Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Test pass leaves driver uninsured

By Mathew Dearnaley 5:30 AM Tuesday Feb 25, 2014 Confusion over licensing laws prompts NZTA to consider clarifying conditions for foreign motorists. Yuanxi (Cindy) Zhang didn't realise she was not allowed to drive unsupervised until she went to make an insurance claim. Photo / Dean Purcell Driver licence application forms are being reviewed after a Chinese woman - unaware she could no longer drive unsupervised after passing a theory test - found herself uninsured in a crash. The Transport Agency says it is looking at whether changes can be made to the forms and the Road Code to ensure overseas drivers are aware of supervisor conditions on new licences issued once they pass theory tests. That follows Herald inquiries into the case of Auckland office worker Yuanxi (Cindy) Zhang, 24, who says she had no idea a pass meant she could no longer use her overseas driving licence and had to be accompanied by a supervisor until she passed a practical test. She found out only after hitting the rear of another car, and discovering her third-party insurance policy would not cover $3200 of damage to that vehicle. Ms Zhang says the crash happened in a line of stationary traffic, after her foot slipped off the brake of her automatic transmission car. She had been driving away from a licensing centre, upset at having failed a first attempt to pass her practical test. Despite the test failure, she thought she still had a week left on her 12-month overseas licence. But it was only when she passed the test on her second attempt, a fortnight later, that her right to drive unsupervised was restored. A friend, Margaret Thompson, who intervened with her insurance company, said Ms Zhang was not told she could no longer use her overseas licence after passing the theory test. She was still unaware of the condition when the testing officer for her practical session allowed her to drive off by herself, after failing her and getting out of her car. Transport Agency spokesman Andy Knackstedt said overseas drivers who passed their theory tests were given full New Zealand licences, but with a "supervisor condition attached". "It's not a restricted licence - technically it's a full licence with conditions - that's where I think she got into trouble," he said. Although the agency produced printed and online material to ensure licence holders were aware of the requirements, it was the responsibility of individuals to understand and comply with those. But as a result of Ms Zhang's case, it would investigate changing driving test application forms and the Road Code to include specific information about the status of overseas documents once New Zealand licences were obtained. Testing officers were not expected to wait with applicants after tests were completed to ensure they did not drive off without a supervisor, Mr Knackstedt said. Mrs Thompson said the law should be changed so international documents remained valid until replaced by unconditional New Zealand licences. "They've gone from allowing her on an international licence to drive as a full-fledged licence holder for a year, and suddenly they don't consider her [Ms Zhang] capable of driving unsupervised." She feared there may be thousands of immigrants in Ms Zhang's situation. But Mrs Thompson said Ms Zhang's insurance company had since proved "very fair and understanding" by reaching an arrangement with her friend which she did not feel at liberty to disclose. - NZ Herald

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Lantern: An illuminating play

Lantern: An illuminating play John Daly-Peoples Lantern, Light Your Way Home, by Renee Liang Pretty Asian Theatre Production Musgrove Theatre, Auckland University Until February 15 Near the end of Lantern, Renee Liang's new play, Rose gives her two children traditional small red envelopes as recompense and apology for the hurt she has caused them. The envelopes contain cheques for large sums of money. As I left the theatre I was also given one of the same red envelopes. Mine contained a short poem by Sung Dynasty poet Su Shi telling me that “Happiness and sadness comes for us in parts”. The children got the money; I got to be told that life is about love and loss. This is probably a grand metaphor for the play that is essentially a play about love – personal love, love of culture, love of family and love of country. Some people get more of the love and others less. Some people work on getting the love others don’t bother. The play is book-ended by Henry, Rose's 70-year-old husband admitting to her he has yet to understand the Western concept of romantic love yet he is enthralled by traditional Chinese literature. This in a sense contrasts with Rose’s admission early on that she, as a New Zealand-born Chinese, has no knowledge of