President Biden’s Surprise Visit to Kyiv

It’s now Tuesday February 21st, 2023. Kia ora!

Today President Biden visited Kiev, on the anniversary of the Maidan uprising that forced  the resignation of President Yanukovych, and the empowering of the democracy movement there.  Ukrainians have always sought to be free, wherever their boundaries have been; they have a sad and bloody history, but under the leadership of President Zelensky they have been truly amazing as they continue to resist Russia’s invasion. President Biden went to Kyiv, and President Putin was informed that he was going to go there! It’s seen as being a very brave move, especially for an American President. He spent hours on the train, getting there – perhaps 11 hours, and made a rather wonderful speech there. He visited a Cathedral with President Zelensky, and while they were there, an air-raid warning sounded! It’s hard to imagine The Former Guy spending time on a train.  It’s noted that the US does not control the airspace over Ukraine.

Last night I did get an update from Hōhepa Hawkes Bay, again demonstrating how amazing they are, with their wise planning for this event, and their superb management of it. JD was on the regional board for a term, and was trying to alert then members of the dangers posed not only by climate change, but also the vulnerability of their beautiful site at Clive, situated as it is between the sea and three rivers, where the stop banks were built after the 1931 earthquake, and where the sea-level is rising while the land is sinking. Much of Napier is below sea-level, posing particular dangers for certain areas, as demonstrated whenever flooding occurs. It’s quite a job to evacuate those still sleeping at the Clive site – there are still a few, although the board has been on a mission to rehouse everyone that sleeps there. It’s much easier to evacuate a household, rather than an entire site of households;  and, of course, all the carers have their own families’ safety to consider.  One now gives thanks for SUVs, rather than saying who needs them?  The other question is in any emergency can you safely evacuate? Are roads and bridges passable? What are the traffic queues like?  It is timely advice to have a grab-bag ready, in case you need to get out after a fire, flood, or earthquake.  Thankfully here in New Zealand we’re not likely to be exposed to dangerous chemicals (viz. the recent train derailment in Ohio), or gases; for the most part, the air that we breathe in residential areas is safe and unpolluted. JD and I figured years ago that while earthquakes and other acts of God are unpreventable, you usually get warning of a coming flood, and we wouldn’t want any of our special people to drown to death.  Sometimes Hōhepa have evacuated unnecessarily, but it’s better to heed the warnings and be safe rather than sorry.

In Turkey there’ve been another two more powerful earthquakes, with three dead and 213 injured. 

The weekly Covid 19 report came out yesterday. It is as follows: there have been 8220 new cases of Covid-19 reported in New Zealand over the past week, and 24 further deaths. Of the new cases, 3429 were reinfections.

Of the deaths being reported, one was from Northland, seven were from the Auckland region, four were from Waikato, one was from Taranaki, one was from MidCentral, one was from Whanganui, one was from Nelson Marlborough, six were from Canterbury and two were from Southern.

One was in their 20s, one was in their 50s, one was in their 60s, two were in their 70s, 12 were in their 80s and seven were aged over 90. Of these people, nine were women and 15 were men.

There were also 162 people with Covid-19 in hospital as of midnight Sunday, including four in ICU.

The seven-day rolling average of cases is now 1160, up from last week’s figure of 1148.  So the numbers are trending downwards, but not as quickly as one would like. 

I see that King Charles has opened up three of his homes for people to escape from the cold, and have a cup of tea and a natter: Highgrove House, the Castle of Mey, and Dumfries House. This is a very magnanimous gesture, although I fear that Castle May is a draughty old dump, and how does one get there? Still and all, it’s kind of him, and will be appreciated.

It’s now Wednesday February 22nd.

This morning I got up early to go to hymn singing. It was previously cancelled, but then un-cancelled, as the organist, having seen the news reports, decided not to go to Napier after all. It was wonderful: we sang Be still my Soul, to the beautiful tune of Finlandia; we sang Guy Jansen’s setting of the Lord’s Prayer, and we sang a chant to the Nunc Dimittis. 

