At one point on her trip, Jacinda Ardern put her mask in her pocket and joked that her dignity was already stored there. Derek Cheng reveals that all the colourful and undignified moments - mainly from the press pack following her - from the Prime Minister's first trip abroad in over two years
The PCR swabbing technique appears to be quite different in Singapore, where they try to tickle the back of your skull through your nostrils.
It's been a long time since any of us stepped on foreign soil, and doing so now comes with certain obligations.
About 50 people are on the trip, including Jacinda Ardern's team, 12 business leaders, a gaggle of media and a Defence Force flight crew. It seems a safe bet someone will test positive at some stage. Who will it be?
Three positive results among the 50 people, but Ardern, her team and the media pack are all Covid-free.
At the joint press conference for Ardern and Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong, the definition of a professional camera almost causes a diplomatic incident.
A Singaporean official approaches the New Zealand media and demands, nicely, that the iPhone set up on a tripod to livestream the presser be removed.
The iPhone belongs to an NZ Herald journalist, who says it's already livestreaming as the start of the presser is imminent. The official repeatedly insists that only professional cameras are allowed to be used in the camera zone.
The iPhone is not in anyone's way. The rule is one of those rules that makes no sense, but is perhaps the long-standing standard.
The journalist is about to fail in his professional duties because of what he thinks is a stupid rule. He's about to go on a tirade about how senseless it is, but instead buries himself in his laptop while Foreign Affairs Ministry staff do what he is currently incapable of doing: being diplomatic.
"This is a professional camera in New Zealand," the staff attempt to argue. The official's resolve seems insurmountable, and I'm not sure how, but somehow the iPhone is allowed to stay and Herald viewers get their livestream.
These trips typically comprise dashing from event to event and writing, photographing and livestreaming everything as we go. There's usually no time to eat, let alone breathe.
Some of the media team arrive at the evening's flash gala dinner early and are so hungry, they intercept waiters coming to and from the kitchen and ask for bread.
This is later regretted when the actual dinner includes the most delicious Kiwi culinary creations, more of which could have been consumed if less bread had been eaten earlier.
When the PM arrives, she comes straight to our table to give a pair of cuff links to someone in the media team, whose cuffs have so far been held together by paper clips.
Pictures of lemons, gherkins and apple cider vinegar adorn the sides of the booths where we are giving saliva for our on-arrival PCR tests. These are apparently meant to help us drool more easily.
Welcome to Japan. Studies suggest that Japan perceives Kiwis as open, relaxed and trustworthy - but a bit prehistoric when it comes to technology.
Maybe it's just that the technology in Japan is far more sophisticated. For example, for Covid protection, thermal sensors show you your temperature at the entrance of many buildings.
The iron in my hotel room, described by one colleague as "the weird Panasonic bulb thing", perplexes me. I fiddle with it all night but to no avail. My shirt will have to be crumpled for tomorrow's main event - Ardern's bilateral talks with Japanese PM Fumio Kishida.
The toilet has a lot of buttons. "Pulsate", "Oscillate" and "Rear soft", after much experimentation, turn out to be my favourites.
I also can't figure out how to lower the window shades, and sleep with them open. I learn later that another colleague, who also failed to see the "BLACK OUT" button by the bed, set up a pillow fortress as high as possible to block the light.
The Zespri promotional event in the morning feels like a funeral - lots of men in black suits while a three-piece band plays mournful music - until the Kiwi Brothers turn up.
The giant, fluffy kiwifruit mascots don't appear to be Ardern's favourite. Of the last time they were at the same event, she says: "I particularly remember while they thankfully didn't make me dance, they did hold my hand."
The violinist in the band had set up her phone on a tripod to record the band's performance, but her footage is video-bombed by the New Zealand media pack who, unaware of her phone, enter the room and stand directly between the band and the phone.
When we finally realise this, apologies are forthcoming. The violinist insists she doesn't mind, and even tracks down one of the journalists on Twitter to tell him so.
The journalist wasn't hard to find. He tweeted a 28-second clip of the band and the Kiwi Brothers, which went viral - almost 4 million views and 38,000 shares within two days.
When Ardern does a media stand-up later, she's just been filmed and photographed multiple times smashing planks of wood over a barrel of sake with a wooden mallet – the Japanese equivalent of cutting a ribbon.
She had to repeat this multiple times so every camera there - and there were dozens of them - nailed the shot.
Having spent the morning surrounded by dancing human-sized kiwifruit, the first thing she does at the stand-up is remove her mask, put it in her pocket and joke that her dignity is already stored there.
By evening, back at the hotel, failing to use the iron has become a wider problem. One journalist resorted to calling room service, desperate to avoid being seen in wrinkled clothing.
Fifteen minutes before we are to assemble and head to the Ardern-Kishida bilateral, another journalist calls asking if I know how to operate the iron. I do, after hours of intricate problem-solving, and I share the valuable knowledge I've acquired (plug it in and push the only button on it).
Singapore isn't the only country that is sceptical about an iPhone as a journalist's camera. The instructions for covering the joint press conference with Ardern and Kishida are very clear: no photos can be taken with an iPhone.
Not only that, but the role "multimedia journalist" apparently doesn't exist in Japan because of powerful unions that make for clear divisions of labour in Japan. A photographer can't be a "pen" journalist, who can't be a videographer.
We're told that If we take photos at the press conference (with a real camera, not an iPhone) and then open a laptop to type a quote, it will be frowned upon so severely that we might get thrown out.
There's even a dirty phrase for any journalist trying to do more than one role - "penkisha toka suchiru, dochika?!" - which, I assume, roughly translates to "what in blazes are you doing and how dare you dishonour the profession like that?"
Another diplomatic incident is narrowly avoided just before the press conference begins.
There are about a dozen chairs on either side of the podiums, and one of the New Zealand journalists sits on the one as close to the podiums as possible. Other Kiwi journalists see this as a green light, and soon most of the front row is occupied by the Kiwi media pack.
All the Japanese media, however, are standing against the back wall. The seats are, of course, not for us but for each country's diplomatic teams, and are vacated once this is realised.
One of the officials then goes seat to seat, tidying up the translating device on each seat.
Sleep deprivation is getting to one of the journalists. When an official leads us to a room and points to a "PRESS" sign at the door, he presses it. It's not a button. It just means that it's the media room.
The results of everyone's last PCR test come back negative, which means we're all going home.
The finish line is in sight, and there's a special moment when Ardern is reunited with her Japanese host sister Madoke Watanabe for the first time in more than 30 years.
Ardern, in her wrap-of-the-trip stand-up, is asked to sum up the mission in two words. We have all guessed cliches such as "strengthening ties" or "growing partnerships".
Possibly reflecting her and our fatigue from the "bang for your buck" schedule, she says: "Very busy".