For the first time since an (artificial) dump of snow in January, there has been a few days of light rain here, and some big winds. Beijing has very defined seasons – Spring is marked by winds and sand storms blowing in from the Gobi Desert up north. This means it has got cold again – apparently there is some morbid tradition that is must be cold until after ANZAC day so the early start can be particularly miserable.
Busy week. On Tuesday, Si’alei unexpectedly arrived back in Beijing (we thought she arrived on Thursday) and I caught up with her that night at the leaving drinks of another friend who is moving to Ireland. On Thursday the Ambassador hosted his farewell lunch for staff and family. At the same time, Craig arrived from Japan for a few days work, so stayed with us for a few days, including a late night dinner on Friday night.
And of course, ANZAC day.
This seemed to be largely attended by Dads, with wives and kids choosing to remain unconscious (certainly getting all four of us to something by 5.15 was never going to happen, so I just took Craig who, being over 40, has learnt to dress himself). The Dawn Parade at the NZ Embassy starts at 5.30 by which time dawn had come and gone, with the marching and shouting components supplied by sailors from the HMNZS Te Mana – in town as part of the Chinese Navy’s 60th anniversary. Around 300 people attended, and judging by the numbers of cars with flags outside, around 10 Ambassadors from other countries climbed out of bed on time. Our Ambassador made his last speech as Ambassador to China, we sung songs, and the Turkish and Australian Ambassadors spoke, all with the faint sounds of the American bugler warming up for the last post just around the corner (not sure he realises just how loud a bugle can be).
There was a bloke with a TV camera filming the thing, but as he was dressed as a sailor I thought it was for Defense use only – I’ve since been told they used a clip from it on TV One news
Here’s the shallow paragraph: like last year, one of the highlights was the military attendees from around the world – the French chap looks like Charles de Gaulle in his box-shaped cap, the British bloke carries a swagger stick under his arm which pokes people behind him and the Russian guy wears a hat bigger than his head. Unfortunately the Belgian army did not attend this time – it’s a shame since their salute is the most ridculous I’ve ever seen.
All done, we ate the Gunfire Breakfast (why is it called that?) and Craig and I came home so he could catch his flight home. And the rest of the day was a hideous exhausting nightmare.
Last night the deputy Ambassador saw the departing Ambassador off at the airport, and 15 minutes later, the new one arrived to take up his post. A country can’t have two Ambassadors in the country at the same time – a pretense that is kept, despite the new one actually being here for months, doing language training in Shanghai. He left the country earlier this week so he could Officially Arrive last evening, and a new reign begins.