Departed (sadly) NZ the evening of 5 April and due to crossing the international dateline, landed in Los Angeles the afternoon of the same day. I stayed with friends Karen Guan and Holger Hellwig and their two kids in El Segundo and went hiking at Point Dune, just north of Malibu, with Alice Wexler. It was a gorgeous day and the cliff walk above Point Dune state beach was spectacular. (But it did not prepare me for the cold and sleet on arriving at Logan Airport)!
I had not been in Christchurch, NZ's second-largest city, since the earthquakes of Sept. 2010 and Feb. 2011 and numerous, sometimes large aftershocks essentially destroyed the city center. (A magnitude 6.0 quake occurred three weeks before I arrived in NZ, and two 3.8 ones in early April, just following my visit to conduct archival research). Recently, Christchurch has been widely touted as a tourist destination -- e.g. two years ago, the New York Times ranked it #2 in its list of 50 must-see places -- for its innovative city planning and focus on the arts, including many pop-up performance venues. The city is certainly colorful, with many brightly-painted shipping containers serving as banks, stores, and cafes, and there are upbeat posters everywhere. But I found it extremely depressing. The city seemed depopulated -- many former residents have decamped to Australia or other places in search of work -- the iconic ChristChurch Cathedral is in ruins and the entire downtown a vast construction site. The rebuild has been excruciatingly slow as it turned out that basically the entire infrastructure, including the sewer system, must be replaced (a task that will probably take 30+ years). Fortunately, the Canterbury Museum was almost unaffected along with the adjacent botanic gardens. And the Avon river, which meanders through the city and is lined with parks, remains lovely.