Washington Post Beijing bureau chief and North Korea specialist Anna Fifield has come a long way since she started her schooling at Raureka Primary School.
Fifield has just published her first book, The Great Successor: The Secret Rise and Rule of Kim Jong Un, and is touring the US to promote it.
She told Asia NZ her book is not quite a biography about the North Korean leader, but gives enough information to create a portrait of him.
"When I was going to North Korea during the Kim Jong-il period, I could see how broken the economy was and how little love there was for the leader," she told Asia NZ.
"I did not think they would be able to manage a transition to a third-generation Kim leader.
"When I returned to cover the Koreas for the Washington Post in 2014, I was astonished that not only had Kim Jong Un managed to take over and stay in power for more than two years by that stage, but the city looked so much better.
"There were fancy buildings going up everywhere and there was a much more leisurely quality to life in the city. When you go to Pyongyang now, people go to yoga classes. You can buy a cappuccino, drink craft beer, and eat pizza. I was thinking, how did this young, inexperienced, unqualified guy manage to do it?
"I wanted to figure out how he'd managed to defy all the expectations. So I started talking to people who had met him as a child: his aunt and uncle who looked after him in Switzerland where he went to school, the Japanese sushi chef who'd been part of the royal household.
"I just kind of went around trying to meet everybody who'd ever encountered him. It's not a biography because we still don't know enough about him, but it pulls together all the information that is available to try to create a portrait of a leader."
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Her mother, Havelock North resident Chris Hall, says she is "extremely proud" of her daughter's achievements.
Fifield grew up in Hastings and attended Hastings Girls' and Havelock North high schools.
Hall says her daughter always had a burning curiosity about everything.
"As a young child she always had a thirst for knowledge, she was always wanting to learn and she was a great reader.
"She continued in that vein. She's still an avid reader and I am extremely proud of her. She sees the opportunity and makes something of it."
After her schooling in Hawke's Bay, Fifield went on to study at Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Canterbury.
She got her first media job at Rotorua's the Daily Post's sister publication in Whakatāne, the Eastern Bay News.
She worked for the weekly publication for about six months before joining the Daily Post .
After leaving the Daily Post, she worked for news agency New Zealand Press Association, while at the same time studying a correspondence business course to improve her prospects of becoming a successful economic reporter.
It was through that course she won a HCBC fellowship to London and while there used a friend's connections to get into the Financial Times (FT) on the foreign news desk - aged only 24.
"The job they offered me was in Korea," she told Asia NZ.
"I was based in Seoul from 2004 to 2008. It was a great first posting because it's so multi-faceted, especially working for the FT. I covered Samsung and Hyundai — all the big business stories — as well as the political stories and North Korea. During that period, I went to North Korea 11 times. It was a great job in terms of variety and news value", Fifield says.
After 13 years working with FT, she was offered a job with the Washington Post based in Beijing.
Now Fifield has reported from more than 20 countries and become a highly regarded specialist on North Korea.
"She wrote that book while I was with them in Tokyo from 2014-2018 and it is un-putdownable," her mother Hall said.
"It's her first book and a lot of work went into it. It is a must read, I am extremely proud of her."