Archived entries for


Fun and games yesterday.

Zara and I went to a kid’s birthday party at the next-door tower in Central Park.

We were there for two minutes, at which point Zara eats a cashew nut.

Five minutes later Zara erupts in a huge rash and starts coughing and spluttering. I give her some water. She runs off, but then runs back, requires a cuddle and then throws up all over me and after a quick sprint to the bathroom, keeps throwing up until I think there must be nothing left.

Birthday girl’s mum gives Zara and I new clothes and we make an escape. But by the time we get home Zara is awful lethargic and wobbly, so I stuff her in the car and off we go to the doctor (at SOS). Hideous trip. Zara keeps going to sleep in the carseat, and I keep pinching her feet to keep her awake. She still looks awful flushed but I am consoled in part by her snoring.

At SOS I can’t find anywhere to park, and almost write-off a Merc in my hurry. At the door, some poor nurse attempts to screen me for H1N1, and doesn’t respond well to my yelling… and then freaks out when she finds Zara has a temperature. She rushes off to find a doctor while I rip her screening form into little pieces.

Finally they take us around the side entrance to the emergency room and Zara unbelievably finds something more to throw up. I now need a third change of clothes. However, she is now much more alert and interested in things around her and the doctors are all fantastic, saying it’s probably a reaction to the nut (suspect many years of medical training went into that diagnosis), but not dangerous now – if it was dangerous, she’d be much worse than she is.

After an hour of observation (and more puking – to the point where her stomach was empty) we went home.

We may lay off the nuts in future. And we will do some allergy testing next week.

Today she’s box o’ birds and off to school. And I am 10 years older.

(edited for some significant typos – must have got myself all worked up again writing this thing)


We’ve all been busy since the last post here, but sadly not much of it has been interesting busy. Just dull busy. With maybe a few highlights…

Two weeks ago I disappeared off to Bangkok for three days. Beijing was in the middle of a huge thunderstorm at the time, and this meant sitting in the plane at the departure gate while we waited for it to stop raining (though seriously, it just looked like an average-to-crap day in Wellington to me). And of course, after we got the go-head to get out of there, we found ourselves in a 20-plane queue for the runway – so it took another hour to actually get in the air.

Bangkok was very quiet, tourist-wise. The unpronounceable airport (go on, have a go. It’s “Suvarnabhumi”) was deserted, and I felt like I had to hotel to myself. A combination of the economic downturn and the political situation I guess. I came back with a lot more work than I left with, with a shorter deadline. Can’t wait to go back.

Last week, the Ambassador presented his credentials to Chinese President Hu Jintao. He was allowed to take four others with him… and since the Deputy Ambassador was ill, Reid got to go, along with the Trade Commissioner, the Defense Attache and a Second Secretary.

Hu Jintao does these ceremonies in job lots, so the Ambassador presented himself between other new-arrived Ambassadors according to ranking in the Diplomatic Corps. Everyone waiting in a small room in the Great Hall of the People until the word was given, then trooped out to shake the President’s hand and the Ambassador handed over the papers (which I believe is a note from our Governor-General saying “this bloke acts for me”).

That done, everyone retired to an adjoining room for a few minutes chat.

I’ll upload the photo of Reid with the President when I get it – however, she is now saying she thinks she met him once before, perhaps when Cullen was in town. Meanwhile, here’s one of a very young Hu Jintao, standing just behind Premier Zhao Ziyang addressing the crowd (via two megaphones) at Tiananmen Square a few weeks before the massacre.

Premier Zhao Ziyang and Hu Jintao at Tiananmen

As an aside, the whole Diplomatic Corps thing is interesting. All foreign diplomatics in Beijing form the local Diplomatic Corps, with seniority based on how long you have been in country. The Ambassador that has been here longest is the Dean of the Corps, which means… well, I don’t know exactly, but if they are all together and someone has to make a speech, it’s likely to be the Dean.

The New Zealand Ambassador arrived just after the Ambassador from the Republic of Djibouti (Africa somewhere, since you asked) and just before the Ambassador from Afghanistan, so whenever they are all gathered together in future and line up for something, he will have those Ambassadors either side of them.

And as a further aside, did you know (according to that font of all wisdom, Wikipedia) that in New Zealand the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps is ranked above the Deputy Prime Minister and Chief Justice?

In domestic news, Zara has been sick, first up with non-specific colds and coughs, then on to vomiting and rather dull diarrhoea (the symptoms of which, entertainingly, only presented between midnight and 6am). This has meant she’s skipped a week or so of school and we haven’t been swimming much, but she’s all good now and we’ve about got to the stage where she actually wants to go to school.

Zac is continuing to be a model, if not rather large, baby who sleeps, drinks and laughs at things constantly (apart from when he rolls onto his stomach and gets pissed off that he can’t roll back). Yu Mei thinks he is a hao hái zi (good child), who is piào liang (beautiful), and they are getting on famously, when Zara lets them.

Here’s a few photos….

June 2009

(click on the photo for the gallery for this post).

Beijing the day after

A couple of footnotes from the June 4 non-commemoration.

