You can hear about earthquakes and natural disasters on the news, but the feeling of walking the ruined streets and hearing the stories of devastation, of loss and of what used to be is surreal.
At midnight last night, I stepped foot in what for me is uncharted territory - the South Island of New Zealand. I know I am a kiwi, but I haven't had the chance to experience 'New Zealand's better half' for myself yet.
At the airport, I was greeted by Holly - who six months ago was a complete stranger in a Performance Communications class and is now one of my closest friends. Holly, who is Canterbury born and raised, took me to one of her favourite spots on top of the city - the Port Hills.
From a house nestled in the Port Hills's suburb of Cashmere, just five kilometres south of the city centre, we could see the constellations of twinkling city lights below. Holly who knows Christchurch's geography like the back of her hand shivered as she looked out over the dark patches of the city where the lights no longer shone like they used to.
As the pitch black of the night turned into a lighter shade of gloomy grey, we set out to explore the city.
We visited sights such as the colourful New Regent Street,
The Restart Container Mall,
and historical Christchurch homemade ice-cream van Vanilla Ice, or as it used to be called (and Holly still calls it) - 'Ice-cream Charlie's'.
It was heartbreaking touring the city with Holly, who had vivid memories of the earthquake that changed everything, hearing her stories and her memories of her hometown.
Beyond the tragedy in Christchurch, is a beautiful community. One that has banded together to breathe hope and life into a ruined city. From the mall made of shipping containers to the street art, to the fairy lights strung in the hipster cafes in earthquake affected buildings. This city is full of potential and incredibly incredible people.