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New Zealand's "Darkest Days"

according to every news channel....

I will try my best to tell you all exactly what happened over these past two days but I'm afraid that I cannot correctly convey the emotions and hectic actions that took place. Tuesday morning started out like every other day: wake up, have breakfast, shower and get ready, leave for class. I only had class from 12-12:50 and it was Game Theory so I was excited again. Class was interesting and we played a couple of games as examples to the lessons we were learning and finally it was 12:50 and class was over. We all stood up to put our books away when suddenly everything started shaking. At first it seemed small but then as the intensity grew and we saw the projector image shaking against the wall, everyone jumped under their desks and the power went out. After about thirty seconds of panicking, the lights came back on and everyone started to walk outside. The kiwis I had met said "Welcome to Christchurch. Your first earthquake!" I smiled and laughed a little and then said that I had to run off to the library to get something taken care of. They all gave me a weird look but I kept going on my way and had no idea why. As I was walking through campus, I realized everyone was outside of the buildings and realized the buildings all had to be checked before we were allowed back inside. I didn't realize the severity of this incident at all so I decided to walk home and call my parents to tell them about what had just happened! We got off the phone after about two minutes and I ran up to catch one of my friends. He thought the earthquake was pretty cool also and then, as we were walking home, we had the second earthquake. We simply lost our balance and again, didn't really think much of it. A group of students were standing in the quad area all talking about what had just happened. We all found it pretty interesting and I started to look for my flatmates. They were walking down the stairs because the RAs had started to evacuate all of the flats. We found out that the first earthquake was a 6.3 and the second was a 5.7. We were also informed that the cathedral in the center of the city had partially collapsed and people were in trouble. Luckily, at this moment, I saw Dan and ran over to him. He had just been walking home and decided to stop by and see what I had thought about the recent events. The RAs made us go into the new common room to stay away from the buildings in case they were also going to collapse. Dan came inside and stayed with Sophie and I while others checked on their friends.

Eventually, we were allowed back inside of our flat. Only the J Block building had a crack on top and the area was sectioned off and those students still had to remain in the new common room. Inside, Sophie, Liz, Hillary and I all freaked out for a bit while Dan was trying to be reassuring. We had no electricity or internet and we decided to pack some of our important belongings in a backpack just in case. We hung out inside for about 40 mins until the 5.6 aftershock kicked in. Liz, Hillary, Sophie and I ran under the table while Dan stood there. He voiced the unanimous decision that we would be safer outside so we all grabbed our things and walked back down to the quad. Dan's sister Laura had started texting him about the tragedies that were occurring in the city and all of the people that were either trapped or killed. We were all very nervous because our flatmates Aleesha attended a design school in the city and was there when the earthquake took place. Phone lines were mostly down and she had not answered any of our texts or calls. After about an hour and a half of pacing and being stranded outside, we all walked to Dan's flat because somehow they had electricity and internet. There were about 20 people crammed in his living room and his flatmates all passed around water and food and such. They were really so nice considering they didn't even know everyone who was over. We all huddled around the television watching the news while passing around three laptops to inform home that we were all safe. After an hour and a half, we walked back to our flat. Thankfully, Aleesha was back and she told us about how she had to run out of her buildilng and had left everything she had there. She had plans to go home the next day since her school would be shut down for at least two weeks. We talked for a while about what we would do that night and then while some headed off to a BBQ that the school was hosting, I walked back to Dan's. I didn't get to send all of the emails I had needed to and I needed to take care of my phone so I would be able to call home and get in touch with people here. After a while, Sophie and I had been texting and they were watching a movie in a flat on campus so I went and caught up with everyone there. We had electricity again but still no internet. We were also told not to drink the water unless we boiled it first and to avoid flushing the toilets and taking showers. When the movie was over, Sophie and I headed back to the room and Aleesha and Shelley met us a short while later. We all slept on the floor in our common room for the night while watching the news. We put on Love Actually to try and fall asleep but after that, the news returned. The aftershocks felt throughout the night were much stronger. From eight at night until 6 in the morning, we had experienced 17 aftershocks with ten of them being over a 4.0 and two over a 5.0. It is safe to say that none of us got a great night's sleep.

