Aotearoa New Zealand, July 2020


July 15, 2020

We are really sorry, Pauline.

Pauline at work as a tattooist

We won’t be coming to your wedding on July 25th.

Of course, we want to and of course we should be there. Your Mum to see you in your lovely wedding gown and to – no doubt – cry her eyes out; me to walk you down the aisle of the Catholic church that you booked months ahead: all the time expecting we would be there.

Blame the virus.



July 16, 2020

We are sorry, Aquilina.

The family Pampanga home

We won’t be coming back to see how you are coping any time soon. We know that you are living by yourself. We know that you are approaching your 79th birthday. We know very well that your eyesight has diminished to the point of near blindness. We are aware that your younger daughter – my sister-in-law – has gone to Korea to stay with her Korean husband and her son there: who can blame her? She stayed in Manila by herself for as long as she could during the drastic lockdown there, never trusting her safety when she went out to purchase provisions.

But – even if we could get back to Philippines on a flight to Clark from Hong Kong and enter untrammelled – we will face similar 14 days of quarantine-type restrictions back there, while we must pay for testing and accommodation until these test results are available. We also cannot fly into Manila and then come and see you in the new home in Pampanga, as there is an overall travel ban between provinces. In Pampanga there is still a restrictive lockdown in place, as for example, old men like me as well as young children are not to leave their immediate home environs.

Blame the virus.


July 17, 2020

You ask why we won’t be coming, Pauline.

View from the family Hong Kong window

Yes, we can enter Hong Kong as we are permanent residents. Yet getting there will be difficult in terms of finding flights and then negotiating the ordeal of flying in potentially packed planes, the compulsory mask-wearing onboard and possibly having to negotiate transit areas under the raised health restrictions. And I have not touched on the financial costs involved regarding any limited potential flights.

Then, on arrival, after compulsory and time-consuming temperature and possible saliva testing, we spend two weeks of mandatory quarantine in our tiny flat, sharing this time with your brother and sister-in-law and their cats, and unable to leave. We will be wrist-banded and monitored rigorously via the app which we will have to place on our mobile telephones. When we leave the apartment, mask-wearing is not only near obligatory, but obviously eminently sensible for everyone.

And your sister-in-law cannot go back into Mainland China anytime soon to see her parents because she will have paperwork hassles returning to Hong Kong again. This sickness is affecting everyone everywhere.

Blame the virus.


July 18, 2020

You wanted to know more, Aquilina.

There is also the possibility that New Zealand will have become fatigued with Kiwis returning from overseas by then and will attempt to restrict the number of arrivals and at least charge them for the huge overall cost such quarantine is to Kiwi who never flew away. Fair enough, eh. Again, the cases frequenting our shores are borne by returnees from the many plague-riven overseas locales, where this sickness has proven to be such a nemesis. The list of such countries is long.

Indeed, we learned today that there will be a three-week wait for Kiwi trying to return here to their homeland. Why? To keep the rapidly increasing numbers in the quarantine centres manageable. We also learned that there have been escapees from these centres, and at least one of them has got this contagion.

Blame the virus.


July 18, 2020

Ki a Carey.

Australian whānau

Great to hear from you. But Leticia and I are concerned that you are finding it difficult get back to Aotearoa New Zealand to live, because your partner is an Australian citizen and he has to apply or special exemption to leave Australia. Even if he gets this permission you will still have to apply for a visa for him to enter this country and then spend two weeks in complete lockdown quarantine somewhere here. All that bloody paperwork, eh. Nei rā tino hōhā , tāku tamāhine!

And of course, we want to see our mokopuna! Looks like it won’t be for a while.

Blame the damned virus!


July 19, 2020

Dear James Norcliffe.

Yes, since you have been asking, I am also professionally affected by the viral epidemic. I was looking forward to giving my presentation at the Third Colin Wilson Conference in Nottingham in early July. Postponed until 2021, all going well…

James in his garden

The UK has alarming coronavirus statistics. 293,239 cases and 46,233 deaths. More than enough reason to postpone because the situation there is not under control.

We were also going to Curtea de Arges Poetry Festival in Romania in the week prior to Pauline’s wedding. We were really looking forward to this event and I had written a poem or two to perform. (You know how damned difficult it is to come up with a satisfying poem, eh!)

So, it is postponed until 2021, all going well. We will have to wait to see Dracula’s castles.

Romania too has rather alarming coronavirus statistics. 35,802 cases and 1,988 deaths. Sufficient rationale to postpone for a long time yet.

Your email makes me think about Brunei Darussalam, where we both used to work 25 years ago. Even in that adroitly administered country, there have been 141 cases and 3 deaths. COVID-19 is ubiquitous.

Take care, mate.

Blame the virus.


July 20, 2020

Jóu sàhn Pauline

Outside the family Hong Kong home

There is more we need to say. Yes, Hong Kong SAR has done extremely well in controlling this invidious contagion as well as it has thus far, and while the death of anyone, anywhere is anathema to me personally, Hong Kong has ensured viral demise is low there. 1,714 cases and 11 deaths.

However, right now we see when we scan online, that there is a third wave of cases sweeping the region and many are untraceable community transmissions. COVID-19 is not under control in Hong Kong. So – once again – the number of people allowed at any one event has been reduced to very few guests. Including your wedding, we assume.

And as with most other countries, folk returning from overseas are always going to be a major concern, especially given the overall global infection rate and death toll at the time of me penning this lament. 14,189,223 cases; 599,341 deaths. And rising exponentially.

