when people are far away

My life is intrinsically tied to the Pacific.

Well, obviously, you might say. You’re from New Zealand. You’re from a city with two coasts. It makes sense.

But it goes further than that. My parents spent years working in the Pacific “proper” – Niue, Samoa, the Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea. My childhood was full of shell necklaces and woven baskets, stories of tivaevae and dengue fever. My vowels of every Polynesian language were always carefully considered.

For so many years, the Pacific was a place where stories and trinkets came from – and then, last year, my dad took a job in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands. It is a place that people don’t really know much about, generally speaking – and when it does show up in the collective consciousness, it’s rarely for good reasons. Beautiful island paradise it may be in theory, it had the best part of a decade in a state of ‘unrest’ – euphemistic term for civil war, really – from the late nineties onwards. And like so many of us lucky island and coastal nations in this part of the world, it’s on that fun-filled ‘ring of fire’ that circles the Pacific – chances are pretty high that many people in certain areas would only know the name as a source of tsunami warnings.

It’s not fun to have family in a place like that when everything decides to happen at once. In the last week-ish, there have been deadly storms, causing flash floods and rivers to burst their banks and bring down bridges. In the midst of the storms, they were rattled by a 6.0 earthquake – fortunately not too strong in Honiara itself, as I understand it, which is a mercy given how hard it has been hit by the weather – and now today, another earthquake has hit the country, this time a 7.6. Hopefully you’ve seen it on the news – it was relegated to second place in the One News bulletin,with the royal tour taking precedence. It’s rather difficult to swallow the frivolous ‘here’s what the shawl-knitter actually has to say with regard to her conversation with Prince William’ tale when you’re waiting to see more details about how much more screwed up this place that is home to many NZ expats is getting.

I feel that I’m losing direction with this post, so before I go on a depression related tangent, here are a couple of photos that my dad has sent to me.

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an update… from reasonably near eketahuna

Well, my dears, I know that I haven’t been terribly good at updating now that my official project is done, but there are reviews in the works (recently finished The Great Gatsby, finally, and just read The Wasp Factory,  which was both highly disturbing and excellent all at once. Currently reading The Metamorphosis, among other things.

Life has been getting in the way of posting,  though. Finishing at work (scary!), organising a Wellington flat and part time job – and the last couple of days, actually driving down from Auckland. If you know much about NZ geography and current events, however… it means that I am currently in Palmerston North… the closest city to the earthquake epicentre yesterday. The biggest/only earthquake I’ve ever felt was about a 2.0 in Auckland (where we have a bunch of dormant/extinct volcanoes, but little current geological activity). Which felt like a big truck rumble.

Yesterday was a 6.2. Holy mother of God. I have not been that scared… possibly ever. It just kept going and going. Nothing even fell over where we were (motel rooms are mercifully fairly bare when it comes to furnishing!) but it was violent as hell and the ground swayed for some time after. And then the worry of aftershocks keeping one constantly on edge.

Not the best fun. And in the immediate aftermath is the terrifying moment where you wonder where it was centered – if it was this strong here, was it right near us? Or was it something insanely big down in Wellington? Knowing as we do in NZ the destruction that can come with large quakes – hell, yesterday’s quake was basically the same magnitude as the catastrophic February 2011 one in Christchurch (though that was much shallower and therefore more horrendously damaging) – I had a moment of wondering will I have a flat to move to?

Basically, I don’t recommend. Suffice to say I will be prepping an emergency kiy as soon as I’m in my new place. Stay safe, and keep reading, people!