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Friday, February 25, 2011

from dunedin

I am currently in Dunedin staying with my sister V. My sister J brought me and her two daughters down on Wednesday, and has driven back up today so she can work at the hospital while childcare centres are closed. The idea is that I am helping Christchurch by not being a burden on it and by providing childcare for doctors, but just like last time I feel horribly guilty for being away. Trying to be rational. But still feeling overwhelmed with love for my home and sorrow at the way things are right now. I don't have the energy to think about how different things will be on the streets of Christchurch, once elegant, pleasant and cheerful, in the coming years.

I'm happy at the number of people they have managed to pull out of the rubble alive, and so incredibly proud of the people of the city who have been working valiantly and thoughtfully in the rescue effort, and so grateful to all the teams that have flown in from around the country and the world to lend their generous hands. We're not lucky, but it is wonderful to live in a stable country with good organisational systems to cope with a situation like this, and to have good international relationships. But I feel particularly bleak about those still trapped, dead or alive. The father of a good friend from church was in the CTV building, which has been pronounced "100% unsurvivable". Friends of my sister's walked from the centre of the city then over the Port Hills to get to their homes in Lyttleton (the centre of the quake) and were crushed on the way by boulders dislodged by aftershocks. Everyone knows someone who has died, or someone whose life has been transformed by the death of a loved one.

Dunedin has been my refuge from horrible things several times now, and I'm very grateful for the chance to shower, wash my hair, flush the toilet without thinking about it, brush my teeth with tap water, pop down to the supermarket, catch a bus, visit the bank, etc, etc. But in my heart I just want to be at home. My supervisor, who recently moved to Australia, emailed me to find out if I was safe, and when I had replied with reassurance he said how horrible it was to be among people whose lives just went on when, for him, it was like a part of himself had been ripped away.

Here are some photos of Christchurch before and after.
Aerial footage of the city.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

more quaking

Just a note to let you know that I am fine. As far as I know, my family in Christchurch is also fine. As far as I can see from the clues on facebook, my friends appear to be fine - a relief, when I know a number who work in the CBD. A few have had nasty experiences, like being trapped in a lift.

I was on the university campus when it happened, eating lunch with some friends in our break room. The earthquake hit, someone said "holy cow", and we all dived under tables or doorways. This is strange, because this is literally the first time I've ever got under anything in the progression of big earthquakes since September 2010. It is also the first time I've actually felt in any danger, in the buildings I have happened to be in. As I sat under the doorway I could see cracks appearing in the hallways before my eyes and the whole building rumbled and creaked, five floors of concrete above us on the second storey.

We got out as soon as it stopped - this means, unfortunately, that my wallet, computer and so on are still sitting in my office, although fortunately I have my keys and my cellphone - and assembled in one of the carparks nearby. Just a few minutes later another big one hit, and this was strange, because normally the quakes are very difficult to feel outside. This one was quite different; I felt like I was standing on water, and had to brace myself against a car, which was rocking back and forth quite violently itself. If you looked up you could see all the buildings swaying. Very weird.

The scary part now was waiting to find out what was going to happen. It is impossible to have got through the last five months without learning what this kind of quake means for our city buildings, which have all been slowly weakened over time by aftershock after aftershock. It was also easy to imagine the possibilities to the people of the city, especially in the middle of a busy working day. The first rumour I heard was that the spire of the cathedral was gone. Then I heard about buses crushed by falling buildings and that was when I started to feel confirmed in my feeling that this was very very serious. The cellphone networks were very clogged, as were the roads, and I was getting text message after text message from family and friends, who obviously were not receiving my replies, so I walked home to use our landline.

It was so good to see my flatmates. Three of them were at home, quite shaken up but okay, and the other one got home soon after me. No power but we had a handy transistor radio our power company sent us in case of another major shake - thank you Meridian! My stereo fell off its shelf plus a bunch of books etc, but no broken glasses this time. I rang all my family in different cities, couldn't get through to my sister in Christchurch but other relatives had been in contact. She had been unable to get in touch with her husband and her kids, who were in their daycare, and so she walked from the hospital in the CBD all the way to the hospital on the outskirts of the city where her husband works - at 23 weeks pregnant. My grandmother was fine, cheerful as always - she is a trooper. My dad is out of town at the moment.

