Back to Melody's travels
Greetings, seeing as you are kiwi's I thought I'd share with you my exciting tale of tonight's dinner with the kiwi ambassador for Russia and the Ukraine. A big burly man with a wave of thick curls and giant hands that dominated the table. A pinkish face and overwhelming presence topped with a strong Bay of Plenty accent and a knowledge of good wines, like all predominant kiwi's should have.
I was invited to join the annual kiwi dinner by the only other NZ'ers in the city (possibly the country) when they read an article I wrote in an English magazine here, about my arrival. They said the big man was coming down from Moscow to file a report on the state of the nation and wanted to take us out to dinner.
Our rendezvous was a swanky restaurant in Kyiv, and it turned out this much talked about kiwi contingent consisted of a lonesome 3 - two pretentious businessmen with large overcoats and Ukrainian wives to match, and me. Plus the ambassador of course and his wife who was also a diplomat and 'real good value', a real character. Disturbingly, it seemed I was the mystery guest - I'd never met any of them before, was the youngest by 20 years and they were eager to drill me as to how i'd sneaked into the Ukraine.
The novelty of a random Far Northern infiltrating their midst wore off however, and they got down to the serious business of, well, business, and economics, and politics. And frighteningly, an occasional tangent of stories morbid and gruesome, the kind only NZ'ers would allow at the dinner table.
For example, they'd seen an Aussie man fall to his death recently, trying to sprint across a waterfall, and talked matter of factly about the costs involved to ship him home. (I saw that this story in particular was intended to convince me to get medical insurance, so I remained unperturbed.) Instead I sat there bemused and laughed often, when the woman of character, who was in control of much of the conversation, slipped in comments about Four Square's and Jenny Shipley (resigned?) and other random kiwi subjects I've not heard for 'yonks.'
One of the businessmen, (from Whangerei) sat on my right, proudly proclaiming he was one of the top 200 earners in the country (which, considering there are only about 200 earners in the country, is nothing to be proud of,) was arrogant and pessimistic and swore too often. He rallied us with constant anecdotes of local smuggling, bribery, 'grey' area's, and meandering stories of corruption and the dismal state of the economy, subjects which excited him to no end. He writhed in ecstasy, swearing and frothing at the mouth when explaining negative media coverage and how one can promote degrading rumours about opponents.
His views clashed violently with the other businessman, (from the mid South Island) on the left, who was sprightly, enthusiastic and well travelled, and full of optimism for the country's future. So they sat there and argued, vying for the ambassadors approval, whilst we sat in the middle watching, drinking Hawkes Bay red and twiddling giant thumbs.
The most interesting noises came from the diplomats, who when given the chance to speak had stories of journies through Turkmenistan, Tajikastan and Saudi Arabia, memories of being with Jim Boldger before he was forced to resign, and witty remarks about lemons. Well rounded. Sporadically the big man would turn toward me, clumsily, his giant golly wog head bearing down commandingly, and he'd ask me pertinent questions about my thoughts of the Ukraine, questions craftily designed after years of diplomat training, to focus not on the content of my answer but rather designed to see the thought processes behind it - to unravel the psyche of I, the youth of NZ. He told me again to get some insurance, and smiled dotingly as I shared the odd story and view before being talked over by yapping Mr Whangerei on my right, who could be summed up entirely by the brooches on his starched shirt cuffs - miniature silver rugby balls.
After several hours and a huge meal eaten almost entirely by me, managing to squeeze in 2 mains in my quest to exploit, and the diplomats, who were both large and ate with their hands and threw bits everywhere, finally exclaiming "I'm so stuffed", it was all over and the big grey trench coats were once more pulled on.
Cunningly Mr Whangerei herded Mr ambassador away for a private pep talk, and the woman with character joked on, somewhat awkwardly, as we were worried for Mr ambassadors welfare. They came back however, gazing about distractedly, and we foolishly parted.
Mr Whangerei clasped my hand dramatically and said what an honour it had been; Mr ambassador grinned excitedly down at me from his dizzy height, perhaps debating whether or not to pat me on the head, and then invited me to Moscow; the woman with character said something about "oh to be footloose and fancy free" and literally leapt away into the darkness, and then Mr mid-South Island drove me home.
So that was the first ever of my diplomatic encounters. And to think, I actually once wanted to be an ambassador.
well, hurrah old chaps, toodle loo,