Over the past week, there have been a few earthquakes off the coast of Queensland. I felt two earthquakes on Saturday in the Gold Coast from my 7th floor apartment, which was a little scary for me. Even though my hometown is on a fault line, I never experienced an earthquake before. Totally minor in grand scheme of things (see below), but it does get your attention.

The small irony for me was that I just got back from a trip in New Zealand a few weeks ago. Many people told me about the frequency of earthquakes on the South Island. Moreover, I visited Christchurch, a city still recovering from major earthquakes that occurred a few years ago.

A quick recap: Christchurch went through a couple of earthquakes around 5 years ago. The first earthquake in September 2010 was a 7.1 and 10 km deep. It was further away from Christchurch city center, but it still caused some structural damage. The second one in February 2011 was far more devastating. Although weaker on the Richter scale (6.3), it was shallower (5 km deep) and closer to the city (where some buildings still had damage from the previous earthquake). 185 people died, 1500-2000 people were injured, and a third of the buildings in the city center had to be demolished.

I was not in Christchurch for very long—I flew in and flew out for my South Island tour. Still, I had some time to wander through the city for a few hours before my flight. There are signs it is a city still in recovery—construction and scaffolding were everywhere. Places where buildings used to be are now parking lots. Statue-less monuments ignored because there are obviously more important things to do. A cathedral sits in limbo. And a few deserted buildings waiting to be torn down.

But there are many signs of renewal—there is a Re-Start mall made of shipping containers that is a new hub for commerce. The botanical gardens, even on a freezing winter day, were lovely and full of people. And I had an excellent flat white from a cafe named Therapy (I’m biased, but that is an awesome name for a cafe).

It has been a rough five years, but given the monumental task, Christchurch is bouncing back.

Christchurch photos