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Week 1

It’s Sunday morning in Paris. We’ve been here for just over a week. Out in our wasteland of an apartment, Reid has found a space to revise Friday’s French lesson, and the kids are talking to their friends back home under the guise of ‘technology’.

It’s been a big week.

We arrived Friday morning into 34 degrees-with-a-mask (immediately regretting merino). We turned the wrong way out of Charles de Gaulle and spent about 30 minutes trying to meet up with our transport — there was no other way to get 10 massive suitcases into town.

Dominique from the New Zealand Embassy met us at the apartment, made coffee and took us through a safety briefing (pickpockets, what to do if you find yourself between the police and a demonstration — answer, walk quickly the other way).

We’ve got a large apartment, 4 bedrooms, 3 living/dining rooms and a kitchen, and 6 items of furniture, mostly lent to us from the Embassy’s stash. The place is beautiful, but the absence of Stuff makes it echo’y and stark. Two of the rooms didn’t even had any light.

Saturday’s mission was to fix some of that up as quickly as possible, so we Uber’d to an Ikea and bought, y’know, some glasses and a bottle opener. But we also took photos of lots of other things, and the next day bought a bunch of it over the internet so it can be delivered. So far, the legs of a desk and some light bulbs have arrived, but we’re hoping for great things this week.

On Sunday Reid and I walked around our nearest park, the Bois de Boulogne, which is massive – various kings used it for their hunting forest, it as Roland Garros, a number of race courses and equestrian sites, lakes, a massive kids park (more on that later) and the totally amazing Fondation Louis Vuitton building, plus lord knows what else.

Then we dragged the kids up La Siene to the Eiffel Tower and wandered around the 7th arrondissement, heading back via a big shopping street (Zara was thrilled).

Okay, I may need to start summarising — we’ve done plenty, and I think you’ve probably got something more interesting to do.

On Monday we trekked up to the Trocadero, across to the Avenue des Champs-Elysees (oooh, an Apple Store) and down to the Lourve. And learned how to take a bus.

On Tuesday we chilled a little, but walked the kids up to their new schools (same school, two different campus).

On Wednesday we attacked the Louvre. (Relatively) empty of crowds, we ticked off the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and many others.

On Thursday Reid went back to work – her language lessons started at the Australian Compound (where all the Australian diplomats live, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower). And I started my language lessons. Which was in fact lovely (as Tracey, my teacher, is fabulous). The kids are getting a couple of weeks as well. And the Air Freight arrived! With just the important stuff.

On Friday, more language lessons (they are every day – Reid for 4 hours, I have 2, both of us have homework), and I took the kids up to the Bois de Boulogne to scope out the Jardin d’Acclimatation (which was Saturday’s adventure).

Saturday was the aforesaid Jardin d’Acclimatation. 10 minutes away for us is this huge park-within-a-park, opened by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1860, famous of having a zoo which was largely eaten during the Siege of Paris in 1870, and for replacing that with a human zoo (strange folk from Africa, happily not eaten). It’s now an amusement park with rides, lakes, water play, a small zoo (goats, ponies) and other stuff we didn’t discover. Good times.

And today is Sunday.

So — to answer everyone’s question — how’s the COVID? France is now stretching up to above 4000 new cases every day, which is not good. It’s similar to levels seen in May, just before the full lockdown. But this time it’s different.

In May (and the months leading up to it), nobody really knew how to handle COVID. How to avoid it, and how to treat it. The hospitals were overrun. The death rate spiked. It was grim.

This time, even though the case rate is rocketing, the death rate is very low. I think there are only 200-odd cases in intensive care in the whole country. They know how to treat it better now, and (horrible to say), the rest homes and high-risk groups have already been cleaned out.

But needless to say, there is lots of COVID, and the French stats are heading in the wrong direction, so we’re treating this a little more seriously than when we first arrived. We’ve now stricter with our mask use (listening to Dr. Bloomfield, not re-using them, etc). We’re going to avoid the Metro and buses all together, restricting ourselves to Ubers, bicycles and walking. And we’re going to avoid places where social distancing is not an option — that’s the last Louvre trip for a while, I think.

The school is taking this very seriously, but is still on track to open in a week, though all parent orientation sessions are now on Zoom, and we won’t be allowed near Zara and Zac’s campus (but can escort Sacha onto hers, which is great).

