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Editors' Blogs

My Behringer-in-China Trip: Thursday, 2/25/2010—Part One

March 2, 2010

Can’t say enough good things about the sparkling Eaton hotel—

with sweeping city views.

  

After a good night’s sleep, the breakfast spread is sumptuous, and check-out a breeze despite the substantial throng. I allow for some time to step out and take a look around, but the grey day doesn’t make that too inviting.

Soon we’re on our buses, headed for the ferry to the mainland.

During the long wait at the terminal I am fortunate enough to have a long conversation with Ms Didi Chan, a Hong Kong native with a degree from the University of Hull in the UK, and with a son who is studying for an MBA in London. Ms Chan has been with Behringer since 2000 and has relocated onto the mainland to be near her job. With her insider insights that she shares with this visiting editor of Recording Magazine she adds a lot to my understanding of the Behringer narrative that began yesterday with Costa Lakoumentas. Here she is, as I photographed her the next day at the awards show. But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The ferry ride has a strange beauty about it—daylight is struggling to fully break through the sea mists. 

       

Having shown passports and ferry tickets before boarding, we again show passports on arrival. As I step up to show mine, the official peers at me, again and again, between looking down at my passport; the words “her eyes are penetrating my soul” come to mind (why? I don’t know...go on, write a hit song with that, be my guest). Then she shakes her head. I see that the passport is not open at the page with the visa (getting one of those is another story; have you been to Russia? Then you know about the requirement for “invitations” and such...). 

So what’s wrong? It’s an almost ten-year-old passport, it has crossed dozens of borders without a hitch. She calls another officer, who calls another officer; they all look at me and shake their heads. I soon am invited to sit at a little table in a corner of the large hall, with yet another officer taking my passport and whatever other picture ID I can dig out of my wallet and walking off. Where to? For how long? No idea. Meanwhile the hall empties out, and I’m wondering what will happen if everybody leaves?

Officers crowd around me, laughing their heads off at the notion that the picture in my passport is supposed to be a picture of me. English is rudimentary at this point (and, in fairness, my Cantonese is nonexistent). “You?“—pointing at photo. “Ha ha ha—not you!” Sure, a very light beard and moustache have disappeared since the picture was taken, but, hey, it’s me, okay? “Not okay”.

A liaison person of Behringer’s appears, a Chinese lady with serviceable English. She’s not here to rescue me, she’s here because somewhere else in the building some members of our group are having visa troubles, but she sees me and gets on the cell phone, and soon Costa Lakoumentas is here, talking to the chief of immigration security who has been summoned. It’s a polite, even friendly, standoff. Saving face is what this is now all about, since there can really be no doubt about my ID and my legitimacy, but overruling a fellow officer in front of us is impossible, and any attempt on our part at forcing the chief’s hand would not be wise. Welcome to the Orient.

So we chat and wait, while officers come and go, exchanging words in Chinese with their boss. All the while he and the unflappable and ever-so-diplomatic Costa cheerfully discuss their PDAs and compare GPS and WiFi capabilities, swapping URLs for quicker web access—boys with toys. While he's on the internet, I invite the chief to visit the website of Recording Magazine where he can see yet another picture of my likeness, but he doesn't let on if this changes his mind or not...

What clinches the deal, an hour later? The chief of immigration security explains that if the hotel where we’re headed faxes him a list of guests with my name on it, then all will be well. And so it is, the deciding chess move that saves face. I feel bad about Costa missing lunch on my behalf, but I’d rather miss lunch than the afternoon tour. As it happens, we grab a mouthful on the run through the hotel and out to the buses, and off we go. Thanks, Costa!

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