It had been over six years since I last stepped foot in Christchurch. I have so many memories of the city after studying abroad on its outskirts for five months in 2008. It ignited my love for this country, calling to me ceaselessly since I left, bringing me back to its shores years later. The city I found myself in, however, was one I couldn’t even recognize. I kept casting about for something to ignite my memory, but it all seemed foreign, unfamiliar, strange.
February marked the four-year anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake, which struck in 2011. 185 people were killed and many more injured. The city was brought to its knees as buildings collapsed one after another. Houses were deemed unsafe to re-enter and countless families had to relocate. The city had not seen it coming and struggled to cope.
After four years, I knew there would still be scars from the city’s deep trauma, but I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered. Like a phoenix, Christchurch is rising from the ashes, but slowly. Those in charge are taking the time to plan out a new city while others fight to save old landmarks like the iconic Christchurch Cathedral. New clashes with old, and empty space still reigns in the once busy city center. Art springs up amidst the destruction, graffiti livening up lonely walls, colorful flags drifting in the breeze. The city refuses to give in to ruin.
I really think words fall short here, so I will leave the images to speak for themselves.