Mangakino in lockdown

Then, even if we came to your wonderful wedding ceremony, despite how long we stay on, we have to face the fact that when we return to Aotearoa New Zealand – even if winter here is finally finished – two more weeks of obligatory quarantine face us and, this time around, not in our snug home in Mangakino with your dog Bruno back with us, but in a hotel somewhere else. Once again, difficulty with even finding ‘suitable’ return flights will be an issue.

A month in quarantine overall? Not the one for anyone.

Blame the virus!


July 21, 2020

Maganda umaga, Aquilina.

More worrying for everyone concerned, Philippines does not have the contagion under control – and let’s be frank, no country does – and the figures of infection and concomitant death are alarming. 63,011 cases and 1,660 deaths there. The country does not really want overseas entrants coming back, even if they are citizens and balikbayan individuals like me. What is more alarming for many OFW (Overseas Foreign Worker) Filipinos – they now are jobless in their countries of previous employment and are reduced to beg for food until such time as the Philippine government can organise flights for them to return home. These are limited flights which come nowhere near matching the number who desperately want to get back, even if they will have to quarantine when they do. These OFW are not only stranded in the Middle East, but all over the world.

Aquilina at home

So, Leticia will not see her beloved mother for a while yet either. 

And we both are aware that you will be worrying about your other children, your anak. While we are fine in New Zealand, your younger daughter is in South Korea where the viral toll is not low – 13,711 cases and already 294 deaths. Your son, my brother-in-law, is in Israel, another country which is not coping at all well. 49,365 cases and 401 deaths. But what can he do? He is a long-term resident there and he will be worried about his own children in that spiking viral environment.

Blame the virus!


July 22, 2020

Kia ora ki tāku whaānaunga nui katoa.

Hey my cuzzies. Thanks for your many kind messages, after you saw all our postings. Let me elaborate a little more.

With the cuzzies

Now, all that I have written may scan as rather minor in comparison to the alarming situation in too many other places, although I hope not. We are also, of course, extremely fortunate to live in a country where the virus seems to have been contained, to live in a country with an excellent health care programme. The situation here in Aotearoa New Zealand is that we have had 1,550 cases and 22 deaths. We are lucky, however, that there has not been a rogue community transmission thus far, especially given some lapses in quarantine centre oversight.

My only slim excuse here is that I want to show how this damnable virus has affected just one internationally based extended family. Not fatally, but still with considerable concerns about family welfare for us all.

Because of course, far too many other whānau are reeling from the shock effects of COVID-19, facing far worse ordeals than ours. Worldwide, millions have been both infected and affected and thousands have died, as I have noted. This despite the sensible tasks of wearing masks and maintaining social distance in most nations.

The situation is especially pernicious in countries where there were pre-existing diminished medical supplies and expertise, in locales where some frontline workers are ill-equipped and dying heroically as they attempt to save fellow citizens. Or – bravely – remaining completely isolated from their loved ones because they fear contaminating them.

Blame the virus.


July 23, 2020

Kia ora ano Carey.

At least you and tāu whānau are OK in Australia, even though cases have spiked there again, especially in Victoria. Lucky you are in NSW country, eh! At least until you can get back home here. 11,438 cases, 118 deaths there, though.

Tragically, in other locations some politicians remain in denial or power-hungry and the virus is inevitably wrecking and wracking its invidious way through populations least enabled to resist its ravages. You know who and where I mean, eh. You and I have had many a kōrero about the way this world stacks up for Indigenous people.

Some countries are already involved in long-running civil war and/or famine situations and they will be further terribly affected by this virus. It literally takes no prisoners.

Hell, some countries are still reeling from Ebola. Coronavirus has not reached its dreadful zenith yet and there are going to be so many more human tragedies worldwide. Right now, there is no end point, no magic solution.

Also, blame the politicians who pretend the plague is going away soon. Or who lied about its very existence. Or who ensured there were insufficient PPE, ventilators, masks to go around because of their own corruption, ignorance, incompetence, refusal to take a lead. We have talked often about such individuals over the years, eh. We know all too well what they ended up doing to our iwi at Parihaka.

In these circumstances, what now can we all do as individuals, wherever we are? The best I can offer is this: Ka whakamatea tēnei huaketo ki te atawhai. Kill the virus with kindness.

Right now, in mid-July 2020, we do not have much else in our mutual respective first-aid kits.

Arohanui ki a katoa hoki.

And remember what I always used to tell you? Never trust a politician!

Blame the virus – and everyone in denial about just how sinister it is.


July 24, 2020

Duy Mm Zhu Polum (Sorry, Pauline)

Love from both of us.

We are really down about tomorrow, Pauline. Not attending our daughter’s wedding is almost inexcusable.

We are all upset.

Let’s extirpate this virus!


[All statistics from]


Vaughan Rapatahana commutes between Hong Kong SAR, Philippines and Aotearoa New Zealand. He is widely published across several genres in Māori and English and his work has been translated into Bahasa Malaysia, Italian, French, Mandarin. He participated in World Poetry Recital Night, Kuala Lumpur, September 2019, and Poetry International, the Southbank Centre, London in October 2019 – in the launch of Poems from the Edge of Extinction and in Incendiary Art: the power of disruptive poetry. Vaughan’s poem tahi kupu anake is included in the presentation by Tove Skutnabb-Kangas to United Nations Forum on Minority Issues in Geneva in November 2019.