Haere mai, te whanau

Today is now Monday April 19th. Kia ora.

Well, things have been pretty humdrum here Nothing much is happening here at present. The Trans-Tasman travel bubble is open with much fanfare; I guess that’s a good thing, although I hope we get plenty of Aussies coming here as well as Kiwis going over there. On the other hand, do I want many of them coming here? This quiet time, which we really want to be over, is gradually going to be over. We (that is, my husband, my daughter and myself – Group 3) look forward to getting our first Covid 19 vaccine shots from the end of May. How pleased our government and Ministry of Health must be that they chose the Pfizer vaccine, now that there are question marks over the Johnson and Johnson one and the Astra Zeneca one, for the minimal possibility that they could cause blood clots – which are, indeed, potentially very serious, sometimes fatal, should you develop one within a few days of receiving the vaccine.  There’s been more good news too – the Pfizer vaccine now needs to be stored at -20 degrees, not minus 70 degrees as previously thought. Two jabs are required, giving an opportunity for follow-up. JD and I are booked to have our flu jabs in late April; you’re supposed to allow two weeks between vaccinations, so we should be in the clear for that.

What’s been happening? While it’s been school holidays (a moveable feast, it seems, for everyone) for most of my activities, I’ve continued going to hymn singing, had coffee with friends, and been to Church.  I’ve enjoyed that, in fact a huge feeling of guilt has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel that by attending Church on Sunday, I’m honouring one of the commandments.  I also listen to Bishop Robert Barron’s sermon most Mondays.  This Easter, his sermons are different from last Easter. The scripture readings for his sermons are the same as the Church I attend on Sunday mornings, so it’s interesting to see what his theme is. Yesterday I was late getting to church (it was a beautiful fine, warm day and there were lots of people out and about), and there was no organ music. Instead, we had piano and guitar. People there are very kind and friendly. There is even some Te Reo.

I’ve been reading Ratline, by Philippe Sands. For much of the book, I couldn’t stop reading, I found it so exciting, having read East West Street first. But then, after Otto’s death (was he poisoned?), I began to find it boring, and could no longer be bothered with the different names and intricate details, although I did want to know how Bishop Hudal was “defrocked”, as it were. (Actually he wasn’t defrocked but was potentially disgraced and resigned from one of his leadership positions), I found the author’s encounter with John le Carré very interesting. While much of the world was hunting former Nazis, after World War II, (and trying, with difficulty, to bring them to account), there were some (the Americans, the Catholic Church) more interested in helping them escape (to Argentina via the Ratline), or “turning” them as spies, than in punishing them for their serious misdeeds of mass murder, to say nothing of stealing people’s things and destroying their livelihoods, denouncing them, in some instances. The Russians had become not allies but the Soviet Union was now the number one enemy, not defeated Germany.

I listened to a couple of podcasts where Philippe Sands spoke about this book and his research, and it was very interesting to hear him talk, and bring to life Horst Wächter’s decrepit castle; Horst’s vibrant, and influential, though Jew-hating mother; his meeting with Le Carré, and most importantly, his pointing out that things are complicated, and seldom black and white, although his family had suffered so much at the hands of anti-Semitism and the Nazis. Rereading the histories of this period, of Hitler and Stalin, and of the Holodomor, one is reminded of this. Stephen Kotkin perhaps views Stalin with more fascination (yes, he was truly evil, but, like the Emperor Augustus, look at what he achieved! Do take him seriously!)

All this is a huge distraction from things happening in the US, where there is a good President, and true diplomacy, and yet almost every day seems to being a mass shooting. While the trial of Derek Chauvin continues, and the conclusion seems clear cut (that he’s guilty of murder), a guilty verdict is by no means assured.  I heard police witnessing in court called “testiflying”, not testifying. The police tend to protect their own.  Where are the “good apples?”, Trevor Noah asks. It seems just crazy to me that black men should be in fear for their lives; that a police stop for some minor misdemeanour should result in death. How can that be permitted to happen? Surely the police are there to protect us first, and our property, second.

Last week another book I had reserved suddenly became available: The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett. This was recommended reading, but I confess it’s quite hard work to read. The story revolves around twin girls, one dark-skinned, the other able to pass as a white girl, then woman. The story jumps around a bit and there are various stray characters to keep track of, yet already, only part way though the book, I can sense how different are the experiences of white-skinned and dark-skinned people. I would have to say this is quite a depressing read.

I listened to a New York Times podcast recently that featured how hard parenting has been in the US for the last year, in times of varying restrictions, mainly on in-person learning. It featured a primal scream, a sentiment I can well relate to. It’s hard bringing up children under any circumstances. I know it was hard here in NZ for many people during our strict lockdown, and for the most part people have houses, and a fenced section; the weather was kind. Imagine if you were caring for your family in a small apartment, in a large city, where it is unsafe to go outside. While some fathers are very domesticated, I gather most mothers did most of the work, caring for children and the challenges of their online tuition, and sometimes older folk too. It has been such a hard time. Many women complained that they couldn’t even use the bathroom on their own. While it seems many in the US have been careless about the risks posed by Covid 19, many too have been caring and responsible, trying to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and well.  The novelty soon wore off!

It is now Wednesday, April 21st. Here in NZ an Auckland Airport border worker has tested positive for Covid 19, despite being vaccinated.  He did move around – three sites that he visited have been named, and evidently he had several close contacts. (I have been unable to verify just how many).

It has also been revealed that during the year that NZ’s borders have been closed, Australia has deported 300 people deemed to have a conviction, thus causing the NZ government to pay for the costs of their quarantine, and then rehabilitate them, or not; or at least, find somewhere for them to go. How did the Australians learn to be so cruel? What happened to forgiveness, and learning one’s lesson? Australia was populated in many instances by people (criminals) deported from Great Britain, for what we would term as minor crimes in many instances. Their vindictiveness is astonishing, and hurtful.

It has also just been announced that Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of George Floyd’s murder, almost a year ago. While this verdict does not bring George back, it is very significant for America on so many levels. I’m sure the pods will have a field day.  I just hope this verdict isn’t appealed, or a mistrial declared. Still, it’s good news.

Despite vaccines, the coronavirus continues to dominate our lives, in many ways.  It seems it often outwits the vaccines, while some countries, presently India, experience an overwhelming amount of infections (and deaths). Some of the vaccines have problems of their own. Distribution remains a challenge for many countries, notably, Australia. We do not know what lies ahead. Ngā mihi.

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