A day at the beach, the winery, and shopping in the aftermath of disaster


Really, this day is a peach

With a winery well within reach

     In the wake of the quake

     Please make no mistake

We started off down at the beach

Synopsis:  I’m a family practitioner from Sioux City, Iowa.  On sabbatical to avoid burnout, while my one-year non-compete clause ticks away I’m having adventures and working in out-of-the-way places.  Right now I’m living in Amberley, and seeing patients in Waikari, in New Zealand’s South Island, an hour outside of Christchurch

Kiwis in general have a healthy, laid back approach to life.  New Zealanders value hard work and maintain a strong work ethic, but appreciate their time off.  Most New Zealand doctors don’t work five days a week.  For the majority of physicians, a full schedule means an entire day off during the week, which balances a night on call.  At the clinic where I covered in the North Island, half the docs worked part-time at three days weekly. 

I get Tuesdays off here. 

We slept in till the day lightened, breakfasted leisurely and set out for an olive grove, which we found closed, so we went to the ocean.

Amberley sits close enough to the sea to have its own beach.  The Pacific stretched unblemished out to the east.  We walked on grey sand and over accumulations of pebbles and fist-sized rocks.  We had strong winds, bright sun, and mild temperatures, with the southern hemisphere marching through autumn with five more weeks till winter.

We drove into Rangiora for lunch and grocery shopping.  A bustling suburb of Christchurch, we found well-stocked stores, smiling people, and lots of traffic.

In the afternoon we returned to Amberley and a tasting at the Mud House Winery.  Bethany sampled, I drove.

We don’t drink much, but New Zealand has world-famous wines, and we’re struggling to learn more.  Bethany tried two Pinot Gris and two Riesling vintages which left her (unsophisticated) palate underwhelmed.  I learned that the marc (the grape skins and seeds) quiets the domesticated red deer stags, making them more tractable.  We talked to our sommelier about the outstanding menu; she advised us to make a “booking” (= reservation) because, in the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake, more people make the journey to dine on Sunday.

The aftershocks still rock the region; the public emotions remain far from recovery.

The coroner dealt heartrending news to the public yesterday, issuing eleven death certificates when no bodies could be found in the wake of the recent disaster.  After the earthquake, a man made an emergency call pleading for help.  With emergency systems overwhelmed, the operator took the names and conditions of the people he was trapped with.  Two hours later a call to the number went straight through to voice mail; text messages to the same number received no return.

Fire ripped through the area; if human remains came to light, neither DNA nor dental records could help.  Yet the coroner could piece together the movements for all eleven missing.

Yet life goes on around Christchurch, though the heart of the city collapsed in a massive earthquake on February 22.

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