February 28, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

It has only been six days since the big quake hit us, but already it feels like weeks. At the moment, things are picking up in Chirstchurch, with water and electricity back on for 75% of the population. The Mayor is doing as much as he can to speed up the recovery of the whole city and I must say he's doing a commendable job so far.

Day 3, 4, 5 have not been easy for Cantabrians. With the city now closed, lots of people have lost their jobs and are surviving on government support. The death toll has risen too. No one has been pulled from the wreckage alive since Wednesday afternoon. The official death toll at the moment is 145. That number will definitely increase as there are still hundreds of people missing in the CBD. And the fact that it has been six days make the chances of survival rather slim.
The development in Christchurch so far
  • There are still more than 200 people listed as missing
  • More than 600 rescue workers are searching the region
  • 62,500 residents remain without water and 100,000 have no sewerage service.
  • Thousands of the city's inhabitants have left in droves, flying, driving, even walking away, with no plans to return any time soon
  • Experts predict the exodus from Tuesday's killer 6.3-magnitude earthquake will continue in the weeks and months to come
  • There is a cruel prediction by some that another big one will come on March 20
source: 3NEWS 

That's what I've gathered from the media. Some days, I just ignore earthquake-related news cos it's just depressing to watch. It's sad to see how people are suffering, having lost their loved ones and livelihood. One becomes paranoid and emotional you know. My solution to this is to turn off the news for a couple of days and just focus on what's in front of me. Things like what my kids do, what we're having for dinner, when to do the laundy and when I should continue writing my thesis. Basically, things within my control.

Most of my time were spent with the dynamic duos...

Watching her eat is a joy 

Alden was bored

so he decided to bully Alva

I cooked rendang...(from a packet)

and baked a chocolate cake ( from a box)

I did the laundry whenever there's sunshine

So that's what I did on Day 3 and 4. On Day 5, I decided to check my uni's website and email. Yoda sent me a message asking me how I was doing. He's not affected by the earthquake cos he's living in a suburb quite far from the city. After replying his email, I continued reading the message from the College's Dean. One of the announcements caught my attention.

Te Pourewa, where my office is located has suffered significant damage and it will be some time before we can access it. This came as a shock because the building seemed sturdy to me. When I thought about my data and research files in my office, I felt paralysed. I regretted not taking them with me when the quake hit. I replayed the scene over and over again and the more I thought about it, the more obssessed I got. Hubby snapped me out of it when he saw me crying in front of the computer. 

He said I am not the only one affected and surely I'd be able to get my data when the engineers have inspected the building. He's right. From that point onwards, I decided to apply a SO WHAT attitude to overcome my earthquake-related anxieties. So my office might collapse. SO WHAT! Kusai's passport is in there too and I'm sure he's freaking out like me. 

SO and WHAT have now become my two favourite words.

On Day 6, we went to have a drive around the city. I thought it was a good idea to get out of the house cos all of us have been cooped up at home for almost a week. When we got closer to the city centre around Moorhouse Avenue, I was shocked to see how much it has changed. I knew what to expect  but seeing it for myself was kind of surreal. A lot of roads are damaged, many buildings have collapsed or are on the verge of collapsing and policemen are patrolling all over the city. Like I said, it looks like a warzone now.

At Moorhouse Ave

Damaged warehouse

Don't know what this building used to be

Effects of liquefaction

A church along Bealey Ave

Burger King

A body was pulled from the rubble of this bookstore

Liquor selling cheap

All this for $25

This 4-bedroom house belongs to hubby's colleague, Martin. He's now renting a 2-bedroom apartment

Those are the effects of the big quake. Although it looks pretty bad now, the Kiwis are relentless on rebuilding their great city. Thousands of volunteers  from around the country are helping with the clean up, from kids as young as 12 years old to adults and senior citizens. They also include university student volunteers who call themselves Student Army and farmers who are described as Farmy Army. These unsung heroes are working around the clock to clean up after the big quake  and some are assigned to distribute supplies to residents of stricken areas. The disaster was Christchurch's darkest moment, but it certainly brought out the best in people.

