The Life of Philip

as seen through a blog

In Christchurch

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When I first touched down last Tuesday into the Christchurch airport, nearly three years since my last trip, there wasn’t the usual surge of overwhelming excitement. I was glad to arrive, absolutely, but the giddy sensation was absent. It wasn’t apprehension at seeing a place I’ve lived in and come to love in a ruinous state, or that I hadn’t secured a ride from the airport. It was all so normal.

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First Week Photos

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Here are a handful of photos from the first week in Christchurch.


Picture 1 of 16

The NZ Army. They're helping man the cordon around the city center. This earthquake is the first time ever there has been a national state of emergency (which is still in effect)

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The Anatomy of Pre-Travel Emotions

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This is how I emote during the lead up to a new trip:

Pre-ticket purchase – “That would be so cool!”

Ticket purchase – “WOOO!!! I’M GOING!!!”
This ebbs and flows slightly depending on how much I’m thinking and being reminded of the trip, but generally stays pretty high. For a few months, life goes on, but the anticipation stays high.

Two to one weeks out – “Oh man! I’m so excited, it’s coming up!”

One week to two days out – “Shoot! So much to do! Stressssssed!”

The day before – Stress + “Wait, I’m really going to miss you all! And I wanted to do that thing that’s happening while I’m gone. Sad.”

The night before – Poor sleep.

The day of – Freak out I’m forgetting something.

On the plane – Siiiiggghhhhhh, I can finally relax.

Land – “YEEEEAHHHHH!!!!!”

(Currently at “The Day Before”)

Posted in Humorous, Traveling | 1 Comment


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Thirteen days ago Christchurch had a massive 6.3 “aftershock” earthquake. If you keep up with me at all, you’ve probably seen my talking about it on the web already. You may have heard about it in the news as well. But for those who haven’t, let me just recap briefly.

On September 22nd, 2010 there was a 7.1 earthquake in the Canterbury region of New Zealand’s south island. It was roughly 25 miles west of Christchurch (and 25 miles south of where I went to school in Oxford). It struck in the middle of the night when very few people were about and at a depth of around 6 miles. No one died as a direct result of the quake, and damage was limited.

Since that initial quake there have been over 5000 aftershocks. Read that again. Five-thousand aftershocks magnitude two or higher. That’s roughly 30 per day.

Things seemed to be settling down until thirteen days ago. At 12:51pm on Tuesday the 22nd local time, when tens of thousands of people were at work, people were having lunch, and tourists were taking in the sites, the biggest aftershock occurred. Smaller than the original quake, this one was centered only six miles south-east of Christchurch and a mere 1.2 miles deep. Those two facts, in addition to the timing, created a much more devastating earthquake. 166 people are confirmed dead, thousands have been displaced, the central business district (CBD) was heavily damaged, and nearly two weeks out core services aren’t 100% yet. For the first time ever, New Zealand is in a state of national emergency.

And this is the situation I want to write about. I don’t have a point I’m trying to make, I don’t have any agenda. I just want to share my thoughts. Call it my small coping mechanism for the small way this affects me.

Anyone who knows me knows that New Zealand is my heartland and second home. When I was 18 and 19 and going to school in Oxford I visited Christchurch at least once a week for three months. During my work with Impact World Tour I was sad to not help with the Christchurch show. And then in 2007-08 I lived in the city for eight months. No, that’s not a huge amount of time, but it became home. I had a church I ran sound for and attended; I had a weekly barbecue with a few friends; I had my local watering holes and local dairies; I grew to know locals and became part of the sporting community there. It was in Christchurch I first lived on my own and bought my own first car.

