"The lift was broken when I was at the gym today. I had to take the stairs."
''My two day shipping took three days."
''Today I was talking to a teenager who had a newer iPhone than mine."
"There were absolutely no car parks outside the supermarket. I had to park near shops I didn't need to buy anything from."
I had always thought I had lived in a First World Country and that the stuff above was typical of what I should be worrying about. Until an early winter snow storm hit Christchurch this week, and many people (again) lost electricity and therefore heating. Maybe not such a big deal in itself, but many of those people are already living in cracked, drafty and broken houses, some still without flushing toilets, whilst they endure a second winter of wrangling with insurance companies who are digging in their heels big time, and doing very little to repair earthquake damaged homes. Hearing that there were people living in these conditions in my own home town brought me back to earth with a jolt and reminded me again of what many people are grappling with on a day by day basis.
Maybe it's inaccurate to describe all of New Zealand as being Third World - not even all of Christchurch fits that description. But certainly large parts of our city are, and no one in any position of responsibility seems to give a toss any more. People are continuing to live in garages and even cars, at a time when night temperatures are frequently falling below zero in a winter that has arrived early & visciously.
Meanwhile our own city council focuses on whether or not we should get a new sports stadium, or how big the new conference centre should be, and our employees in the Beehive in Wellington are more concerned with selling off state-owned assets, or tinkering with teacher/student ratios in schools. It feels like the (formerly) second biggest city in NZ is slowly disappearing off the map, and those who have been empowered to help us are staying at home to wash their hair.
Residents with destroyed houses (and yes, there are literally thousands of us) have somehow adjusted to being victims of Mother Nature, but are now needing to also adjust to being victims of insurance companies who are more concerned with minimising losses for their share-holders and are stalling every step of the way. And no one with any official status seems to be challenging them.
The insurance companies seem to have forgotten that they are actually in business, and that their business is based on taking risks. Mostly they can make huge profits, and they do. But sometimes the risk works against them (although their re-insurers largely absorb this on their behalf), and they need to make big payouts. This is one of those times. So step up and do the honorable thing and start re-housing your policy-holders, as per the contracts you have with them.
This has been a major crisis for New Zealand, the biggest disaster since World War Two, yet it has slowly become last year's news and people outside of Christchurch (and many inside) are sick of us complaining. And people are not complaining so much now anyway - they have become so worn down by it all.
I can't help but wonder what would be going on if the same catastrophe had instead happened in Auckland. For starters, we would still be all hearing about their plight loudly and clearly. The NZ media (based of course in Auckland) would be speaking of nothing else, even this far down the track. And we would hear about it non-stop, until a major re-build was going on (which it certainly would be by now, if the disaster had happened in Auckland), and everyone living in sub-standard conditions was re-housed.
I hope everyone in Christchurch who has been affected will hound EQC and their insurance companies (and CERA, who were sent to save us, but seem to have no sway over insurance companies, and are more concerned with demolishing the city: ''Dear CERA - we don't care about going to the city, if our basic needs of housing are going unmet...") and keep hounding them until things start happening for them. It actually suits the insurance companies if we are quiet and passive, and we do not demand anything from them.
Meanwhile, I came across these gems, and they reminded me that keeping perspective is everything:
"If you have money in the bank, and in your wallet, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy."
"If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million people who will not survive this week."
''If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the agony of imprisonment or torture, or the horrible pangs of starvation, you are luckier than 500 million people alive and suffering."
''If you can read this, you are more fortunate than 3 billion people in the world who cannot read at all."
Go well, stay warm.
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"Some occasional thoughts about families, relationships, and other things that distract us...."