the language. Lantern is full of the ambiguities one finds in immigrant cultures, whether to hold on to the trappings of a culture or the spirit of that culture. There is much about the nature of being Chinese in New Zealand as well as the changing nature of the relationship with the dominant culture. The son Ken is teased by his friend Gaza about being a boiled egg – white on the outside and yellow inside. Jen the sister resorts to simpering Chinese speech when confronted with the police to get off a ticket. The four main roles of Henry, Rose , Ken and Jen plus another half dozen smaller roles are all played by James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang. They give outstanding performances as they morph from one role to another with superb timing and astute acting. Roque is particularly clever in changing from the 20-year-old Ken to the elderly Henry. With just slight facial expressions and body language he transforms himself. Huang does not capture the physicality of her characters as vividly but she provides them with a rich emotional intensity. The play is being presented only for the few days of the Lantern Festival but deserves a much longer season. See it when it returns.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Twelve Questions: Dr Renee Liang

Twelve questions Sarah Stuart poses 12 questions to well-known faces Twelve Questions: Dr Renee Liang 5:30 AM Thursday Jan 30, 2014 Twelve Questions with Sarah Stuart Dr Renee Liang is a paediatrician by day, poet and playwright by night. A prominent figure in Auckland's Chinese community, she is the daughter of immigrants, the sister of film-maker Roseanne Liang and is due to have her second child in two months' time. Renee Liang says it is prophetic that her Chinese name, Wen-Wei, means 'literary blossom'. Photo / Brett Phibbs Renee Liang says it is prophetic that her Chinese name, Wen-Wei, means 'literary blossom'. Photo / Brett Phibbs 1. Is medicine and literature an odd mix? I didn't find out until I was midway through medical school that my unique Chinese name, Wen-Wei, means "literary blossom". My grandfather thought there were too many doctors in the family and he wanted his first grandchild to be a writer. I knew it meant flower but it was only when my mother told me that I realised what it really meant - it's a very special character and is quite rare. I didn't become a writer because of that, but it was in essence fulfilling that prophesy. 2. Your life seems incredibly diverse, and busy. How goes the juggle? It can get very complicated! I'm 32 weeks pregnant now and find the best place to leave my brain is inside my iPhone - I try to enter appointments as soon as I make them. I make to-do lists, too, but as these are on paper I often find them months after. I try to focus on medicine when I'm in the hospital, family when I'm home, and the writing/emails once my daughter's gone to bed. The writing often takes place side by side with my husband on the sofa or our king-sized bed (very handy for spreading paper around). I have a study, but it's been taken over by little clearfiles of unfinished things, books from my publishing projects, and empty suitcases waiting for the next time I go on locum. 3. What is the most damaging stereotype about Asian women? Do I have to pick one? I think people resort to stereotypes when they don't know or aren't interested in knowing someone. It's the lazy and ignorant way out, and I've been guilty of it often. I find when you take the time to sit down with someone, mostly you end up being pleasurably surprised. We're all more similar than we think - one of the more important lessons I learned from my era of solo backpacking. So - there's pliant Third World maiden, kung fu warrior, unsexy brainbox, icy temptress ... all of which can be seen at your local cinema multiplex. I've lost track of the times I've had come-ons from slightly unkempt middle-aged men who make sure to tell me they have New Zealand citizenship. Or the dates I've had with lovely university-educated guys who then tell me I'm too "intimidating". 4. How have your parents coped with you and Roseanne telling family stories for public consumption? I'll be honest, it was hard for them to take at first. I mean, we've always written stories, but Roseanne's documentary Banana in a Nutshell threw off the guise of fiction, and (to some parts of the community at least) appeared to criticise my parents for not letting her date a non-Chinese. It was not at all how she intended people to take it, but that's the risk of being a creative - there's two parts to it, the other part is how the audience interprets it. These days, I think they're more comfortable with it. Being Chinese parents, they still worry about the "can they make a living out of it?" part but they see we are starting to get recognised for what we do. Their