Honestly, it was hard to not be there in September. At first I thought it was weird, but from talking with people, they understand. It has been really difficult to not be there now. Not to see the destruction and tragedy, not to have a sob-story, and not have people care for me. As horrible an event as it is, it is the type of thing that forces community to happen. People must come together. And when major events happen to a group of people, whether it be a small group of friends or a nation, it creates a common bond – a shared experience that connects people. Just like your grandparents can tell you where they were when Pearl Harbor was attacked, like your parents can tell you where they were when Neil Armstrong set foot on another celestial body, and like you can tell each other where you were when 9/11 happened, Canterbrians will be able to tell you where they were and what they were doing at 12:51pm February 22nd.

That’s a shared experience I will only have with them by proxy. Through a handful of personal connections and the Internet. I heard about the quake through Twitter within minutes of it happening thanks to a web designer acquaintance who was visiting at the time. For the rest of the week I was glued to live streaming online news from New Zealand and Australian channels. While the majority of the world focused on the tension in Libya and the Middle East, I looked the other direction. But all I’ll be able to say is I was sitting in my office 7327 miles away worrying about friends.

A shared experience isn’t the only reason I want to be there. I want to help shovel silt from the liquefaction from my friends’ driveway. Or to give someone a place to sleep. To help my mates sort out water through their church. I think anyone else would feel the same for a place they consider home. I’ve been keeping up with people who are helping with the technical side of the recovery effort. Within a day websites were popping up helping people find resources and report issues. Even being in touch with these techies has been good. I hope to be able to do more. The Red Cross is looking for some web development help and I may be able to do something there. It would be great to use my skills somehow, even if I’m not there.

What’s weird to think is that in three weeks I will be there. I purchased tickets for a month long trip in December. The plan was to visit friends, holiday, and play in the NZ Ultimate (frisbee) Nationals. I would be staying with one of my friends in the city, probably spend a few afternoons downtown, eating sushi and watching gentlemen play the oversized chess set in the shadow of the cathedral in the square. It’s weird to think that I won’t be allowed into the CBD, it will be at least partially closed for probably months. It’s weird to think I may not be able to stay with my friend because I’m not sure of the state of his house. It’s weird to think I’ll probably have to boil drinking water and use a toilet dug in the back yard. And it’s weird to know that I will experience small aftershocks while I’m there. Currently, every few hours a magnitude 3.something aftershock is occurring in the Canterbury plains. I’m not expecting to be in any danger, but it will be a bit surreal.

If (when?) I move to New Zealand, Christchurch is always where I’ve wanted to live. That hasn’t changed, but it won’t be the same. Not just the skyline, but the culture and mentality of the population has irreversibly changed. As someone there mentioned, there is no six-degrees of separation in New Zealand. For a country of only 4.3 million people, it’s more like two-degrees. If you don’t know someone who was affected, you know someone who knows someone who was.

Much to my relief, everyone I know in Christchurch is safe. Their houses aren’t necessarily, but they are. I was very touched by the friends and family who reached out to ask how I was doing. I wasn’t even there, but they knew how much it meant to me. To those of you, thank you so much. :-)

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If you read all the way down here, I’m impressed. Thanks for letting me ramble and process.

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Thoughts on the President’s Speech

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President Barack Obama has grayer hair than he used to have. I was watching his speech at the memorial service of the Tuscon, Arizona shooting with my temporary roommates and we all remarked on it. It would be interesting to watch the transformation by watching all of his weekly addresses sequentially in fast forward.

This speech, however, caught my attention in a certain way. I know most presidents reference God in their speeches, pray, and say “God bless America.” President Obama has been no different, but today he seemed much more forward about it. Not only was he liberal in his mentions toward God, but it seemed a large portion of the speech was devoted to preaching the second greatest commandment, summarized as “love people.” My favorite quote from today was this:

“We recognize our own mortality, and we are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this Earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved – and what small part we have played in making the lives of other people better.”

None of the worldly pleasures matter, just love. Let me quote that again, “what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved”.

Two passages from the Old Testament were also quoted, one from Psalm 46 and another from Job 30.

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.”
Psalm 46:4 & 5

I found this to be a very odd and enigmatic Scripture choice. It is rather esoteric. Because of that I decided to do a little digging, so I read the entire Psalm: God is our safety in hard times, and there will be bad times, but we need not be afraid. God is with us. Take note, He is in control.

