At home today, family and friends of Bob Templin gathered for his memorial in Couer’d Alene, Idaho. I assume it was a large gathering as he was a very prominent and influential man in Idaho, Eastern Washington and beyond. Garrett, Carol, and I were there with all of you in spirit.
All I can say is that getting up at 4:45 am is a bit brutal. Garrett came down to help me get my pillow rolled up, and when we put my suitcase outside of the door for the porter at 5:10, the door closed behind me. I had to walk to the lobby in my bare feet to get another key.
The rest of the day went fairly smoothly though, and let me commend Emirates Airlines for a first class flight. I had a lot of complaints several days ago with Virgin Australia, but I have a lot of compliments for Emirates. First of all, we were on a nice, well-appointed Airbus 360. (Sorry Boeing.) We actually had fairly roomy seats in economy class. We had a wide range of movies, including some of the most recent releases. The breakfast was appropriately hot and very tasty. And at the end of the flight, the woman in our group who has trouble walking, was seated in a wheelchair with a flight attendant who saw to her needs until after baggage claims. This was the first airline that did this correctly, and that includes Qantas. I was impressed, and so were the others. We were actually all wishing that we could fly back to the US on Emirates.
We went through customs without a hitch except for Carol. We were warned to fill out our immigration forms honestly or face a $400 fine. We did that, but for some reason, security pulled Carol’s suitcase over. We had to wait because another passenger had an undeclared jar of honey in her baggage, and security had to deal with her. As it turns out, Carol had a bag of trail mix in her suitcase. She had declared it, but security wanted to check it. Never mind that I had my own sack of the exact same mix in my bag and went right through. We don’t know what happened to the woman with the honey, but a guy with a banana, presumably a snack from the plane or some such thing, was immediately fined $400 when security found it.
I dressed for cooler weather, but it was a very nice 79 degrees F and sunny when we landed in Christchurch. Our bus driver is Nigel, and our guide is Peter. My ears need to adjust now to a slightly different accent again. After we got some New Zealand dollars, we set off to see a bit of Christchurch.
What is immediately evident is that Christchurch is still recovering from the terrible earthquake that hit on February 22, 2011. I remember reading about it, but seeing the after effects is quite sobering. 70% of the downtown area came crashing down, and 185 lives were lost, many in Latimer Square. Today an Empty Chair Memorial stands in that area. Especially poignant was a child’s car seat. The Cardboard Cathedral designed by Shigeru Ban was also constructed there. It is a temporary place of worship for the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch and seats 700. An empty space with a few flowers in the center is where the Canterbury Television Building came down, killing 115 of the 185 people.
Evidence of the “carnage” as Peter called it is all over the city though. Nearly every building we passed by was damaged. Only the casino and another building escaped. Apparently the 6.3 earthquake was shallow, only 3 kilometers below the surface, which meant it struck with great force. It lifted the ground up about 2 feet before the ground crashed down again. Gary, our earthquake expert, said that there is no real protection against this type of earthquake. New Zealand is now using a type of rubberized pad called a base isolator as they rebuild. The base isolators at the building’s foundation work a little like car suspension. It gets fairly technical fast, and I don’t want to take time to explain it here, but if you are interested, you can check this link for more information. The reconstruction effort is insanely expensive, as you can imagine, but the bus driver said that one positive aspect is the rethinking of land use.
We stopped at the badly damaged Christchurch Cathedral in the center of town. It reminded me of the bombed-out WWII church, die Gedächtniskirche, in Berlin that the Germans left standing as a remembrance of an evil time. The people of Christchurch have not yet quite decided whether to tear it down or rebuild.
The tour guide said that people have moved out of Christchurch because if the devasting earthquake. It fell in population from New Zealand’s 2nd most populous city to 3rd place.
After the Cathedral, we visited a beautiful botanical garden, Mona Vale. The roses were fragrant and colorful, and the gardens looks like something right out of England. The little river through the park is even named, Avon.
Then Nigel drove us out of Christchurch for our evening’s destination in Ashburton. We passed by some of the newly-built suburbs that people are moving to out of earthquake fear. These developments are creating bad traffic jams now. Peter gave a thorough commentary of New Zealand on the way out, but don’t give me a quiz. I was out “a wee while” while I took a nap. I surely hope I didn’t snore!
We are staying in a sort of Travel Lodge. I thought that my room 303 would be on the third floor, but actually it is one wing of a hotel maze on ground floor as were all other rooms with this odd numbering system. We had a great dinner tonight! Freshly cooked wonderful vegetables and meat and a meringue for dessert.
Tomorrow we get to sleep in a little because we won’t take off until 9:45. We will see a farm with some crops, eat lunch at Peter’s home, and see a dairy farm in the afternoon. Moooooo!