When I got home I rang the house where my daughter lives, and was greatly relieved to learn that the power is on again, and it’s stable now. They are greatly relieved to be able to use the dishwasher, the washing machine, and have showers again. Having the fridge and freezer working again must be wonderful, too. Afterwards I went to a friend’s house for lunch, where I met a lovely friend of hers.

JD has got my new computer linked up to our printer again, so that’s a big relief too. I can print stuff again! 

It’s now Friday February 24th.

Yesterday it was much cooler, I had to find some warmer clothes to wear to singing.  I did go to my Thursday morning singing, and it was lovely, although we worked quite hard!  We worked on My Girl and Six Ribbons. Many asked me about my daughter at Hōhepa in Napier. Another couple are interested in Hōhepa as a possible option for their grandson, who is autistic.

We are concerned about Hawkes Bay again; more heavy rain is forecast, and Hōhepa Hawkes Bay may have to evacuate again. Esk Valley residents have already been asked to evacuate (up to 40 households). There was an interesting article on Television One about the state of roads and bridges. Here’s a link:

It must be so upsetting to have more heavy rain forecast, after all they’ve been through. On the other hand, the death toll has not risen from the previous total of 11, but the number of those unable to be contacted has declined to 152, according to police.  According to USAR (NZ Search and Rescue Taskforce) it’s now in single figures. So that has to be good news. Meanwhile, there are all kinds of stories, from people giving thanks for their lives, to complaints about how much they have lost.  Indeed, I feel so sorry for them all for this disruption. The Hawkes Bay has flooded before, and, of course, Napier was all but destroyed in the huge earthquake of 1931.

We’ve been watching the Australian series Bump on Neon, and rather enjoying it, especially as the unexpected beautiful baby girl is called Jacinda, after former Prime Minister Ardern!

President Biden’s unexpected trip to Kiev, where he walked with President Zelensky in a cathedral, is seen as being rather wonderful, and the speech he made in sharp contrast to Putin’s long speech. His trip was kept secret, despite the risks; very few people knew about it, and it involved a long train trip. Although the Russians were informed, and an air raid alarm went off in Kiev, nothing bad happened to Biden or Zelensky. There’s a long article about British/American broadcaster Mehdi Hasan in the Guardian:

He claims, as many others are beginning to do, that Biden is a great American President. It’s an interesting article. Hasan is highly educated (he went to Oxford), and I’ve a lot of time for him, so I’ll forgive him for saying “nucular” rather than “nuclear”.

It’s an odd time here. An aunt of JD’s has died, at the age of 82, and so there’s a flurry of activity: JD i.e. I seem to be a point person for contacting the other members of his family. I am wondering what to wear to the funeral, and was getting out my black outfits, but a message has come through to wear bright clothing and bling!

The funeral is to be next Monday, in Tauranga. We would like to go. I check the weather forecast – it claims Tauranga will be fine, with a high of 24C, next Monday. JD wants to drive there and back;  we’ll break the journey in Taupo, each way, and perhaps see our daughter in Napier on our return. At the moment the highways between Taupo and Napier, Gisborne and Napier, and Taihape and Napier are closed, but every day more is being done to repair and restore them.  Sadly, though, more heavy rain is forecast for Hawkes Bay, as if they haven’t had enough already. In the event, there is more heavy rain, and there is further damage to the Taupo – Napier highway.  JD tries to contact friends of ours in Taupo who have a motel – we’ve stayed there twice, and although it doesn’t have a restaurant, it does have a spa bath, and is very nice. After getting no reply, he rings the motel, and the new owners claim that our friends have sold the business and gone back to Napier. We did not know that. In the end, we reserve a room at the Turangi Bridge Motel, which does have a restaurant. We have been there before, and it’s about half the price of accommodation in Taupo itself. However we arrange to stay at Suncourt Motel and Conference Centre on our return. And that, as they say, is another story!

With regard to further rain in Hawkes Bay, as it turned out a suburb of Gisborne was flooded, and the Taupo-Napier highway further damaged, as noted. But the casualty rate has not risen from 11, and there is only a handful of people still unaccounted for.

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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