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It’s not fair to compare Christchurch to anywhere-not fair to Christchurch and not fair to other places. That said, received, digested and ratified, there is an air of Seattle, or San Francisco, of Ushuaua, Argentina, of Stanley, Falkland Islands, of Reykjavik, of the south of Chile.

Seattle, for the dogged (that’s doggid, not dogd) tricked-out cyclists and their pack covers and cut legs (but less indie lookatme than Seattle, for certain), and the occasional weeping willow. San Francisco for a few brightly-colored houses and a couple of trolleys that inch along. Ushuaia for grey-haired cruise daytrippers in windbreakers and practical shoes. Stanley because it’s tourists and more tourists, so unapolagetically touristy that they don’t even try to do anything other than pose beside statues and art (and oh, how there is street art here! One day with a memory card in hand, I will show you.) Reykjavik because you have never smelled a city so clean nor seen such perfect azure skies amid leaden storm clouds at 6 in the morning. The south of Chile for some plant species, and maybe because I know that if I crane my neck and look really hard to the east (or west), that is what I will see.

But in the end, Christchurch is just Christchurch, a pretty sizeable city on the southern of two improbable islands that are pretty much in the middle of nowhere (and I say that with kindness). It’s architecture and art and good food and lots of boys out running in the evening, and scootering and riding each other on the handlebars in a manouver I’m surprised doesn’t have more of them missing teeth.

Christchurch is where I neded up after 28 hours of travel (bad connections and delayed flights partially to blame, but also the fact that it’s just a long way). I’m happy to stop moving and still have a touch of “where am I, exactly?” which will probably dissipate as I spend more time here, fall asleep and wake up again, take another shower, do my day’s tasks (like picking up my bike) and meet some locals who have generously offered to meet up, greet up and watch me imbibe obscene amounts of caffeine (because some things never change, regardless of the hemisphere). So I’m waiting for New Zealand to make its mark, but I realize that I also have to do my part. Sometimes, the place-repellent, it is strong with this one.

And I’m off.