Why? Because they had their back-to-school-special free barbeque. And this time they didn't run out of Speight's.
And it wasn't just barbeque. The invitation email from the embassy said, "The Kotuku singers, a singing duo, will provide background music." But when we were there, busily getting our share of the food, the ambassador announced in his pathetically weak voice that a group from some Christian primary school in Auckland were going to perform for us outside. Apparently what made this school special was that it's the only primary school in New Zealand to teach Chinese. So these kids, who looked about 9, 10 or 11, stood in the widest corner of the embassy's drastically reduced backyard, and went through a few kapa haka routines. There's something cute and kinda funny about a bunch of mostly Pakeha kids doing kapa haka, but still, they did well. I was surprised by the sheer force these wee boys could put into a haka. Then they switched into a few Chinese songs, finishing up with a bilingual version of "It's a Small World After All." Actually, there Chinese was pretty good- a few odd little problems with pronunciation, like the inability to distinguish between x and sh, but still, pretty good.
Although, as the kapa haka showed, it's not too difficult to learn a song in another language without actually having any understanding of what you're singing or any ability to produce a coherent, original expression in that language. I remember having to sing many Maori songs in the multitude of primary schools I attended, and yet basically none of us Pakeha or otherwise non-Maori kids, and precious few of the Maori kids, could actually speak Maori. Still, that was largely because compulsory Maori language and culture education had only recently been introduced into all state schools, and so precious few of the teachers were in any way qualified to be teaching Maori, the result being that most of us only learnt a few basic words and phrases, and "correct" pronunciation, if we were paying attention. "Correct" is in scare quotes for the obvious reason that te reo Maori has many dialects, and I don't know how any one standard was chosen for the school curriculum.
Of course, there's a huge, huge difference between the utterly pathetic excuse for Maori education I received at primary school and one single primary school introducing a Chinese language programme. What we saw last night suggested that these kids were doing alright in the Chinese learning process.
And there was one boy who sang amazingly beautifully angelically
And then the ambassador was informed that the performance was over, and he relayed that information to the crowd in his tiny, weak voice, and we went back inside to continue grazing.
And here's where I got a bit annoyed. The Kotuku singers, two cool Maori women I'd chatted to for a few minutes before they had to go make sure everything was ready for their performance, tried to start their set. But even though they were using microphones, introducing themselves, getting their music going, and singing, they were completely, totally ignored by everybody. There was no introduction, no attempt by the ambassador or anybody official to get the crowd's attention, nothing, these two women were totally on their own. And the crowd just raised their voices and continued their conversations as if nothing were happening. Well, I listened as I ate, and a few others noticed these two singing and tried to get a bit of applause going at the end of each song, but to no avail. Eventually, though, we just went back outside.
The whole thing just seemed so poorly organised- this primary school group seemed to be a sudden addition to the night's entertainment, and they were properly introduced and all, but nobody seemed to have any idea what their performance was going to be or how long it would last or anything. And so rude, too. The primary school group were treated like guests, the Kotuku singers, who were mentioned in the invitation email, were roundly ignored by the embassy staff, and left to plug themselves into the PA system (they had their backing music on a couple of ipods- pretty smart way to organise things, I reckon) and introduce themselves. At least, that's how it seemed.
But after a bit we went back inside and the scene had changed drastically. The Kotuku singers had finally gotten the attention they deserved, and a large group of people, including a lot of children, were listening and singing along and dancing and having a great time. And the embassy staff member in charge of Kiwi Club has helping the Kotuku singers choose winners for various small prizes they'd brought along with them. It was such a total, complete change in atmosphere it was hard to believe at first.
And then I don't know how or why, but lzh and I finally decided to buy Kiwi Club t-shirts. I've been going to the Kiwi Club off and on for, what, six years? now, always saw the t-shirts for sale, always thought they were pretty cool and I should buy one, never bought one till now. lzh wanted a green one (don't worry, it's a deep, very Kiwi green), but there were only three green ones left, all too big for her, so we both bought black. She, of course, had to buy the smallest size available- I occasionally tell her that if we were in New Zealand, she'd have to buy children's clothes to wear, and last night seemed to confirm that. I, somehow, had to wind up buying an XXL. So, wait... the small is a Kiwi size small, but everything from large on up is Chinese size? I would've thought a large would be perfectly adequate, but no, too small. XL? Still not big enough. XXL is the last choice...
I'M NOT THAT BIG!!!!!
So lzh ducked into the toilet and put her new t-shirt on and when she came back out, wow, she looked so good. Black t-shirt with a kick-arse huge silver fern emblazoned across her chest, yeah, she looked good. And I felt some kind of odd pride seeing my wife dressed like that. And on her back, a kick-arse huge kiwi and the words "Kiwi Club Beijing- 新西兰人俱乐部". lzh doesn't like the Chinese words so much, they seem a little strange to her for some reason, but the important thing is: black, with a huge silver fern on the front and a huge kiwi on the back. Now we're ready for the World Cup final.
And then, of course, it came time to leave. I was getting pretty tired, and lzh has to work today- although, she is taking the afternoon off so we can go over to the Shadow Building and check the design of our album and other bits and pieces. I'm really getting sick and tired of this Shadow Building. But this will be the second to last trip there, and the next, and last trip will be in about a month's time to pick up our photos.
And then tomorrow, hopefully, we'll be heading up to the village for the National Day break.
Five Star Red Flags have appeared outside all the doors of all the buildings in our area, and the slum over the back hoisted a really huge flag up a pole stuck to the wall that separates them from more respectable areas.
Anyway, better stop rambling and get myself ready to go. The weather yesterday was surprisingly cool, and it looks to be the same today, so I think maybe I might need to start wearing more clothes, which means it's going to take longer than just grabbing my wallet, cellphone and keys and slipping on sandals to get out the door and up to Tuanjiehu to meet lzh.