First Person - With all the talk of nuclear war, a burning planet, and cost-of-living crises, you could be forgiven for thinking the prime minister's New York visit was an entirely grim affair.
RNZ deputy political editor Craig McCulloch pulls back the curtain on some of the lighter moments behind the scenes and on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
A jet-lagged media pack arrives on American soil after a 16-hour non-stop journey from Auckland.
A team of travel correspondents disembark from the plush business compartment, complimentary pyjamas in hand, while their not-at-all-resentful political colleagues wait patiently back in cattle.
One of the business-class journalists is heard complaining about their lie-down seat and very nearly earns a public name-and-shaming in this column.
Welcome to New York.
Jacinda Ardern is still in London for the Queen's funeral, meaning Air New Zealand's glitzy gala must go ahead without her.
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash is stepping in for the prime minister but struggles to accurately embody her spirit. In his opening speech, he ad-libs: "thank goodness - no masks!"
Ardern is not the only no-show. MC Jesse Mulligan tells the crowd New York mayor Eric Adams will speak, only for a much lower-ranked city official to jump up and apologise for Adams' absence.
The woman is then struck by an unfortunate case of brain fade when acknowledging the party's host.
"I'd love to give a special thanks to Air New Zealand's CEO - uhh - let me pronounce it correctly ..."
She fumbles with her notes while audience members helpfully shout out "Greg!"
"Ah, yes, Greg Fo-RAN!" she exclaims, successfully mispronouncing his surname.
Guests clink their glasses and sip on Grey Goose while Kiwi band Six60 performs on the Edge's sky-high Skydeck, the city stretching behind them.
Mid-performance, news breaks that the return NY-Auckland flight has left a bunch of luggage behind. Cheers!
Ardern has managed to wrangle a ride on Canada's plane from London to New York. She later tells journalists she secured a spot after sending Justin Trudeau "a quick text message".
Canadian media tweet photos of Ardern chatting on the plane with actress Sandra Oh of Grey's Anatomy fame. Ardern exclusively reveals to RNZ she is a more of Killing Eve fan.
PM Trudeau has touched down in New Jersey en route to UN. 2nd remarkable plane ride this trip - Trudeau, @jacindaardern chatted w/members of delegation. In one pic @IamSandraOh, the other former PM Martin. Ardern is wearing a scarf gifted to her on board by @cassidy_caron. pic.twitter.com/pFYEcUsz2D— Abigail Bimman (@AbigailBimman) September 20, 2022
Journalists, meanwhile, attend a function hosted by NZ Trade and Enterprise for the global launch of a new marketing campaign promoting the country to wealthy investors.
Alas, after learning Ardern is not coming, none of the international media turn up.
The NZ media team makes its way to the UN headquarters in the early morning for the opening of the General Assembly.
After navigating a series of queues for queues and a seemingly arbitrary entry lottery, a staffer finally grants the reporters access to the gallery and sends them on their way.
En route, through a winding maze of hallways, one intrepid journalist employed by RNZ spots an entrance to a stairwell and confidently leads everyone through.
Upon discovering the next floor up is blocked off, they turn back, only to find the door they just came through has now locked behind them. They are trapped.
A few frantic phone calls later, the group is rescued by a mildly amused official who kindly informs them they are the second group to fall victim to the trap today.
UN rules state that everyone on the premises should be masked, but adherence is sporadic at best. Stuart Nash would be thrilled.
Later that morning, journalists head to the luxury apartment building which houses NZ's permanent representative to the UN.
This is to be the location journalists meet the prime minister for daily interviews. Alas, it is harder than expected to find a spot to set up.
A bolshy American doorman informs the team they cannot station themselves near the building's entrance, the lobby, or the car park.
He finally signs off on a narrow side lane pressed up against a hedge.
The cosy locale also happens to house a family of lanternflies, meaning the interview is repeatedly interrupted by both Ardern and reporters swatting away the cicada-like pests.
An MFAT official dubs the location "bug alley". It is unclear whether the moniker refers to the flies or the journalists.
The busy day ends with a Christchurch Call summit and then media conference at France's UN base.
Media are allowed four questions in total - two for each country - but the entirely uninterested French reporters struggle to even muster one.
When they do, it is entirely in French and directed only to their president Emmanuel Macron, while Ardern stands awkwardly to the side.
Macron proves to be incredibly French, winking at a female Kiwi journalist after answering her question. Another receives a surprise handshake at the end of the event as she tries to find the restroom.
The French media remark that Macron is "a great seducer".
Several reporters begin the day with a brisk shower after their hotel floor inexplicably runs out of hot water.
The inconvenience is soon put into perspective by Russian president Vladimir Putin's veiled threats of nuclear warfare.
All eyes are on UNHQ as US President Joe Biden takes the podium to deliver his response.
All eyes, that is, except Ardern's. She is unable to be in the chamber due to prior commitments. She has been invited by Prince William to speak at a flashy event focused on environmental innovation.
Reporters have been assured of its star-studded nature, but quickly learn actress Cate Blanchett's promised appearance is in the form of a video message.
The team sticks around to the bitter end to see whether Hollywood star Matt Damon is there in the flesh or similarly pre-recorded. Almost two hours into the event, Damon saunters out on stage, delivers a one-note three-minute speech, and then leaves.
Reporters immediately pack up their laptops and follow suit.
Later that day, Ardern appears on a pandemic panel. One journalist ducks out of the presentation to file and inadvertently finds himself acting as concierge, helping guests find their name tags, and sending them in the right direction.
Ardern leaves to head to an official meeting with Ukrainian prime minister Denys Shmyhal. Such are the security concerns, media are not allowed to report it is happening until after it has finished.
She then rushes from there to the general assembly hall to watch the video message pre-recorded by Ukraine's president Volodymyr Zelensky. Ardern joins leaders in giving him a standing ovation.
Ardern meets Chile's president Gabriel Boric for the first time. Was the meeting arranged because he, like Ardern, is "young and left-wing?", one reporter asks.
No, says Ardern.
Ardern's constantly changing schedule means she can only make a brief late appearance to a climate-focused function for Pacific leaders.
The event's start is pushed back while organisers wait for Ardern to arrive, but it eventually gets under way without her, proving that even the more relaxed 'Pacific time' has a limit.
Many of the guests look a bit bedraggled, clearly having been caught in the sudden New York downpour moments earlier. Several sodden reporters are included in their number.
When Ardern finally arrives, she is invited to give an impromptu speech, perhaps as punishment for tardiness.
She is not the only one to miss part of the function.
Several reporters misread the programme and go to the wrong venue. After rushing to the correct venue, they then discover they're at the wrong event and should be setting up at Ardern's next destination - a formal sit down with UN chief António Guterres.
They make it in the nick of time, soaking wet.
Ardern returns to the UN General Assembly today to deliver New Zealand's address.
New Zealand typically falls near the end of the speaking list - as heads of state (i.e. presidents) are offered the privilege before heads of government (i.e. prime ministers).
In 2019, New Zealand swapped slots with another country and ended up on the desirable day one, but this year, Ardern has been relegated back near the end of the pack.
Ardern uses her speech to condemn Russia's invasion of Ukraine and to call for a complete ban on nuclear weapons and UN reform.
She also refers to the pandemic, but shockingly at no point exclaims: "thank goodness - no masks!"
The New Zealand delegation is set to fly home on Saturday, but news is filtering in that yesterday's flight had to be diverted to Fiji due to strong winds.
This correspondent wishes he had brought his togs.