a day well spent

August 28th, 2008

I’ve been busy lately. Not necessarily badly so, in fact, most of this busy-ness has been good. But busy, and so I’m feeling a bit worn out right now.

Yesterday was a good example. The day didn’t start so well, with me being summoned to the office to interview a straggler who didn’t make it to Tuesday’s marathon interviewing far more prospective students than anyone expected. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it was work and the kind of work that involves a lot of Army-style “hurry up and wait”-ing. Still, got that done and headed out to Gulou Dajie subway to meet up with two bloggers who have achieved a certain measure of notoriety.

Trouble is I mistimed my departure and arrived half an hour early. And having to run a gauntlet of “rickshaw” touts. I’ve never seen a rickshaw, not in real life, and I strongly suspect these idiots were actually trying to get people onto pedicabs. Trouble is I could see neither rickshaw nor pedicab anywhere nearby, and not one person responded in anything other than the negative to their constant way-too-far-in-your-face-not-taking-‘no’-for-an-answer attitude. I don’t understand- if nobody responds to their approach, why don’t they learn to sit back, relax, and let people choose their own form of transport? How is this approach helping anybody? Ah well, whatever…. I strolled up to Deshengmen and back to kill time.

Well, Michael and Ben arrived and we headed off to a Yunnan restaurant on Jiugulou Dajie for lunch, and it was a good, leisurely lunch in relaxed, intelligent company. Then Ben took off to meet someone and Michael and I adjourned to Jiangjinjiu for more leisurely passing of time. And it just wasn’t worth attempting to get home in time to meet lzh before we headed off to the evening’s entertainment, so we arranged for her to pick up some food and drink and meet me at Zhongshan Park….

…because as good as lunch and the afternoon were, there was still better to come.

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra is in town, playing two concerts, one last night at the Forbidden City Concert Hall and one tonight in the new National Theatre.

Well, we met, we had a picnic in Zhongshan Park, we wandered up to the concert hall. We arrived there just before seven, and so had to wait outside for a few minutes. At first we were a little nervous. There didn’t seem to be many people, and precious few Kiwis. Only spotted one other, and she works at the embassy…. Seven o’clock rolled around, and we went inside, picked up a programme and a brochure or two, generally got ourselves ready, found our seats…. Still not many people. But that’s ok, they slowly filtered in, and more and more Kiwis showed up, too, until by 7:30 the place was looking reasonably full. That was good.

And we were kinda lucky in one odd way, I reckon: The cheapest tickets being sold out, we got the second cheapest, and so we found ourselves in the second row back from the stage on the left. Well, that’s probably not the best, and I noticed the ambassador and his crew sitting in roughly the centre of the auditorium, where I suspect you’d get a more balanaced sound and a clear view of events. And being so close and on the left, I suspect we missed out a little on some of the instruments over on the right. But even so, we seemed to get the full range of instruments coming through. I don’t think we missed out on much.

And then the concert kicked off with Haley Maxwell leading the New Zealand ambassador in with a karanga. Tony Browne gave a speech, but seemed too nervous. Then the music started. We were treated to John Psathas’ Olympiad XXVIII, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto, and Jean Sibelius Symphony No 2, conducted by Pietari Inkinen with Li Wei on cello. All I know about the encores is that before the first one Inkinen turned to the audience and said “Sibelius Valse Triste“, or something like that. Oh, and I recognised the last piece but can not for the life of me remember what it may be called. And that last one was a lot of fun, with Inkinen turning around and directing the audience in their clapping along with the tune- and doing as masterful a job of that as he did with the orchestra.

And it was a great concert. With every piece the Inkinen and the orchestra had us soaring through the heavens in the arms of angels, and Li Wei had me utterly mesmerised with his  cello. He brought that instrument alive and made it sing so beautifully even the greatest singers would be weeping tears of jealousy.

Or maybe I was just sitting too close.

But it was a great concert and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Leaving the concert hall was something akin to waking up the morning after a great party, when the harsh morning light smacks you in the forehead and you just want to crawl back under the covers.

I’ve always felt New Zealand has a phenomenal wealth of musical talent, and last night confirmed that.

2 Responses to “a day well spent”

  1. Ben Says:


    Amen on the rickshaw guys. Seriously, even if I was in the market for a rickshaw/pedicab tour, those guys are so damn annoying, I can’t imagine I would ever think of hiring one. Where did they all come from? I only see them at guloudajie station. I remember there used to be guys offering tours on rickshaws around Qianmen, but I haven’t seen any since I was in Beijing in 2006. Maybe they’ve migrated north to gulou.

  2. wangbo Says:

    I walked past Xiushui last night, and like the last time I was running that particular gauntlet all the hawkers and hustlers and touts had obviously been told to tone it down. Pedicab drivers around Houhai, Qianmen and similar areas have always been pushy, but I haven’t seen so many like those guys at Guloudajie the other day, nor have I seen them swarming the subway exit before. I was not feeling as patient as you and Michael and was sorely tempted to say something nasty, but they seemed to be best buds with the security guard, so I bit my tongue.