I'm optimistic that things will get better in Christchurch. Like the mayor said in his speech "This too shall pass. It can only improve".

February 23, 2011

State of Emergency - Day 2

I woke up at 6.30 a.m. today. It was a sleepless night for me cos we had regular aftershocks happening at short intervals. I don't think anyone could sleep well last night. I know we've faced so many aftershocks before, but  the ones that followed yesterday's big quake were clearly bigger, more aggresive and varied in terms of rhythm. That's probably not the best description for the nature of an aftershock but that's how I'd describe the variety of shakes we've had. 

All the local news network are featuring the latest updates on the quake and we get live on-site coverage 24/7. Although things are a bit better today with successful rescues being reported, many are still missing. Their loved ones are still waiting at the site, crying and hoping for some kind of miracle. It's just sad. Apart from the city centre, people in the East side suburbs like Avonside, Bromley and Sumner are also affected. There's no power and water. The liquefaction at those area is so bad, the roads are flooded. Lyttleton port is practically unliveable cos lots of houses are damaged. That's where the quake originated from. 

We are staying in a suburb only 7km from the city and yet we've been spared from all of this. So far we still have power and water, and there's been no sign of liquefaction. We are indeed very fortunate. I feel blessed for having the luxury to continue living in a state of normality when so many others are going without basic necessities. I feel so sorry for them especially those who've lost so much. Search and rescue operations are still on-going but not all victims can be saved. That's just one of the many despairing news you see on TV. 

Source: YahooXtraNews

More pictures here

Despite the tragedy, we were told to remain calm and keep each other safe. The first thing we needed to do was to get food supply. We were running out of bread, milk and meat so we decided to get some grocery at a supermarket in Hornby. Since the car was low on petrol, we had to find a gas station first. We went for a drive in search of one but most were still closed. After 15 minutes of driving, we finally found one in Riccarton. It was jam-packed.

The supermarket in Hornby was packed as well. I think people started panicking after the PM declared National state of emergency. This is the first time in NZ's history. Seeing how people were reacting, we got worried too so we bought lots and lots food supply. Enough to last us for weeks. Unfortunately, not all of the items were available. Bread and candles were sold out so we had to go to another store in Riccarton.

At the Riccartion store, the crowd was massive. They've set a purchasing limit for certain kinds food items like milk, bread, water and juice. Only 2 per peron. Paying was a pain too cos the queue was so long.

In the streets, it was a warzone. There were collapsed buildings, broken glass on the road, safety fence everywhere and army tanks. I think we saw nine tanks in total.

And that's how it is right now. Uncertainty prevails, with aftershocks hitting every hour but I guess we just have to deal with it. Thank you for your prayers and kind words. I really appreciate it.

February 22, 2011

State of Emergency - Day 1

Christchurch is in a state of chaos now. We were once again hit by a massive earthquake at  a magnitude of 6.3 today. The magnitude was comparatively smaller than the September quake last year but this time, it was shallow. Only 5km deep. The shallower it is, the more severe the damage.

When it happened, I was sitting in my office on the fifth floor, getting ready to leave. I had just finished posting an entry in my blog when all of a sudden I felt a thundering tremor that shook the entire building. It was a violent shake. I wish I can I explain how horrific it was. My mug fell off the table, the file cabinets toppled over each other and my keyboard skidded off my desk. I heard my friends calling me, asking me to leave the office but I couldn't move. The shake was so severe that you just couldn't stand up. I sat there, watching the stuff falling from the shelves.

After a minute or so, I can't really tell, the shake subsided. It was then that the fire alarm and sprinkler went off. I quickly gathered my stuff and dashed for the door. At the hallway, I saw water everywhere. I could feel my legs wobbled as I ran towards the stairs. My colleagues were panicking too and some were crying. Kusai waited for everyone to come out and told us to evacuate the building immediately. I ran down the stairs as if my life depended on it.

We were told to gather in front of the car park but I couldn't be bothered. I just wanted to get the kids. As I was walking to the daycare, I felt tears welling up my eyes. I didn't understand why I was being so emotional. I couldn't think straight cos I was shaken.