Soon after I got home, I was talking to my sister in Dunedin on the phone, and another big aftershock hit. Lucky her, she got to listen to me getting under the table and then suddenly realising that water was pouring through our roof. Turned out our chimney had just fallen down, breaking something on its way, and our bathroom and laundry was rapidly flooding. I feel quite proud of the fact that I rushed outside with my toolbox, found the mains, and turned off the water. Girl power! This did mean, however, that now we had neither water nor power.

So, we have evacuated to my father's house in another part of town. It has both water and power, although we're boiling all water just in case. We're not allowed to take showers or flush toilets or anything like that because the plumbing and sewerage infrastructure has just been so badly damaged. It is very nice to be able to watch TV, though, and go online to find out if friends are okay. I'm hoping to be able to get into my building at uni if they consider my need is urgent enough (i.e., I have no money), but I don't know if they'll let me. And who knows how long this could last?

Right now, Christchurch needs your prayers, and any other kind of help you can offer. There are lots of people working extremely hard to free people trapped in buildings, there are many other people homeless, and, as for myself and many others, it was impossible to sleep through the night with earthquake after earthquake rolling in. Exhaustion is inevitable, and we've all just had enough of this. We thought we had had the big one. Turns out we were in store for more. I don't want to think how long it's going to take to make things "normal"again. Certainly much longer than five months. But God is very good and can bring good things even out of something like this.

Monday, February 21, 2011

photos of summer, #2

Some more of my favourite snapshots from my summer so far...

Smores. On a bonfire. On the beach.

A building I liked in Lake Coleridge township

My niece and nephew, freezing, but valiantly thumbs-upping

A bellbird feasting

An evening walk in the hills

Swimming in a lovely choppy ocean

Christmas day walk

Friday, February 18, 2011


Today, and on Wednesday, I sat in a horrid tomb designed to torture students (named the audiovisual room by our optimistic librarians), poring over microfilm from four months of the Daily Herald of 1933. Because the central library is still closed due to earthquake damage, I had to use one of the smaller libraries on campus, which is equipped only with a horrid, old microfilm machine that can only focus on small parts of each page at a time and whose movements induce motion sickness.

I got distracted, however, by many, many things. Here are some, for your reading pleasure. I hope they don't make you feel sick and grumpy, as I currently feel. (I apologise for the low quality - I had to photograph what is basically a projected image):

Mmm... self-raising flour. Every boy's favourite.

They look good enough to eat with my shredded wheat.

We recommend stretching your hands up in supplication to the man of your heart's desire. Works like a charm.

Aaand, some shocking fashion:
"Will the trouser fashion become popular? The woman was photographed in Trafalgar-square yesterday."
... Nahhhh.

They really are?! Is the sky falling on our heads?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

photos of summer, #1

Some of my favourite snapshots from my summer so far...

Playing french cricket with friends on the beach

Fire juggling on the beach one evening

The evening light in a local cemetery

Serenade on the beach

From the pier after a fish and chip dinner

The light playing tricks at Carols by Candlelight

Nephew-Aged-12 with his shadow - his cousin, and my Niece-Aged-4

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

cookbook challenge #3

[About the New Years' resolution behind this]

From Perfect Thai, I made a 'courgette and cashew curry'. (For those who need the translation, courgette = zucchini.) I'm not sure why it's called curry, as it's more like a stir fry, but I'm not complaining - this recipe is really, really good and the result was delicious. Three down, fourteen to go.

2 T vegetable oil
6 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 fresh green chillies, deseeded and chopped [I have a flatmate who cannot stomach spicy food, so I put about 1.5 teaspoons of paprika in, instead, and a tiny 1/8 teaspoon of chilli powder, in the hope that I can slowly acclimatise her to chilli. This tasted good.]
450g / 1 lb courgettes, cut into thick slices [I actually used about 600g, to bulk it up a little.]
115g / 4 oz shiitake mushrooms [I just used ordinary button mushrooms. They were fine.]
55g / 2 oz beansprouts [Another thing I adapted! I probably actually used double the amount, or slightly more.]
75g / 3 oz cashew nuts, toasted or dry-fried
4 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
rice or noodles, to serve [I chose noodles and they were gooood.]

Heat the oil in a wok or a large frypan. Sauté the onions, garlic and chilli for 1-2 minutes, until softened but not browned.

