to Christchurch. We lost 2 bags in LA but managed to receive them only a couple short days later.
Rusty and his wife Jennifer picked us up from the airport and took us to coffee. He is the current pastor of Grace Presbyterian, the church that we plan to be a part of while we are here. We then met their sweet kids Phin, Addie, and Liam at their home before shuffling over to Rob’s house. We will be staying at Rob’s house for the next 10 days or so before moving to his brother Peter’s home for a longer stay. Rob and Peter both are elders at Grace Church.
Our first night here, we celebrated 4th of July with some other kiwis and Americans at the Grace House (a purchased home that is meant to be available for small group meetings and interns looking for a place to stay). We were able to meet many of the families at Grace and share stories over Paula Dean recipes, pork, mashed potatoes, and even a cake in the shape of an American flag!
We have started a pattern of going to bed way too early (9:00) and waking up way too early (6:00)…thank you jet lag. We decided to use the weekend to rest and normalize our sleeping schedule, and plan to hit the ground running on the hunt for jobs come Monday. We used our second day here (Friday 6 July) to read by the fire and go to the mall to purchase much needed hair dryer and cell phones (which are incredibly expensive here…89 cents a minute!).
While walking into a store, we began to notice the sign next to us wobbling. Before we knew it, we felt the mall shaking and saw items falling off the shelves…we had officially experienced our first earthquake, though it only lasted about 5 seconds. What do you do in an earthquake? Pretty much nothing. If you can get outside, it would be ideal, but many people hurt themselves by stepping on glass or falling when panicking to get out. After a little more research, we realized the quake we experienced was 4.8 magnitude, about 12.6 km deep, and about 23.8 km outside Christchurch. The quake in pink below shows you the quake we felt.
We are used to natural disasters in the SouthEast, but once they are done, they are done. When you have a huge earthquake, however, there are always aftershocks that can last for years! Needless to say, quakes are part of life in NZ, so they happen all the time and people just go about their days. Most of them you can’t even feel, only those with higher magnitudes that are closer to the surface are actually noticed by people (according to the web, there have been 10 since we got here, but we only felt 1). All that being said, the city is quite safe now and rebuilding is in full swing.
One Saturday 7 July, we rode bikes to the “Red Zone”-the Central Business District that is still gated off due to the destruction from the original quakes. It is amazing to see the city centre now, having been here 4 years ago and knowing what it used to look like. Here are a few glimpses:
Below is the Metro Station I used daily to get around Christchurch last time I was here.
Thankfully though, people are resilient and are moving on. While officials try to decide how to rebuild the city centre, businesses are creeping back into the area. Shops and restaurants are using storage crates that once shipped goods into the city as buildings for new businesses. It adds a modern flare and color to the area.
It is definitely chilly in the winter, and because cost of living is much higher in Chch, homes are not warmed to what Americans are used to! We are enjoying space heaters, electric blankets, and fires-and the friendly company of our hosts. Ev and I are borrowing the church minivan for a brief time and drove for the first time on the left side of the road (yikes!).
Other than that, we are getting along well and will keep you posted!