Friday, August 16, 2013

Rocking and rolling again!

Another weird and surreal few days in Wellington. 

On Friday afternoon I was with my Year 13 Geography class in the computer room. It was the last lesson of the day and I think, as normal on a Friday afternoon, mentally most of their brains had already left the building. They were planning what they were going to get up to during the weekend and only about ten percent of their concentration was going into the task I had set them.

At 2.31pm the tiled floor of the room began to shake. I think I probably stood still for a few seconds to check I wasn't imagining it and when I looked up all eyes in the room were on me! I told them to get under the desks and dived under the nearest one myself. The ten students turned to me and a few dived under as well, but a few predictably stood there and laughed until the big jolt came and then they all ended up crowded together under the desks as the monitors rattled overhead. 

I huddled under the desk as the shaking got bigger and thought to myself "you're not bloody laughing now" as the pile of books I had placed on the desk moments before toppled over.

I think it really only lasted about a minute at the most and slowly we all emerged rather shaken. The kids had lost their bravado and were all looking at me for answers about what would happen now. I didnt want to tell them I wasn't sure as the earthquake drill was planned for next week. So I headed to the doorway in the hope of seeing a member of senior management. 

Thankfully one appeared and told us to keep the kids calm and in the classroom. Easier said than done!

Most of the kids got on their cellphones to try and get hold of family. Initally the networks were too overwhelmed but finally most were able to check everyone was okay. It was at this point that the kids asked me if there was going to be a bigger quake and if the "big one" was going to hit Wellington. I am a Geography teacher but not a siesmologist! I was honest with them and said I really didn't know. 

You know something is scary when an 18 year old boy looks to you for reassurance.

Like most people in this region I wanted to get hold of my own kids and check the other half was okay in Wellington. Thankfully he works in a building with Quake Breakers so is relatively safe. As it turns out Wellington came away from this quake, again relatively unscathed. It was rather surreal watching the mass exodous from the city. Most city workers were told to head home after the quake as they were many large aftershocks. As the trains were haulted this meant that many people were left stranded and ended up hitch hiking. The state highway became packed with cars full of strangers swapping survival stories.

My kids were well looked after at their school and friends offered to pick them up if I could not get to them. Its very reassuring that despite the fact we have no family over here we have made lots of good friends that have become like family.

Events like this bring people together and I have swapped stories with nieghbours and people I met at the takeaway last night. The description of the hot fat in the vats swaying back and foward onto the floor was very memorable. 

Do these recent events make us regret moving to New Zealand? No. Earthquakes are scary but, like all extreme events, make you more aware of whats important in life. The life we have over here is not something I think we could achieve anywhere else. I sincerely hope that the faults beneath us will settle again and go back to sleep, but if they don't, we will just take all the precautions we can and carry on with life!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Thoughts of immortality

The photo above is of my Great Grandparents grave in England. My parents visited it last week for the first time in about forty years. I have heard a lot about my Great Grandparents and feel I know them even though they died years before I was born.

For various reasons my Mum was raised by them and lived with them until the age of fourteen. I have listened to my Mum's tales of climbing mountains and the gentleness and kindness shown to her during her childhood. Which I think explains why my childhood was so idyllic.

When my parents visited the grave last week they were shocked to see that my Great Grandmothers name was not on the stone. It appears she was buried there but no one had got the name engraved. 

This, obviously was very upsetting and no one has any idea why this was not done. So my parents are going to get the stone cleaned up and my Great Grandmothers name added.

You are probably wondering why I am writing about this in an expat blog. Well, it prompted me to start think about mortality and how we would all like to be remembered and the fact that I am unable to visit the graves of people I love as we live so far away now. Does this matter? How should we remember people?

I have given this a lot of thought over the past few years. Unfortunately my Grandmother passed away last year and obviously I was unable to attend her funeral. The cost and practicalities of travelling back to the other side of the world were just too prohibitive. This was a very difficult time. My Nan meant a lot to me and played a huge part in my life. My daughter is named after her. 

I have come to terms with her passing by reminding myself of the ways in which she is still with us. I can see her in the face of my children when they are stubborn and refuse to give in when faced with something frightening or challenging. Her hand made quilt is on my bed and the kids still take the pink teddy and dog she gave them to bed each night. The advice she gave me when I rang her in tears when my eldest cried continually for six hours, will be treasured and passed onto my own kids. I think this is the way loved ones should be remembered. 

So although I am unable to visit my Nans grave, I have not forgotten her and she is still with us in so many ways. I still carry the guilt of not being able to attend her funeral but I believe that Nan understood. After all she was the one who told us to move to New Zealand. 

So getting back to my Great Grandmothers grave. Although her name is not yet on the gravestone and has not been for over forty years, she has by no means been forgotten. Her actions in life created currents and repercussions that are still being felt two generations on. Because she gave my Mum a loving and secure childhood, my Mum was able to give that to me and my siblings. And the values and beliefs she passed on are still being passed on to my children today. 

I think that is the way people should be remembered, by their actions and the people they loved, not by what is written on a gravestone.