On Sunday we went to hear ‘Yulia’ at an open air concert in the Botanical Gardens here in Christchurch. Yulia and her mother came to NZ from Russia in 2002 when she was 16. Within two years she’d been ‘discovered’ by CTV, Christchurch’s local radio station. She sings classical and popular music and her first album reached number one in the NZ charts. She’s had lots of subsequent success. The concert was part of the Ingham’s ‘Lazy Sundays Music Festival’ put
on by Christchurch Council. Each Sunday over the summer free concerts are held on the Archery Lawn of the beautiful Botanical Gardens (near our house swap).
We enjoyed listening to Yulia’s eclectic mix of songs, sung in Russian, English, French, German and Spanish! (She is apparently fluent in 9 languages!) One of my favourites was ‘If you go away..’ although I have to say I wish she’d sung it in French or English on this occasion rather than in German.
We went for a walk into the city centre this morning and I was quite overwhelmed at the scale of the devastation that the earthquakes had wrought. When we were here two years ago I was expecting a shock, but somehow today, in spite of all the new building going on – and there is masses of it – the sheer scale of the destruction really hit me.
Firstly the cathedral is still in its tumbledown state five years on, with warning signs not to enter the cordoned off area. No decision yet on its fate: to rebuild or not to rebuild..? All the surrounding streets in one direction, which were once the hub of city life, are building sites with just a few functioning shops and businesses. In between there is waste land or derelict-looking blocks, waiting their turn for renovation or demolition. On the bright side, huge colourful murals are in evidence. They have been painted all over the city.
I felt uncomfortable taking shots with my camera. I could – and will shortly – just walk away from it all, but most people here obviously don’t have that luxury, even if they wanted it. They see these sights every time they come into their city and progress must seem painfully slow sometimes…
Yesterday, driving through an outer suburb of the city, our friend David suddenly spotted a business which had relocated to this area. He’d been wondering what had happened to it. He’s spent almost all of his life in Christchurch and now nothing is where it’s always been. It must be very disorientating…
Of course there are lots of positives too. With all the rebuilding, familiar sights are reopening all the time; the latest being the glass fronted art
gallery on Worcester Street. The ‘Re-Start’ programme has seen lots of innovation with containers transformed into a shopping mall and cafés along what was (pre 2011) the main shopping street. Recently this mall moved back a block when a sparkling new department store and the new bus depot were completed. Some of the extra space in the centre has been turned into car parks but there are lots of ‘pop up’ shops too and ‘gap fillers’ where people have come up with all sorts of ingenious ideas for filling the empty spaces from street theatre to gardens to old decorated pianos for people to play to all sorts of activities for children and more.
Many people in Christchurch lost their homes in the quakes. Many more have had to spend years in damaged properties waiting for decisions from insurers. Some still don’t know if their home will be rebuilt or demolished.
I’m sure things will look different in another five years, but the struggle here is a day at a time. For many stress levels are still high.