But best they hurry up with the vaccine please.

Kicking things off

The plan is to move the old posts from Beijing across to this site (the few I can find anyway — they’re scattered around) and post from Paris here.

They say a blog lasts an average of 2.3 entries before the author loses the will to write. Lets go for 3.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


School security

Security at Zara’s school has been beefed up as the result of the current string of awful attacks at schools in China. There was another incident today, the fourth over the last few months.

The details of the attacks are too awful to even comment on, and any connection between seems mystifying (at least attacker had mental problems, which didn’t stop him being executed).

Zara’s school now has a ‘plain clothes’ security bloke hanging around outside, and any Chinese-looking people are monstered as they arrive to pick up their kids. It’s all pretty grim.

One down

Six (at least) to go.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi (R) shakes hands with New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully in Beijing, China, March 24,2010.Yang held talks with McCully here on Wednesday. (Xinhua Photo)

Maddening fluffy and catchy Diane Birch song

Okay, the last of this batch of time-wasters (my inbox is filling up with actual work).

First, watch this video for this light and happy song from Diane Birch (nope, never heard of her either. Have listened to the song about 10 times now, it’s driving me a little nuts)

then see how they made the video – it’s all one take, with many quick costume changes…

(via Gizmodo)

Right. Back to work.

Trailer For Every Oscar-Winning Movie Ever

A little late for the Oscars, but cleaning out a backlog of stuff I have lying about…

Via Spareroom

A scene from the greatest movie ever made

The movie (apparently) is called Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. Too lazy to find out if this is a real movie or not, but Sam – if you’re reading this, it made me think of you for some reason.

Lazy blogger

The sign of a lazy blogger is when they start publishing short posts that are basically re-posts of other people’s stuff.

But, y’know, occasionally I do come across stuff that I wouldn’t mind keeping around.

Like North Korean Traffic Police.

“Super Punch has rounded up a bunch of the best YouTube videos of Kim Jong Il’s “traffic girls,” who are dressed in snappy uniforms, which they wear as they perform an elaborate, robotic mime-show that directs North Korean traffic. They only turn counter-clockwise. Of course.”

From Super Punch via Boing Boing

Zac turns one

Zac managed to turn one year old today, despite what seems to be a very real interest in doing himself some serious harm. On Saturday he head-butted the floor and so now sports a very becoming bruise on the bridge of his nose, the latest in a long line of scrapes, garks and other imperfections he has accumulated while perfecting his rather extraordinary climbing skills.

He stands, at the moment, but doesn’t walk (apart from the occasional tottering fall, that charitably gets called ‘steps’), but has a huge interest in anything on a table. To get on the table to check it out, he will push one of our kid chairs closer, climb onto that, transfer to a higher chair, then onto the table. Destruction ensues. It’s not pretty.

Zac had several rounds of presents today and appreciated the wrapping and the presents themselves each time, but is a wee bit grumpy on his anniversary – I think he has a cold, probably the same cold Zara, Reid and I have been passing around for the last three or four weeks. I am writing on the plane to Bangkok, and have spent the first two hours trying to get my ears adjusted to the altitude. Can’t wait for the descent.

Zara is off school for two weeks for the Chinese New Year long break – by the time I get back from this trip on Friday I suspect the fire-crackers will have started in earnest. Someone let a few off yesterday afternoon in a small warm-up, and I though a bomb had gone off. Qing Mei, our part-time ayi, has joined the general exodus home for the holiday, which for her means 2 days on a train. Happily Yu Mei is Beijing ren so only gets the same holidays Reid does – 3 days next week.

Last week was also supposed to mark the start of spring – we’re all getting pretty sick of the sub-zero temperatures – but any progress there was dampened by more snow yesterday, and apparently more all week. We’re over it. Bring on the warm.

Reid is busy preparing for Foreign Minister McCully’s visit, which she is looking after – he will up here several times this year, along with the rest of the cabinet it seems at various times. Minister of Trade Tim Grocer was here last week, and he said the Government’s commitment to the Shanghai Expo and China in general could be seen in the number of ministers hurrying to pack their bags for Beijing. You could almost see the diplomats flinch.

And I’m in week 4 of a awfully intense 6 week sprint to the finish line of (this phase of) the Thai project. I haven’t been much fun lately. But the end is in sight.

I may have said that before.

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