Sunday, 8 February 2015

Vancouver and Christchurch – Possible Sister Cities

  A one month visit to New Zealand gave me the feeling that I was still in British Columbia and thought perhaps we should add another city to Vancouver’s list of sister cities - Christchurch.
  Christchurch on the South Island has many similarities to Vancouver. Although its population is approximately half of Vancouver’s, the city emphasizes its tourist attractions including cycling, trekking and skiing on mountains such as Mt. Cook - the highest mountain in New Zealand. Its rugged coastline with beautiful beaches has whale watching tours, sailing and kayaking; the surrounding farmlands with sheep and dairy herds are intermingled with wineries producing world class wine.
  Another similarity - earthquakes. New Zealand has major fault lines running the full length of the two islands. New Zealanders have always thought their capital city of Wellington located at the bottom of the North Island was the prime location to have a major earthquake. Christchurch was never considered to be in danger.
  On September 10, 2010, an earthquake with magnitude 7.1 occurred near Christchurch at a depth of 10 kilometres and despite widespread damage there were no fatalities. A large aftershock of magnitude 6.3 occurred on February 22, 2011. Although lower on the magnitude scale than the earthquake, the intensity and violence of the ground shaking was measured to be the strongest ever recorded globally in an urban area. The quake struck on a busy weekday afternoon and resulted in the deaths of 184 people. Many buildings and landmarks were severely damaged, including the iconic Christchurch Cathedral. Two years later, there were over 10,000 aftershocks that occurred since the first earthquake.
  I stayed in Christchurch for two days at the home of a relative and at 4:30 in the morning, I was woken by one of those aftershocks - I thought someone was bouncing on my bed.
  Peering through the fences and barriers within the city centre, now categorized as the “Red Zone”, one could not help but feel sadness when looking at the demolished buildings and empty lots where businesses once employed and served the citizens. Even if buildings were classified as safe, a number of businesses moved or were put out of business as people stayed away from the city centre.
  The New Zealand Herald newspaper reported on the memorial that was held one year after the earthquake: “A number of residents … wouldn’t attend the official memorial. It was still too raw, they said. They were worried about being in big crowds in case the worst happened. They wanted to remember friends and loved ones in their own way. The roll call of the dead was chilling – it took 13 minutes to read every name.”
  My relative's home is typical of many homes within Christchurch as it is still livable but has been classified to be demolished. The Government will pay home owners the assessed value of the home with some owners moving to the outlying suburbs but a greater number of people will be moving from Christchurch. A number of my relative's friends have moved back to their home country including Australia, the Philippines and North America - they feel safer with their families.
 The radar on Vancouver’s location for a major earthquake is similar to the distance that Christchurch is located from New Zealand’s fault lines. BC's Strait of Juan de Fuca has two tectonic plates that rub against each other. They are located south of Vancouver Island and is considered to be one of the most vulnerable in the country.
  Upon arriving home from my trip, I immediately set about to replenish my earthquake kit in my home and car and I’ll enquire at City Hall if they will give some thought to invite Christchurch to be a sister city.

This post originally appeared in The Source, March 20, 2012 & July 10, 2012 ©  Copyright (c) The Source 

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Well, That's What I Would Have Said and Done

  Sometimes I can really analyze the hell out of my interactions with people. I'm very good at it as I run the specific event through my memory bank a number of times. However, I wish I could be good at it when I am actually in the moment. An example is when I was travelling last April in Portugal.
  I left one Workaway site in the interior of Portugal and headed to another site in Salema - a yoga and artist retreat in the southern part of the country.
  I took a bus from Lisbon to Lagos where I transferred to another bus that would drop me off in Figueira, a small community just a few kilometers from Salema. The bus stopped at numerous stops on the way and the drop off / pick up locations were all in the town squares within the villages.
  I knew that we were getting close to Figueira and as the bus came to a stop on the highway, 3 school kids got off but I could not spot a bus stop sign. I thought the driver was just being a nice guy for the kids. The bus started off again and then I saw the Figueira village welcome sign. I was sitting near the front of the bus and I got up and asked the driver if that was the stop I was supposed to get off. He said yes and I then asked politely if I could get dropped off as someone was waiting for me and I will just walk back the couple of blocks. He said no and that he can't stop anywhere other than at official bus stops.
  I looked out and there was absolutely no traffic on the road with no pedestrians and if he did stop, there would be no conflict with cars, trucks or people. The driver than said that he could drop me off at the next bus stop or else I could get off at the end of the line and then take a bus back. I asked where the next stop was and he said it was about 3 kilometers away. I said OK, drop me off there.
  I was really picked at this driver for not dropping me off a few blocks from my destination but also for the fact that I verified with him when first boarding the bus that my stop is very close to Salema - he knew me and knew where I wanted to go!
  He eventually did stop the bus and sure enough, there was a bus stop sign beside the highway and looking around, there was absolutely nothing around except farmers' fields. I got up and waited until he opened the front door but he didn't and not saying a word, he just pointed to the back doors. I was right in front of the doors and no one was getting on the bus!
  I turned around and walked to the back of the bus while all the passengers gave me the big, hairy eyeball.
  I waited at the side of the bus for the driver to come out and open the luggage doors to retrieve my luggage but he didn't appear. I could see him looking at me via his side mirror and that's when I clued in that the jerk wasn't going to come out.
  I opened a couple of the doors and while moving other passengers' luggage and boxes about, I finally found mine and pulled it out. While I was doing this, I could feel and sure enough when I looked up, everybody on that side of the bus was looking down on me as if I was a loser or something. And what did I do next? Why I shut the luggage doors because I'm a nice, well-mannered Canadian.
  When I crossed the highway to get to the other side, I noticed everybody on the other side of the bus giving me the big stare. The driver had the audacity to sit there for a few minutes and let all his passengers have a bit of a show. I should have sold tickets to this farce.
  That's when I started my analysis of this little hiccup in my travels. What a fool I was! Why the hell did I close the luggage doors? I should have left them all open, left some of the other riders' luggage outside and then he would have to come out and reload and close the doors. And when he did, I would have told him that his actions did not bode well for the tourism business and frankly he was an asshole!
  Well, that's what I would have said and done.