When I got to the centre, the teacher told me to wait outside. They were evacuating the building and everyone was asked to wait at the parking lot. I waited anxiously for Alden and Alva to come out. Alden appeared first. While all the other kids looked distraught and scared, my boy came out with a big basket of toys in his hands. I smiled a little when I saw this. Soonafter that, hubby called to ask if we were okay. I told him what happened and continued to wait for Alva. Seconds later, she appeared with her teacher. I was so relieved. I got the kids in the car and headed home.

On the road, it was a total chaos. Power line was cut off so none of the traffic lights were working. Somehow, we managed to get home safely. We couldn't get in through the front door cos I think the house has tilted a little so we went in through the back door. After getting the kids in the living room, I reached for the phone to call my sister. I don't know why but I had this pressing urge to talk to someone from home. So I picked up the phone and called her office. The moment I heard her voice, I broke into tears. The whole incident was just too overwhelming and shocking. Soonafter that, hubby got home and I felt better.

I called my Christchurch friends to ask if they were alright and thank goodness, everyone's okay. But when I turned on the news, it's a different story. The city centre was badly hit and multiple buildings have collapsed. So many are injured. Hundreds of people are still trapped under the rubble and some are trapped in their cars. Roads are closed, hospitals have run out of ambulance, buses have been crushed by falling masonry, more than 1000 people have nowhere to go, phone lines are dead and rescuers are beginning to pull battered bodies out from under the wreckage. Despite all of this, the aftershocks continue, as if we haven't had enough. There've been so many aftershocks, I lost count.

As mentioned earlier, so many buildings in CC are damaged. One of them is Christchurch cathedral, the most iconic landmark in Christchurch. It's heart breaking cos the cathedral had managed to withstand the September quake last year, giving Cantabrians some kind of reassurance that they could survive the challenge of rebuilding the city. I'm not sure whether it's repairable now.  I am also worried about my friends who are fellow guardian volunteers at the cathedral.  Some witnesses told reporters that there were people were in the tower when the quake happened. The spire has collapsed and the tower is now demolished.  I hope and pray that Quintin, Nicki and Ngari are okay.

At the moment, the PM has confirmed at least 65 deaths in the quake and declared a state of emergency in Christchurch. The city is now in a state of devastation. I am thankful to God that we are okay, but my heart goes to those who have died and are still trapped in the buildings. Let's pray for everyone who's affected by this terrible event. 

When Yoda say Jump! I say how high?

I have a cofession to make.

I am terrified of public speaking. The reason why I attend conferences and subject myself to this torture is to travel, get goody bags and shop. That's my motivation. If you can't get any of that, why bother right? Okay, okay..so maybe that's just me. 

Anyway,  two weeks ago, I received a call for papers for a conference organised by my Dean and Yoda, and  I thought, Nah! I think I'll pass. Yoda won't miss me.

Wrong. Yoda wanted me to present. He made that clear when he came to my office to see Kusai last week.  FYI, Kusai is Yoda's favourite apprentice. 

So we were all in the office right; me sitting quietly at my desk, minding my own business, Yoda and Kusai busy talking about his research development. How far he has gone, conferences he's attending blah blah blah. Then the moment came when Kusai showed his abstract to Yoda, to which Yoda delightfully approved. "Well done Kusai! Well done!".

And then out of the blue Yoda said "How about you Alice? Would you like to discuss your abstract today?"

And my mind was going like, WHAT ABSTRACT??? I never said anything about writing an abstract. I have the analysis to worry about!

So I said calmly "No, I've been busy with the analysis...I don't even know if I'm presenting cos there's still so much to do...

Yoda: But of course. The analysis comes first...Next week then? Send it through when it's done.

Me: O-kay...
Yoda: I'll be away on Monday but if you send it through on Tuesday, I can have a read and get back to you on Wednesday.  

Me: Aha...

Yoda: Once you're happy with it, send a copy to Kirsty and do the registration online. 

Me: Right
Yoda: Great! Well done you two!

