Follow by Email

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Survival mode the new normal

Survival mode the new normal

Last updated 10:16 27/03/2011
It's 9.30am and a small group of fitness enthusiasts are stretching their muscles and warming up for their gym session. Only they're not at the gym - they're at Centennial Park.

With many of the city's gyms shut and aftershocks making some people uncomfortable about being indoors, the city council has started running free outdoor fitness classes at the park. It's a sign of the times - a small sign of the extent life has changed in the Garden City since February 22.

Little is as it was - ordinary things have become harder and the abnormal has become normal.

Across the city, schools are sharing campuses, businesses premises and families homes.

At Burnside High, the biggest school in the South Island, students are having to adjust to an early start to their school day. They are now sharing their campus with students from Avonside Girls' High School and they have had their school day condensed so they can be taught in the morning, starting at 8am, so the classrooms are free in the afternoon for the Avonside High students.

Burnside High board of trustees chairman Conan Fee admitted the situation is far from ideal and will inevitably cause inconvenience for staff, students and parents, but said the school, which came through the quake largely undamaged, could not simply stand by and do nothing when another school was in such dire need.

"It would have been unconscionable to return to school at this time, preserving our own interests, without considering and responding to the very real needs of another," Fee said.

"Without an alternative site, AGHS would have faced many weeks of further closure and a teaching year in prefabs and tents, through winter, without science or computing labs and likely with no extracurricular activities. We could not stand by and allow that."

For many, getting to school, to work, or to the supermarket, has become a time-consuming and testing process.

With so many streets ripped apart by the earthquake and some traffic signals still out of action, getting to most places takes much longer than usual and getting "stuck in traffic" has become a daily part of life.

For Christchurch workers "going to the office" often means working out of a portacabin, a converted shipping container, a garage, or in borrowed office space.

It's the new norm in a city that has lost much of its central business district.

"Businesses are just doing what they can to survive," said Mark Hau, from the Canterbury Business Recovery Network.

Barber Vince Cusack has been operating out of a florists on busy Riccarton Rd since last September's quake destroyed his neighbouring barber shop.

He's got used to aroma of freshly cut flowers and to having only limited space in which to work. And while those outside of Christchurch might find his unconventional set-up odd, his customers have not batted an eyelid.

"People accept that things are not normal because of the circumstances," Cusack said.

It's not just office and retail space people are having to learn to share, it's homes as well. Many families left homeless by the quake are now living with friends or family as they struggle to find other temporary accommodation.

Psychologist Sara Chatwin said one of the things likely to be most missed by homeless quake victims is their personal space.

She says people have had little option but to adapt to the changed circumstances in the city, but there are signs the new "normal" is wearing thin.

"I think the protests we've seen from the business community this week are signs that people are beginning to get peeved off with things and are wishing things could go back to the way they were," Chatwin said.

"People's patterns and routines have been impinged upon and, as humans, we're great believers in patterns and routines.

"We actually love it. When these kinds of things happen, it upsets our patterns and puts us out of sync - it's not a nice feeling."

- Sunday Star Times

No comments:

Post a Comment