There was a candle-lit vigil in a park in Hong Kong last night, attended by either 150,000 people (estimated by the organisers) or 62,800 (police estimate).

And the BBC’s James Reynolds also danced with umbrellas at the Square yesterday, except being British, he was a lot more polite:

Today in Beijing

Tiananmen Square was very threatening.

For a start, I was completed spooked by James Fallows’ blogging on his visit to the square last night. He tried taking some photos of the huge security presence… and does not say what happened next. In fact, he says he won’t say what happened until he is out of the country. He ends his piece with

if you in Beijing and are near the square, be careful. Seriously.

So I left the big camera with the red-rag-to-the-bull long lens at home and joined a group of five other New Zealanders who planned to walk around the square this afternoon.

On the edge of the square, uniformed cops were checking identification papers and rummaging through people’s bags, while a street-sweeper cleared away rubbish with a wire in his ear. We ignored those guys, crossed the road to a square entrance, and got stuck.

Just before the Olympics, Chinese Security put up wee tents at all the entrances to the square, installed a metal detector and staffed them with a couple of bored guys who waved you through.

Today, the tiny tent was stuffed with about 15 cops.

My bag got put through the scanner then manually searched. A cop checked my ID (a Chinese diplomatic ID card), and passed it along to a couple of others. The last cop radioed in for instructions, and while he was waiting for a reply I said in my best English ‘Okay?’, took the card from him and walked past into the square.

The other New Zealanders (4 with diplomatic IDs, one with a NZ passport) were not so lucky. Two of them were Chinese speakers, and once they outed themselves as such, were grilled on why we were visiting the square, what our intentions were and whether we were ‘working’. The Kiwi Chinese speakers said we were showing our friend through the famous Square as tourists, and after much discussion, they were let through.

Inside the square, it would have been funny if it wasn’t so tense. There were the usual hordes of troops marching about in columns, but they are a common sight around there. What was unusual was the large contingent of ‘plain clothes’ security guys. They were easy to spot – they stood completely still, legs slightly apart, a wire in one ear and, rather incongruously, carried an umbrella. Some of the umbrellas still had their price tags attached.

The huge number of these guys, silent and staring, was un-nerving. They vastly outnumbered the tourists. In some directions it appeared the Square was solely populated by brolly-carrying statues.

We walked a little way into the square and stopped to take a few photos of the Heroes Monument. Some umbrella-carriers came to life and did little walk-bys around us, to listen in to our conversation and see what we were photographing.

A little further on, we noticed someone had decided a light in the square needed fixing, which meant moving a huge crane into position – a good place for a lookout. No-one was working on the light fixture.

By this time we’d picked up a couple of umbrella carriers of our own (in matching pink polo shirts) who followed us at respectable distance as we walked around the square, past Mao’s resting place (closed today) and back out again. We saw maybe 4 other white tourists in the square – there were some mutual ‘what the hell is this?’ looks.

On the way out we passed a Chinese bloke with a big grin and a “I Love Tibet” t-shirt.

Good luck to him, I say.

Apparently Chinese people who want to commemorate the the 20th Anniversary are planning to walk quietly around the square in white shirts – the colour of mourning in China. I didn’t see any of that. With the grim-faced security guys around, I think I’d sit that one out.

While in the square, our group sort of muttered to each other nervously but no-one felt particularly comfortable talking. We certainly didn’t take any obvious photos of the security. In fact I’ve just had a look at the few photos I did take, and they’re all pretty much duds- I was obviously too freaked out to take anything sensible. Reid and Sia are about to ride down to have a look on their bikes – perhaps they’ll do better.

For a lighter side of umbrella-based security, watch John Vause attempt to do a piece to camera on CNN this morning:

(PS – this afternoon, it rained. I bet that’s manufactured, to help disperse any crowd that attempted to form)

20 years ago

Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the day the tanks cleared the students from Tiananmen Square.

The overseas media focus on the anniversary is largely focussed on how this anniversary is being completely ignored in China. Local media have not reported it.

In similar style to the clean-up before the Olympics, potential dissidents have been placed under house arrest a week ago – they will apparently be let out after the day is over. Hong Kong, which is usually more relaxed about protests, has had similar crackdowns. The websites Hotmail, Flickr and Twitter have been blocked (YouTube still hasn’t been put back online since they hosted some footage of the PLA beating up some Tibetans).

I’m going to head down to the square tomorrow to see if anyone is brave enough to stage a memorial to the dead – variously estimated to be between 250 (Chinese Government) to 7000 (NATO).

I suspect the square will be very quiet.

Zara’s 3rd

On Sunday, we hosted a sugar frenzy. 10 kids of various ages played pass the parcel, musical chairs and went on a treasure hunt. They then consumed food colouring and left on that awful sugar rush that precedes a meltdown of epic proportion.

Today, we started with the present from the parents then we both took her off to school. Everyone cried. But when I went to pick her up at 1pm, she seemed fine, saying only that she’d lost me somewhere and was sad.

My heart broke.

This evening we opened the rest of the pressies from the Grans and Grammas and everyone is again exhausted.

Here’s a few photos from the day (click on the picture for more). Later on I’ll post some video.

Zara's 3rd

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