So. That's how I ended up being one of the presenters today. It's happening in less than 3 hours. ONE TWO THREE hours from now! Yoda's going to be there, watching me and so is the Dean and some guest speakers from other universities. It's going to be soooooo exciting!

Because I do not want to embarass myself and Yoda, I've prepared a script for my presentation. I normally don't do this, but for Yoda, I'll make an effort.

So I think I'm going to be okay. I just hope I don't hyperventilate when the time comes. Fingers crossed.

February 16, 2011

Show and Tell

My Valentine’s Day started off as most days in my life, hectic and uninteresting. I woke up at 7.00 a.m., jumped out of bed and dashed to the bathroom. After getting dressed, I began preparing the kids for school: fed them breakfast, got them dressed and packed their lunchbox. At 8.15. we were set to go.

When I opened the front door, this is what I saw.

I had totally forgotten about my landlord's message: Construction work starts Monday. The driveway's a mess now, with sands all over the front porch and we can't even park the car at the front yard. Not anybody's fault but I was annoyed nonetheless.

After dropping the kids off at school, I walked to my office hurriedly. I reached the lobby, avoided looking at the elevator and quickly took the stairs to the fifth floor. Although I've been doing this for weeks now, it hasn't turned into a habit yet. Every now and then I still have the urge to take the lift.

I got to my office a minute later and quickly opened the door to let myself in. I was now in my comfort zone. It's all peace and quiet and the Force was definitely with me. Ahhhh..I could finally write that story for Yoda. That's what I did for the next couple of hours. I wrote and wrote like there was no tomorrow.

Tick Tock Tick Tock. Five hours later, my time was up. All writing ceased because it was time to pick up the Vava and Alden from school. Just when I was starting to get all fired up, time ran out on me. I went to get the kids, shoved them in the car and drove home. After feeding them, I called my sister to wish her Happy Valentine's Day. I had ordered some cupcakes for her, intending it to be from someone anonymous (konon) but the moment she saw Carol delivering it, she knew it was from me. So my prank didn't work. But anyway, she loved the cupcakes.

I came up with the design :)

Don't you just love the boobs?
At 3.00 pm while I was still chatting with sis, I got a surprise visit from my cousin and her family. I was mortified to see them cos the house was a total mess. I mean in a pig-sty kind of way. Food crumbs on the floor, toys everywhere, dirty laundry on the couch and oh, Alden was running around naked. In panic, I just dumped everything in the bedroom. Phew!

Soonafter they arrived, hubby got home from work. I was so happy to see him cos he's a better host than me. My cousin suggested that we all have dinner together and since hubby hasn't told me his plans for the evening, I thought why not. So we went to the New Century restaurant at Church Corner, Riccarton. The food was great but I didn't enjoy myself. Alden was cranky the whole night and I was busy getting him to behave. Plus, my cousin brought along this loud, annoying friend who talked about "good parenting" whenever Alden threw tantrums at the table. He made it sound like we were doing it all wrong. Hubby doesn't understand Hakka so he was oblivious to the mean-spirited comments. I kept my cool cos I respect old people, even obnoxious, overbearing ones.

After the unpleasant dinner, we bade them goodbye and headed home. I was soooooo exhausted. What a boring Valentine, I reflected. I thought about how hubby and I used to celebrate Valentine's Day back when we were in KK. We'd dump Alden at my parents' house and have a date night together. Just the two of us. How I missed those times.

That night, I went to bed sulking. When hubby said he had a surprise for me, I wasn't interested. Now a surprise? I didn't feel like doing any cocurricular actvity whatsoever, ahem, if you know what I mean. So I closed my eyes and play dead. Hubby kept quiet and kissed me goodnight.

The next morning, I woke up at 7.00 to the sound of Alden crying. I went to the kitchen to get him a bottle of milk but found this instead.

Aww...he did have a surprise for me!! My heart flip flopped in glee as I reached for the bouquet on the table. Now I remember why I'm crazy about him! I love you dear. Smooch smooch.

Okay, you can stop gagging now. I got a bit carried away there.

