The travel diary of Jo Nicholls-Parker
MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Martin van Beynen
Mogadishu - Somalia
I love these sister city trips. People are always so welcoming and obviously love being tied to Christchurch in a warm sisterly relationship. Today Bob and I arrived in Mogadishu to be welcomed by the entire town council and their assistants. I must admit I clasped Bob's hand firmly at what I thought was random gunfire but Bob told me not to worry. It was only the traditional 21-gun salute, he said, although I thought they usually used bigger guns. Silly me. I said, why are all these men just standing around with guns? Shouldn't they be lined up in a neat row waiting for us to inspect them? It was just the Mogadishu way, Bob said. The mayor was very nice. I said, why didn't you bring Mrs Mayor? He said he didn't know which one to bring and then laughed showing lots of gold teeth. I said, you are hilarious Mr Mayor. He said, just call me Mr Warlord. I could see Christchurch was really going to get its money's worth from this sister city trip. Bob went off with the boys to talk business and some of Mr Warlord's assistants took me to see some local industry. I met all these wonderful people at the port who took me for a ride in their fast boats. You must do this a lot, I said. They asked me if my husband was rich. He's got me hasn't he? Hee hee. I add a lot of value, I said.
Kabul - Afghanistan
This is the second stop on our sister city tour. Bob doesn't seem happy. He said something about rude about the council. I think he is being ungrateful. It was really nice of the council to send us on this sister city trip and they even agreed to pay for me. How wonderful. Kabul is such an exciting place. We were met by a lovely man called Mr Karzai and he said he just loved my head dress and very tasteful frock. I said his frock and hat were "tres chic" too and wasn't it wonderful that some countries let men express themselves by wearing women's clothes. Bob rudely interrupted and I don't know why he told Mr Karzai I had found the travel very wearing and I was not myself. I thought I would add value to the trip by wearing a lovely and very revealing gown to the state dinner that had been arranged for us but Bob got all huffy and said I lacked appreciation of the local culture. This is not Christchurch you know, he said. He can be very exasperating.
Port-au-Prince - Haiti
The trip around our new sister cities just gets better and better. A huge crowd was there to welcome us as we stepped off the plane. I said to Bob, look at all those lovely white flags the people are waving. When we got closer we saw they were actually holding immigration forms and clearly thought we could help them come to New Zealand. For some reason they called Bob, Papa. Papa Bob, they yelled.
It was so charming and heart- warming. Bob collected all the forms and gave a lovely speech about how our cities were joined forever by the fact we were active seismic areas. He has such a way with words. After two hours the crowd dissipated and asked for their flags, I mean, forms back. We had a very romantic night on the beach. It was so nice of the authorities to give us some time to ourselves and once Bob had got over his bad mood he got into the swing of things. I said, this is just like the night you proposed to me Bob. Except for the flies, the open sewer, the pitch darkness, the groups of menacing young men and the lack of any refreshments - you are right, he said. What a wag.
Chernobyl - Ukraine
Another rapturous welcome, this time from the Chernobylians. They seemed so pleased to see us. The mayor, Mr Hoverla, said Christchurch was the first city in the world to agree to become Chernobyl's sister city. They looked so grateful, not something we see in Christchurch very often. Now we family. Now we come to see you, Mr Hoverla said, and gave me and Bob a big bear hug. Bob positively glowed and I felt warm all over. The city, although small and rather bare, is very quaint. I wondered how I could add value on this part of our trip. Well it was me who spotted all these strange and spectacular looking flowers and little animals with three ears and five legs. Boy could we use some of them in Christchurch. The people were so hospitable, all five of them glowing with pride in their charming part of the world. I know Christchurch people are just going to love coming here and being sisterly. Can't wait for our next stops. Baghdad and Pyongyang.
- The Press