Add the courgettes and mushrooms to the wok, and cook for 2-3 minutes until tender.

Add the beansprouts, nuts and both sauces and stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.
Serve hot with rice or noodles.

This was seriously yummy. Lovely flavours, not too overpowering but definitely flavoursome. My favourite so far of my cookbook challenge recipes! Because courgettes are currently in season here, it is a very cheap recipe, but it's also very easy and very fast. I can imagine this being a very family-friendly meal.

It also happens to be vegetarian-friendly (oh, except for the fish sauce, I suppose), and it's not one of those vegetarian meals that feels washed-out and unsatisfying. I wasn't constantly thinking about meat while I ate it, for instance! However, if you need to cater to the demands of spouses, children, etc., I think some added chicken would go pretty well in this recipe.

It would feed three hungry people, but could manage four if you stretched it out with extra rice or noodles.

Friday, February 11, 2011


A friend of my sister's received some heartbreaking news recently about her small daughter, who has cancer. Here's a way you can help the family. Prayers wouldn't go astray, either.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

cookbook challenge #2

[About the New Years' resolution behind this]

From "Dish It Up", by Simon Holst, I made homemade burgers.

OK, I know this seems like cheating a little and isn't really a real recipe - all I knew when I got home was that I REALLY felt like a burger. So I found a recipe book that promised to sate my hunger, and adapted it for my vegetarian flatmate. Two down, fifteen to go.

For Vegie-flatmate, I bought falafel mix, and cooked some burger patties out of it. I hope she liked it! She's very polite! (By the way, does anyone have a good recipe for making one's own falafel? I tried to make it out of broad beans once, and the result literally made me retch.)

As for the meaty burgers for the rest of us, the only non-obvious instructions are these:

500g / 1 oz minced beef (premium)
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 teaspoon garlic salt

Mix all together with your bare (clean) hands - providing you don't feel sickened by raw meat, this is gloriously squelchy. They should make four large patties but would easily stretch to six medium ones.

I cooked them on our grill (i.e. a George Foreman-type thing) which seemed to work better than a frypan, given that they're quite fat, solid patties.

Then I put them between burger buns with tomato relish, red onion, cheese and salad greens.

Afterwards, I felt completely satisfied. A big thumbs-up from me.

I promise that next time I will do a proper, serious, grown-up recipe, which is more in keeping with the spirit of my New Year's resolution.

Monday, February 7, 2011

life in allieland

1. Yesterday it was 35*C. I melted.
Right now, it is 13*C. It's raining.
For all you people who do things differently: that's 95*F yesterday, and 55*F today. Quite a difference!
Apparently, tomorrow is going to be hot again, and then we're going to be back to more rain.
This is life in New Zealand.

2. I have until the end of March to finish my thesis, and then, suddenly, my funds will stop. So, I am hunting down jobs to apply for. I have an interview tomorrow for a library job which I would be thrilled to get, but I'm trying not to get my hopes up, in the current job climate, and so I am still looking everywhere I can. Here are some other possibilities:

Do you think I have the "Roman look"?:

Aaand, two along the same lines:

Who knows, if I become desperate enough, I may just develop an obsessive interest in the trucking industry or in big turbos.

3. I am going to buy a car if/when I get a job. I have managed for over two years without one, which is great - but I'm starting to tire of begging rides or being stuck at home. There have been moments the last few weeks where I've just thought to myself, 'I do not care about the expense - I want a car!' such as when I had to walk home from something at midnight along creepy deserted roads last week, or when all I wanted to do, yesterday, was to get wet all over but would have had to sit on a hot bus for an hour just to get to the beach.

4. Boys are weird. Has anyone else noticed?

5. I have briefly reviewed Roma Tearne's The Swimmer on my other blog - I thought this was a lovely book, so check it out, if you get the chance.

6. Today I had to drop my Niece-Aged-2 off at her daycare at 1pm. She hasn't been for a week because she was sick last week, and in any case this is a fairly new place for her. She was also tiring rapidly because it was the afternoon. So she was very anxious about going. First, she refused to get up from her foetal position on the floor to get coat/shoes on. Second, she told me she had a "very bad cough" and couldn't go - "see? *cough* I'm too sick" - and then, third, she clung to me and had to be physically detached from me inside the daycare.
Sigh. I felt soooo bad. I had to remind myself that she WILL be fine but I still felt terrible.