Anyway, the connotation behind my long-winded post is that most women want to be loved and to be shown love on Valentine's Day. Sometimes, telling ain't enough, you gotta show it. 

February 12, 2011

The Road to Narnia

About a month ago, when Carol was still here, we went on a road trip to Castle Hill. We’ve been there last winter but back then, we were so lost that we didn't realised where we were. You do remember that incident right? If you recall, it was hubby's fault cos 1. He agreed with me when I said we didn't need a map (I'm whimsical so he should've known better) and 2.  He asked me for directions, knowing I suck in Geography. FYI, he teaches the subject.

This time around, both of us remembered to use our common sense and bring along a map together with some food supply. There wasn't any sleepovers cos Carol was leaving the next day, so a one day trip was all we could have. Since Arthur's Pass is only 140 km from Christchurch, this suited us perfectly. 

We left home at 9.20 a.m. and headed to the West Coast Road along state highway 73. This is the main route to the Southern Alps, Greymouth, Hotikita and as the name of the road suggests, the West Coast. To everyone's delight, Alden was well-behaved and only committed some minor bullying during the journey.

Our first stop was Lake Lyndon, a beautiful glacial lake overlooking the Southern Alps. It's a really perfect place to stretch your legs and have picnic after a long drive on the road. We've been there last winter so it was interesting to see how it looks in the summer. In winter, the water was frozen and there was a nice view of a snow-capped mountain in front of the lake. This time, the landscape was different. The lake wasn't frozen, the trees had leaves and there were lots and lots of wild flowers at the area. It was pretty, yes, but I prefer the winter appeal.

Lake Lyndon in the summer

With the wild flowers

Carol and hubby preparing lunch

Same spot in the winter

After the quick picnic, we continued our journey to Arthur's Pass. We passed the road to Porter Heights skifield and approached Castle Hill. I don't think anyone can miss Castle Hill. Even from a distance, you can see huge rock formations on the hillside. I was so excited to see the place cos the area was used during the filming of the Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Remember the final battle between Aslan's forces and the army of the White witch? This is where they film the scenes.

For travellers who wish to see the whole area, Narnia tours are available from Canterbury Sightseeing. I don't know how much it cost but I reckon it's costly. Well, you don't need to go on a tour to experience a bit of Narnia. We just followed the track and explored the site on foot. Here's a glimpse of it.

At the parking lot
I think this one looks like a dinosour lying on its tummy

The view from the walking track
The place makes you go wow! because of the weird and wonderful  rock formations. These huge stones have been eroded and shaped over millions of years by wind, rain, snow and ice (source: Castlehill.net). I saw some that looked like dinosours and Carol saw one that looked like Shrek. I was right beside her but I didn't see Shrek at all. This bothered me but I just said ya ya. It was frustrating. The feeling is somewhat similar to not being able to see an image in an optical illusion. Like WHERE THE HECK IS SHREK???!!!!! Oh, never mind.

One thing tricky about taking pictures at the hill is keeping your hair intact while the wind is blowing on your face. It was so hard for me to get a decent photo without looking like a mess. The place is very windy and I had to be careful on the steep slopes so most of my poses were kind of static. But that didn't stop me from taking heaps and heaps of photos. I don't have any knowledge of photography other than this: IF I TAKE A HUNDRED PHOTOS THERE'S BOUND TO BE ONE THAT I LIKE. So these were the ones that I favour out of the hundreds I've got.

I borrowed Carol's scarf

This one looks like a skull

Trying to look relaxed while the grass blades pricked my skin
Carol in front of a huge rock formation

Alva having a nap

Alden fitting himself nicely in a big rock

Alden getting tired of walking
On the hillside next to the huge limestones

I tried one of the techniques Chegu taught me but I guess you need a DSLR to pull this off

On the lower ground

Yeah. It's really an awesome awesome place and we're definitely coming back in the winter.

So, for those of you who are planning to visit Christchurch, and I'm looking right at you Lois Wong, Caroline Lee, Octavia, Amanda, Jipp and Mimi, be sure to visit Castle Hill. Oh! One tip for the ladies: bring along a can of hair spray. You'll thank me later :)