It's now been 8 months since the big 7.1 magnitude quake hit Christchurch on Sept 4, and almost 3 months since the killer 6.3 quake in February.
People who don't live here must think we are all crazy for still sticking around. According to the Christchurch Earthquake Map website there have been over 7300 aftershocks since September, and over 2300 since the February one. And counting. That's a lot of shakes.
The centre of our city is still on lock down, for the most part, with horror stories of the smell and the massive rat infestation now circulating alongside the pictures of the damage. People working to make safe the area report all those restaurants and cafes eerily abandoned since February have plates of food moulding away on tables and in powerless refrigerators. That's what's feeding the cat-sized rats. (Yuk!)
Had you asked me even a year ago if I'd stick around a place so shaky, I'd have laughed in your face and looked at you like you needed your head read. Are you nuts?! Of course not! But I never saw Christchurch as a shaky place before September. Nobody did. Town plans identified areas prone to liquefaction but there seemed to be a greater concern about the risk of flood damage if the Waimakariri river changed course or broke its banks.
Now, if I still lived in Wellington, that would be different. When I lived in Wellington all those years ago, I remember being petrified of earthquakes. There is a pervasive expectation that the next 'big one' will someday hit Wellington, sitting on a fault line and all, but not Christchurch. The Garden City is different. It's flat. It never seemed to shake before September. And while everything has now changed, still we don't leave.
I've thought about this a lot and I think it's because the new 'normal' is that this is still home, just shakier. Living here, you still tense up when it shakes. Is this another big one? How big is it going to be? These questions flash through your mind, every time. The constant shakes aren't pleasant, but they don't scare me. Not knowing if somewhere in the city there has been more damage or another fatality leaves a sour taste in your mouth, and you quickly get to the radio, or the laptop to check Geonet, to find out. Then, you just get on with things.
Indeed, and I know this sounds illogical, the constancy of the shaking is almost easier to deal with than having them come out of the blue.
So we stay; fully expecting the unexpected, planning for the worst, hoping for the best.