I like airports, watching the planes coming and going, the activity air-side as you watch little baggage trucks and strange shaped vehicles pulling planes into position or pushing them off from the gate.
Leaving Christchurch is always hard, the airport is the line between one “home” and another and crossing that line and leaving it behind is always hard.
I’m always straining to look out of the window of the plane for the final glimpse of the Province of Canterbury, the city of Christchurch, Port Hills, Waimakariri River and the Southern Alps.
It’s an overcast day so there’s no luck with the Alps today, they are clothed in cloud and offer only a peep of the foothills where the Canterbury Plains begin to rise.
The Waimakariri River is visible looking like a long, slightly tangled ribbon from high in the sky and there still sweeping views past it of the east coast looking north towards Kaikoura to give me something to linger over for a few minutes at least.
Then we arc towards the Southern Alps, towards the cloud bank which envelopes the plane and the view until we punch through the cloud level and find a blue sky with dots of cotton wool clouds beneath us.
Himself knows it’s always tough for me to leave, it’s not like New Zealand is a weekend trip away from the Netherlands “popping home” isn’t possible for me like it is for some of my English or French colleagues. He also knows I’m always ok again after the five minutes it takes to get myself together.
This time it takes a little longer: last evening whilst we were at the unit at Meadow Park, there was another hefty quake, 5.1 on the Richter scale.
I was laying on the bed resting and everything rattled around me.
I felt like the bed was a boat on the sea… the waves kept coming.
Himself and the kids were in the swimming pool and knowing that Little Mr. would have meltdown I grabbed the crutches and set out in the direction of the pool.
Scared tourists were pouring out of the units into the open space between them.
I went over and asked if they were ok, most were, “shaken not stirred” but four of the ladies were a group of very young South Korean students and they asked nervously if the buildings would fall down now.
Without hesitation I laughed and said ”heck no, The New Zealand building code goes way beyond withstanding a little shake like this, we were in the December quakes and they were massive compared to this so the buildings will stay up just fine“. I gave them each a hug and they relaxed visibly.
A guy shot out of the communal kitchen and excitedly asked if there had really been an earthquake. I said “Yep, sure was, This is your Christchurch Welcome” and he was really annoyed, he’d been listening to music whilst he was cooking and was so distracted he didn’t even notice until people rushed in to see if everyone in the kitchen was ok.
He was a Swiss tourist and had been a week in the country and was hoping to experience as decent size aftershock… now a really good one came and he’d missed it!
I told him: just stay out here, very still in your bare feet and sometime very soon you will feel little ripples of more but smaller shocks under your feet because they usually come after a decent aftershock.
Once I got to the pool I found most the the kids still playing and swimming and a few kids with parents at the side of the pool.
Fortunately the quake hit as Little Mr. was hurtling down the waterslide and since the water is deep enough that he can’t touch the bottom, he was still busy making his way to the edge of the pool as the tremors subsided. He never noticed a thing.
Kiwi Daughter was standing at the bottom of the waterside steps looking shocked but managed to keep her composure and came over quickly for a cuddle and some reassurance.
I laughed and said “ah only a small one, you’ve been in waaay bigger than this!” and after a minute we felt another ripple pass under our bare feet… and a few seconds later, another. She looked down, surprised, then with a hopeful grin said “does this mean we get some extra time in the pool?” Yes it did. At least one more kid was adjusting to the Christchurch quakes by trying to focus on fun rather than fear.
I went back to our unit and passed a now very happy Swiss tourist who had felt the ripples too and was delighted about it. He came over and thanked me for the previous advice and when I told him that it was possible that there could be more shocks because they tend to come in clusters, he said “oh, I hope so“.
As the plane eased it’s way into high altitude I reflected on the fact that I didn’t tell the Swiss tourist that it gets old when you have to live with quakes like Christchurch people have had to in the last two years, that even though earthquakes don’t scare me at all, it’s like lightening …there’s a limit to how much you want it around, and how close.
I get to jet away to my other “home”: one that doesn’t spring shaky surprises without warning. I might be physically leaving Christchurch but my heart is there more than ever.