I feel as foreign as any non-native Wellingtonian. I am a
Chinese busker, singing in Mandarin.
Well no, I am a Pakeha proofreader, checking in English, but
I met a Chinese busker the other night. He had been standing
on the doorstep of a shut commercial building, playing a
guitar. I had never heard Mandarin-song busking, and had
tossed $2 into his guitar case.
When I passed again later, he had his case on his back and
was heading down Courtenay Pl. This street includes an open
plaza, and that is where I found him, under a raucous,
He grinned and I asked, "How did you go?"
He did not understand the phrasing, so as we were blown in
the same direction I kept trying.
"How was your busking? How did you like it? Did you make a
lot of money?"
He understood the money question, and then explained he was
not really a wandering minstrel.
"I am from China and you cannot just do what you want. So
when I get here I am free, nobody cares I can do what I
want!" He laughed with astonished glee and gestured with
"So I just sing once in public, because I want to try it."
I said he must be surprised more of us don't make use of our
freedoms, then, such as the freedom to dance in the street. I
leapt up and down to demonstrate. I would not go so far as to
call it dancing.
The young man, still laughing giddily, agreed it was a
puzzle. We shook hands and wished each other luck.
In the supermarket the self-checkout machine recognised me as
an alien and raised the alarm. I had swiped a foreign
barcode. "Assistance needed," it said.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. Photo Getty
An assistant came over and explained: "We don't use
coupon books in the North Island. I always know who the South
Islanders are because they try to swipe their coupon cards."
He swiped his authorisation card and I was permitted to
proceed, albeit deprived of Southern discounts.
On Saturday, I sought a blessing from the civic mother, for a
sense of matronage. I spied the mayor at a fair and
introduced myself, explaining I was new in town and wanted to
meet the chief.
I admired her one-piece suit. It was quirky, in blue and
white. She explained it was a two-piece, and lifted the top
and showed me her tummy. Her name is Celia Wade-Brown and she
gave me her business card, which was promptly stolen by a