With two concerts down, the choristers have today enjoyed a day off in sunny Shenzhen, and as I write they have just gone to bed happy, tired, and with full tummies! The day started with a civilized 9am breakfast in the hotel, where some boys stuck to the cereals, toast and jam provided for Western appetites. Others explored dumplings, the noodle bar, and a drink rather exotically named ‘rock sugar sydney juice’. (We didn’t work out quite what this was, but being sweet it was very popular.)
Spending money was of course the top priority, so we walked a short distance to the appropriately-named ‘Ode to Joy’ mall. With floor after floor of beautifully air-conditioned shops, this was the ideal spot for some chorister quality time. A particular favourite was the children’s store at the top of the building – full of giant cuddly bears, remote control cars and other gadgets – where kindly staff insisted the boys try the toys out fully before buying them. The enormous supermarket proved quite a draw too, with choristers wandering fascinated through endless aisles of Chinese homewares, towels and shampoo. Clutching new T-shirts, fans, hats and gifts, we all descended to the basement to experience a Cantonese lunch. This featured familiar dishes like sweet and sour pork, though some of the boys discovered a new liking for jasmine tea and char siu buns. The choristers are becoming increasingly deft with their chopsticks, and the noodles disappeared very quickly….
After lunch we got back to the serious business of shopping, with a visit to the enormous Wal-Mart just around the corner from our hotel. Clutching giant shopping baskets, the choristers swept through the store like locusts and made off back to their rooms with booty that included everything from chopsticks to chocolate cakes. Following a short rest, we headed out to the huge outdoor swimming pool behind the concert hall. The water was a wonderfully cool contrast to the humid afternoon air, and – each donning a regulation swimming cap that will doubtless become a treasured memento of the trip – the boys spent a refreshing hour splashing about in the pool and on the slides.
Our free day finished with a democratic discussion about dinner. Gourmands to the last, the boys voted to visit KFC for their evening meal, so en masse we trooped to the local restaurant and established a base in the corner. The Form 8s gave excellent service as waiters, ferrying fries, popcorn chicken and endless fizzy drinks to the younger boys. With much debate on the differences between Chinese KFC/coke/ketchup and English KFC/coke/tomato ketchup, the cultural aspects of supper were not lost on the choristers. We’ve now returned to our air-conditioned rooms, lovely soft beds, and the prospect of a much-deserved, luxurious 10-hour sleep.