I’m not a biblical scholar, but through a brief exploration of some study resources I was able to understand these two verses more. Through trying and difficult times God’s grace is still with His people. He is with them and will not leave.

The mere fact that this passage is poetic and not direct seems to imply more than a shallow understanding and usage of Scripture. President Obama and his script writers could easily have used the more blunt verse one, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Instead they chose depth. Perhaps they were also choosing something that wouldn’t seem so insensitive to those who only days ago lost loved ones, but I’m sure there are many other sensitive and more widely known passages that would have fit. Instead, there is one that sounds like his audience knows the Bible well. And for those who don’t, it makes you look a little further, explore a little more. I like that.

And so while the president is quoting scripture to us, maybe I will quote to him in return, in hope that it becomes true of him.

“Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”
– Proverbs 16:31

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Posted on by Philip

In 2010 I didn’t live in, or visit, New Zealand. Since my first trip in 2002, I have been there for a least part of the year five out of the last eight years. However, I did do a bit of traveling around to different places. And by those numbers, this was 2010:

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If “[t]he sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room” (Pascal) I don’t know if I want to be happy: because I want to keep traveling. I can’t imagine contentedness equalling being happy sitting in a room of one’s own.

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Watch My Computer

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“Excuse me, could you watch my computer for me?”

“Sure thing.”

I watched as she walked from her window-side seat to the restroom on the other side of the coffee shop and glanced at her laptop sitting on the small table.

We had not spoken prior to this exchange. Apparently by sitting alone in an armchair with my philosophy book I was deemed trustworthy.

We had not spoken prior, but I wondered that maybe we would if I took the laptop and ran from the store only to return it a minute later, as she was returning, breathing hard as if I had just chased a would-be thief and rescued her computer.

It’s interesting: I have been in the same boat – not trusting anyone new who may walk in to the store, but trusting my possessions to the perfect stranger who has been sitting inside since I arrived. It’s curious: I wonder what I gives us this sense of instinctive fear and simultaneous trust.

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Travel Tips

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This is something I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time. I actually had a bunch of it written while I was in Mongolia, but it was saved on my iPod which crashed.

At the beginning of the summer I knew of several friends who were about to embark on some pretty big adventures overseas. For some of them, this was to be their first time traveling outside of America. I wanted to write a list of little tips that I’ve learned after years of traveling: things that have helped me or that I find important. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get it done before they left, but hopefully it will still be beneficial to them and others in the future.

So here at last is a non-finite list of lessons I’ve learned while traveling that may help you on your next trip. If you have anything you’ve learned as well, please share in the comments here.

Posted in Traveling | 2 Comments


Posted on by Philip

Big decisions are curious things. I have one; I find it odd. They take a long time to decide, they are hard to make. But hard decisions are always good ones, right? Think about it, the only decisions that are bad are ones with bad options, and those are the easiest to decide. You go with the right and good choice. Even if that option means hard work and sacrifice, the decision is easy. Whether we want to take it or not, we know what it should be. As Frodo says, “I know what I must do, it’s just that I’m afraid to do it.”

But what about those decisions with no wrong choice? Those are the big ones. Those are the tough ones. When I step back from this choice before me I find it simultaneously of both the absolute and least importance. What is the bigger decision, that I decide love my neighbor when I walk out of my house or in which fashion to exercise the skills God has given me to bless people and honor him? And yet choosing between two goods is so difficult. It’s like a trick question: neither is wrong, but is one better? Does it matter if both are good?

Sometimes I wish my decisions were between following my heart by using my God-given skills and killing some poor homeless man. No contest, easy choice: homeless man lives. But no, I’m deciding between two great lifestyles.

As a footnote, I realized today after reading back though some journal entries that I’m dealing with the same choices from two years ago, and probably before that as well.

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^ something else ^