friends and the community support us, which makes a big difference for them. 5. Your mum was keen for her daughters to keep their heads down when you were growing up. Was that a mistake, do you think? She grew up in the aftermath of war and came to New Zealand in the 1970s, so the cautiousness is just a natural consequence, I think. I don't remember much overt racism when I was growing up in NZ - mostly just curiosity - but in more recent times there's been flareups of racism depending on who's currently immigrating or what's happening, [such as] the Crafar farms, etc. My mum's attitude is very typical of the Chinese, even now. You're encouraged to think twice before you complain, not stand out and always try your best without expecting to be acknowledged. Maybe that's a reason for the "bamboo ceiling" - the fact that Chinese are not represented in high-level leadership positions despite the fact they are often valued workers at the lower tiers. It's also a big reason why Chinese have been until now unrepresented in the arts. 6. You were critical of Bevan Chuang in the wake of the Len Brown affair: do you still feel the same? I wasn't critical, I just felt that her actions didn't help in the everyday battle against stereotypes. She was quick to acknowledge her own foolishness - she's human after all. What I was annoyed about was the way she was portrayed in the media and on blogs and social media (as either a dragon temptress or a helpless victim) when the reality was far more complex, as it usually is. What the whole affair uncovered, more than Len's sexual tastes, was just how ingrained prejudices and stereotypes are in New Zealand society (Asian communities included) and how far we have to go. 7. Do paediatricians make less neurotic mothers? Depends on the paediatrician! I find we come in two flavours - far too laid back and total worry-wart. I used to think I belonged to the former, but my husband quite often points out that I'm worrying too much. Easy to do, I guess, when you are around sick kids all day. My normality doesn't match anyone else's. 8. Does being the child of immigrants affect your personality? I've always been aware that my parents came here and didn't grow up here and that whole understanding of living in two lands. It's like there's this crack running down the middle of the road and you have feet on both sides. Sometimes the gap is very wide, sometimes you forget it's there. 9. Has your view of your parents changed as you've got older? I always thought my parents were stodgy, conservative and boring. But I've been looking at a picture of them when they first came to New Zealand and realising how daring and adventurous they were to come. They knew no one but trusted it would turn out alright. 10. Does spirituality play a role in your life? I'm not religious - never have been. It's the way I was brought up. But creatively - Lorca wrote of the "duende", the earthy, deep passion that infuses true works of art. It's what produces the thrill or shiver when you're sitting in the audience and something really moves you, so much so the feeling might stay with you for days after. That's what I'm hoping to find when I'm sitting there with my computer in the middle of the night - the soul of the work, the reason I'm writing it, the duende. 11. Your first full-length play is about a woman who leaves her family. Is it an Asian story, or a family story, and is there a difference? It's a story about a family which happens to be Kiwi Chinese. Although all of my plays produced to date have Asian characters, I find audiences relate to them as people rather than "Asian characters" - we're all human, after all. My plays deal with love, longing, the search for identity and meaning, and loss - all universal themes. They could just as easily feature Pakeha or Samoan or Maori or Indian characters (and some do) - but it's always easier to start by writing what you know. 12. It also asks questions about belonging: where do you belong? I've travelled quite a bit, even lived in various places for a while, and the place I belong the most is Auckland, New Zealand. Most of my close family are here, and there are lots of places imprinted with memories - you know, the "do you remember when ..." variety. Of course things change all the time, but here still smells the most like home. It's the place where inhabiting my many shifting cultures and identities makes the most sense. • Lantern, by Renee Liang, is on at the Musgrove Studio, Princes St, Auckland, as part of the Lantern Festival February 10-15. - NZ Herald

Brightest stars shine the light

