It’s always hard leaving at the end of a long stint. I am always desperate to get home, and at the same time reluctant to leave. I pack my bag and leave a thank-you note for John and Alison at the Thistle. happily, my last taxi ride in ChCh is the lovely John, who again refuses to take any payment and gives me a big hug as I say goodbye.
I sit in the EOC, pulling together a couple of recovery planning documents as my last contribution. Somebody brings me a flat white with an extra shot: probably a bad idea. I’m hyper enough already.
Suddenly my travel plans change.I need to be up in Wellington far earlier than planned for my debrief. I run around saying some hurried goodbyes, and then it’s off to the airport.
At the Red Cross national office, I sit chatting with Aaron, sharing stories. A wave of tiredness washes over me. It’s probably a really good time for me to head home. My debrief doesn’t happen in the end: something about a meeting with the minister. Never mind: we’ll do it by phone later. I head for Cuba Street and the quietness of a hotel room.
You know you’re in Wellington when:
- you can drink the water from the tap anytime you like.
- you have your own flushing toilet and shower. Bliss.
- there is space on your hotel room floor to lie down and stretch out if you wish.
- the earth doesn’t shake gently every hour or so, like it was doing in ChCh just before I left.
- the minutiae of the earthquake response does not dominate all news programmes.
- I don’t have to think so much about night-time protocols (but I do anyway – I’m actually close to the fault-line here). I do a bit of discreet knocking to check out the relative strengths of the walls in my room to help decide which doorframe to run to if anything happens.
I meet Claire for a bit to eat. We chat over Indian and Malaysian food, and make short work of a NZ shiraz. My focus slowly starts to return to normality as the conversation stops being dominated by the earthquake, and news and gossip emerge from the world outside ChCh.
A nightcap in the Havana rumhouse is a lovely end to the night. I sip at a beautifully made Zombie (I never find out the secret ingredient) and vow to have an alcohol-free week when I get home.
In bed I wake a couple of times, convinced I can feel the room shaking. Next morning I check Geonet. Nothing in Wellington at all. I am now officially imagining things. What I don’t imagine, however, is the main electric light coming on of its own accord around four in the morning. I awaken, panicked. I can’t explain it.
My last few hours in NZ take me down Cuba Street on a sunny autumn morning. I buy a new pair of earrings and breakfast like a queen in Ernesto’s.
The quirky style of my fellow diners is classic Wellington. Even my (female) server has a nicely-trimmed moustache and winged Doc Martins. A “We ♥ ChCh” poster in the window is the last hint I have of the world beyond the trendiest street in the capital city. I collect my bags, and head for home at last.