Two Fridays ago, 慧利姐给我打电话了。She was especially cryptic on the phone and only instructed me to go to her office. As a good 妹妹 does what her 姐姐 instructs her to do, I headed over there. She first asked me if I had any plans for the evening and as I usually just plop on the couch when I get home after two long days at the new campus, my answer was no. She did not want to be the third wheel with 李老师, XISU’s provost whom I have met before, and her husband. As it turned out, there were several other couples, friends of 李老师 and Jackie, a Journalism and Communications student whom 慧利姐 had introduced to me before and who joined us for KTV some time last year. The couples were either high profile real estate moguls or high ranking party officials. Jackie’s father is the former. Jackie even made sure to point out to me not only did the real estate mogul have a wife significantly younger than him (she was around my age), but that their 2-year-old daughter was born in Hong Kong. Regardless of their various statures, they were all very pleasant. I had forgotten that I had already made Jackie’s mother’s acquaintance. She’s a professor at 师大 Shaanxi Normal University who talked at length with me about Kaifeng Jews. If my memory serves me correctly, she’s a professor of Chinese history, specifically which era is beyond my recollection.
Dinner preceded the concert. The meal consisted of buffet-style dining at the Westin Hotel at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. I had never eaten here, let alone stepped inside the Xi’an Westin. The buffet-style dining room had both Chinese and Western entrees, a sushi bar, a chocolate fountain, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, a salad bar complete with a spread of real cheeses, and most importantly, macarons. The biggest disappointment was not having enough time to gorge on all the dining hall had to offer. From what 慧利姐 said, it was not an inexpensive meal. I wouldn’t know because I did not pick up the tab nor do I know who did.
After a small taste of 吃货 luxury, we headed over to the Xi’an Concert Hall. I had attended a French quartet concert some time last year, but was not afforded the same viewing pleasure as this time. We sat in the orchestra, in the sixth row. The performance was an Italian string orchestra consisting of violin, violas, cellos, and a bass cello. For some pieces, a piano or keyboard accompaniment added to the orchestra’s already vibrant sound. We arrived late to the concert and as is proper etiquette, entered during a short recess between pieces. We missed the first Verdi piece they played, but made it for Paganini “Variations on the IV string on a theme from ‘Mose in Egypt.'” In addition to classical renditions, the concerto played film theme excerpts from well-known films such as Life is Beautiful, Schindler’s List, Cinema Paradisco, The Pink Panther, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, West Side Story, & The Godfather. I recognized many excerpts immediately, while others were more difficult to distinguish. I was often asked what excerpt they were playing, and felt helpless when I couldn’t give the others a definitive answer. I was also just trying to enjoy my “evening of culture.”
The orchestra ended the evening with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
The irony of the whole evening is that I still dislike the nature of “last minute” that plagues life here, but yet, it’s easy to see the bright side of last minute invites. That coin always has two sides.