Blog 4 New Zealand (Blog4NZ) is an effort to put the country in the spotlight after the February 2011 earthquake. To help raise awareness, Jim McIntosh, John Reese, Craig Martin, and Dan Roberts started Blog4NZ so that photos and information about New Zealand would be shared March 21 – 23. In this post, native Kiwi John Reese shares his passion for New Zealand and his personal experiences from the earthquake.
New Zealand 100% Pure. That’s what the New Zealand Tourism Board logo says. Pure rivers, mountains, lakes, and landscapes. Tourists from all around the world are treated to magnificent sights such as Mount Cook, Franz Joseph Glacier, Milford Sounds. Photo albums around the world will be full of these magnificent views, and provide envious reminders to friends and families in city apartments in New York, Paris or Rome, of the beauty they are missing out on.
My family and I have just survived the 22 February earthquake in Christchurch. Views of this fine city again featuring in photo albums world-wide. But since the quake I think that there is a much more important aspect of New Zealand that tourist brochures don’t mention.
During the days after the quake we had no power, no water or no sewerage. I never was a great camper, but the transition to a no-shower environment and long drops in the garden, went smoother than could be imagined. In the following days our own immediate concerns were digging out the hideous liquefaction sludge that filled underground pipes and engulfed our gardens and properties. I’m generally a guy who likes to wear nice clothes and use a bit of hair-gel but I was even happy with my unwashed look with filthy mud-stained tracksuit pants and gum-boots!
Digging through this rotten smelling sludge was a long tedious job, but was punctuated with moments of incredible pleasure. Randomly throughout the day we received incredible acts of kindness; a group of young long-haired boys who turned up with shovels to help me, a young woman who stopped in a car and presented us with a cake she had just baked, a couple whom we did not know who stopped and gave us a bunch of flowers, a young teenager boy who stopped while biking past to see whether he could help!
Thanks to the earthquake I even know all my neighbours names! I remember once walking along a beach in the south of France, and on passing an elderly couple I casually said in French “Good Day, isn’t it lovely” The look on this couple’s faces was delightful – they looked utterly horrified. I was just saying “hello”. That’s what we do in New Zealand.
I remember the time, not too long ago, when it was common to acknowledge the driver of the car which passed you in the opposite direction – nonchalantly you would lift your index finger from the steering wheel as a way of saying “Hi” to the driver passing. In rural areas and certain parts of New Zealand this still happens.
We have just been to the Memorial Service in Christchurch to remember those who have perished and suffered in our quake. Nearly the entire city’s population turned up for this service of music and reflection – for a communal hug of comfort. Everybody realised that this was an important step in the recovery of our city, for a need to pass through a roadblock in our lives. We now move on with our lives, and it is so comforting to see that even the birds have started to sing again – can you imagine that the birds stopped singing after the quake!
So for anyone who comes to New Zealand, what will you see? Certainly have your cameras ready for the beauty of mountains, lakes, and rivers! But what I have experienced so strongly in the last few weeks following the earthquake, you should come to New Zealand to experience– the Land of Togetherness and Friendly People! In fact to experience our greatest asset put your camera away, and just talk to the locals. We’ll look after you. New Zealand 100% Pure.
Note: On 22 February 2011 the centre of Christchurch experienced a destructive earthquake which has had a devastating effect on business, hotels and lives in the central business district. Everything in New Zealand with the exception of the Christchurch CBD is open to welcome tourists from around the world. See you soon.
John Reese runs a blog about everything French in The French Way Blog. His focus is on villas, tours, apartments, holidays and everything in between. Thanks to John for sharing this post. Follow him on Twitter at francefrenchway and check out his blog at The French Way.
Filed Under: Volunteer Travel