We were all "awake" around 6:30 am and tensions were still high. We sat watching the news until about 10:00 when Liz came in the room. She had slept in a friend's flat with her group and was still shaken up about the whole incident (like the rest of us). She went into her room and tried her internet again when she got a text message from her program coordinator saying that the program was relocating and she had to leave Christchurch. This was very upsetting news and we all started to get upset together. Our flat was very close in the past two weeks and we didn't want someone to leave for good - especially in a time like this. At this point, Liz had to leave, Aleesha was flying home for a while, and Sophie's parents were coming to pick her up later in the day. Shelley and I would be the only two staying in our flat in Christchurch. We walked to Dan's house to use the internet some more and I found out that Dan was also leaving until the uni reopened. At this point, I realized I didn't want to be here anymore. At that moment, nothing seemed worse than staying in Christchurch and I probably would've given anything to have been home. Shelley and I walked back to the campus and ran into some members of her program group. They had decided to wait a day before making any decisions to leave but most were already planning plane tickets to auckland for the weekend. Now, I realized I would most likely be completely alone. I skyped with my parents for a while and tried to decide what I wanted to do. I had spoken to the Geneseo Study Abroad Program and I was given three options: come home and finish the semester off at Geneseo, try and transfer to a different university in New Zealand, or stay in Christchurch. I had strongly been considering coming home and then changing to a different university seemed appropriate. Sophie then walked in and invited me to her house until the university reopened. I thanked her and immediately started packing my bags because her parents would be at the uni in about ten minutes. She lives in Invercargill and we had an eight hour car ride here. During the ride, I could feel the tension lifting off of me. I still felt terrible for all of those families and people that were hurt by the earthquake but it felt so nice just to be getting so far away from it all. Both her mom and her dad are extremely, extremely nice and comforting and we arrived at their house around 11:30 at night. I could not be more grateful that Sophie is an awesome person as well as her parents for taking me in. I was all set up in the guest bedroom and, after updating my family and friends, I fell asleep. It was a much needed sleep.

Throughout the car ride and since leaving Christchurch I have thought much more about what I want to do for the remainder of the semester. I have decided to stay put in Christchurch and continue on as planned. I had my hopes set on many clubs/interesting activities, I really love the campus and all of my classes, and I don't think I could bear the thought of leaving all of the friends I have just met. Also, as most of you know, I really enjoy community service and volunteering and I think it would be an awesome opportunity to take part in the cleaning up/rebuilding of Christchurch. The city was so beautiful before and it's upsetting how it could be destroyed in a minute. Hopefully the university will open soon enough - as of now it is closed until Monday but all of the buildings need to be checked and I have a feeling that some buildings such as the library will be closed a lot longer.

As I said when I started writing this, I can't properly convey the fear and anxiety that lasted over these two days. Every time we felt an aftershock, we were all scared. Every time we heard something new on the news, it was frightening - being told not to use the water, go outside, and to keep a jacket and a pair of shoes near the door. We were with people we had only met less than two weeks ago and had to lean on each other for help and support. Never did I think that I would have an experience like this.

I apologize to all of those that I have made worry again! Bomb threat on my way home from Greece and now an earthquake when I'm in New Zealand? I bet you are all happy this is my last study abroad experience!

Posted by topspin98 15:05

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After reading this entry, we can tell you we have never been more proud of you. Your strength is amazing. There are angels among us - Sophie and her parents for you - and you for Christchurch. You have experienced a volcano eruption in St. Kitts, a bomb threat, and now an earthquake. We can also honestly tell you, we are very pleased this is your FINAL study abroad!

by geneseomom

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