Brightest stars shine the light By Dionne Christian 4:02 PM Saturday Feb 1, 2014 Entertainment The Lantern Festival's first play dismantles tired prejudices about Asian-Kiwi culture Lantern features James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang playing 10 characters. Lantern features James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang playing 10 characters. Since the first Lantern Festival in 2000, Chinese New Year celebrations have become one of Auckland's biggest culture events. Now it's expanding to include outdoor movies and theatre. Eric Ngan, event producer for Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed), wants to extend the festival to incorporate more of the contemporary Auckland-Asian experience, programming award-winning writer Renee Liang's debut play, Lantern. It is the first time there has been a full theatre production within the Auckland Lantern Festival, highlighting the growth of New Zealand-Asian playwriting and storytelling. "If I had purposely commissioned a play for the festival, it couldn't have been more perfect than Lantern," he says. "One of our aims in extending the Lantern Festival is to explore deeper into Asian-Kiwi culture, using the talents of our artists and writers. We want to create a festival that celebrates not only Asian culture but does so in a uniquely Kiwi way." First staged in 2010, Lantern is described as equal parts comedy and family drama, fast-paced with an Asian flavour that illuminates aspects of family life for audiences regardless of race. Aptly, it is set in Auckland on the eve of Chinese New Year when cultural values can be thrown into sharp relief. On the one hand, it's a time of family get-togethers and celebrations of harmony and love, but it's also when the house (and mind) is "cleaned out" - old scores are settled and slates wiped clean - ready to start the New Year. For the Chen family, it's more uncertain than usual because one year ago, Rose, the family matriarch, left her husband, Henry, their on-line dating obsessed daughter, Jen, and no-hoper son, Ken. They're wondering if she will return and, if she does, whether family life will ever return to normal. Liang wrote the play because she saw a lack of local theatre addressing contemporary Asian viewpoints. She has welcomed the chance to rewrite for performers James Roque and Chye-Ling Huang who have started their own theatre company, Pretty Asian Theatre (PAT). Roque and Huang play all 10 characters in a story which now focuses more on the relationship between parents Rose and Henry. They asked Liang for more interaction between the characters, saying while it makes the quick-fire transitions more challenging, it adds an extra layer to the story. Like Liang, Roque and Huang want PAT to stage plays which tell relevant, exciting New Zealand-Asian stories and offer more work opportunities to the growing number of Asian creatives. "It's about providing a voice and we think Lantern will speak directly to many in our generation," says Roque, who made an impact in Indian Ink's Kiss the Fish and Fractious Tash's all-male production of Titus at Q Theatre. Of Chinese descent, Huang featured in The Asphalt Kiss, The Dining Room and the sell-out season of Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. She also co-devised and starred in Ben Anderson's Fringe show, Just Above the Clouds, and is collaborating on Liang's Paper Boats, which focuses on young Kiwi-Asian women. When she saw Lantern with her sister, she says it was like seeing their own lives on stage. "It was a real highlight for me to see a story I could connect with. It was me on stage, with my family, so the chance to be able to perform it is amazing." Liang says many of the scenes were inspired by her real-life experiences. She recalls being in the midst of writing Lantern when a door-knocking evangelist called. The woman immediately addressed Liang in Mandarin, which Liang doesn't speak; then asked to speak with her parents - Liang was 36 at the time - and promised to return when she had English-language pamphlets. She had them only in Chinese dialects as they were targeting "the Asians". "It highlighted a lot of the assumptions people make about those of us of Asian descent and it made me really angry, but I've always found that taking that anger and using it to create something positive is a better way to deal with those sorts of feelings." It's a sentiment Roque shares. Being of Filipino descent has meant he is constantly pigeonholed, often incorrectly. He's learned to deal with it and, like Liang, writes his worst experiences into his comedy routines. "Why get angry when you can have a good laugh?" says Roque, regarded as an upcoming stand-up comedian. In 2011 he appeared on TV3's AotearoHA: Next Big Things and, in last year's NZ International Comedy Festival, he was nominated for Best Newcomer with his first solo show, James Roque is Chicken. Lantern is directed by Eli Matthewson and Hamish Parkinson. Performance What: Lantern Where and when: Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre, February 10-15 - NZ Herald