If someone on the street in Shanghai offers to take you to a tea ceremony or an art gallery, my advice would be to respectfully decline, that is if you value the contents of your pocket book. Unfortunately, anybody who wants to ‘practice English’ is probably up to no good. Having made a brutally honest assessment of my appeal to members of either sex, I have to conclude the countless offers for more personal sorts of attention attracted while walking alone were nefarious as well.
Another depressing fact: the 300 kph (!) train ride from the airport is more than 10x faster than the creaky, lurching transit system in my hometown.
Tuesday, February 10
Breakfast: thank heaven for the in-room coffee maker! Another rehearsal this morning, devoted to Bruckner and Haydn. Graciously acknowledging the presence of many Shanghai musicians and students, Haitink changed his usual rehearsal routine and offered up a read-through of the Bruckner 7 Finale before hitting the same old spots again.
Wednesday, February 11
More free in-room coffee to start the day! Freedom until the short pre-concert rehearsal of Mahler 6.
Drivers in Shanghai are pretty well insane as far as I can tell. Two-wheeled vehicles, motorized or not, seem to be exempt from obeying traffic signals altogether. To a four-wheeler, a red light is merely a suggestion that may be nullified by sounding the horn and flooring it. Pedestrians, like ninepins, are best knocked over in groups. In fact, watching people cross the street proved enlightening.
From a huddled mass of pedestrians waiting to cross a street somebody begins by making a leap of faith and steps bravely, maybe foolishly, in front of oncoming traffic. It could be anybody, and not always the one you would expect to grasp the mantle of leader – the little old lady who just about spat on my shoe a moment earlier, the twenty-something guy on his cell phone who doesn’t seem to be paying attention to anything at all. The important thing is that somebody gets their foot out in front of the onrushing cars first, then safety in numbers takes over and everybody else seizes the moment by piling across. Even if a few are crushed, the odds of any one person making it are increased. The similarity to playing in a string section is truly uncanny.