Saturday, October 11, 2008

Escape from the Hotel

Day 2

So we’ve finally overcome our jet lag and we’re ready to venture out into this great city of Ningbo. But first, we must eat breakfast. This morning, Robert and I went back to the appointed hotel restaurant for our “western” breakfast. We had a chance to meet more competitors—Janet from Canada and Peter Robert Simon Maximillion Charlesworth-Kelly from Ireland. (That’s his legal name. Isn’t it grand?) Breakfast was pretty tame—or at least what I chose was tame. I had corn on the cob, noodles, melon, and pound cake. (Don’t worry Uncle Ed, it didn’t even come close to yours.) Today, Robert had an appointment to meet his accompanist, so he left breakfast early, got on the competition bus for a short run through.

While he was gone, Aundi and I decided to take the 45 minutes we had before lunch and explore the surrounding neighborhood. Finally! It felt so good to leave the hotel and see something else! We decided to take the hotel business card with us just in case we got lost and needed help getting back home. Now, we were told people would stare at us, but I had no idea it would be as dramatic as it was. With over 5 million people in the city of Ningbo, almost no one has ever seen an African American in person. As we walked the streets, many people would stop dead in their tracks and stare. Several drivers, bike riders, and pedestrians almost caused accidents as we walked by. It was like something from a movie. We took the opportunity to smile and wave at those who were most enamored. That always triggered a smile and laugh in return. However, we were able to get a candid picture of some school joyful children being escorted down the street. On our way back to the hotel, we observed some typical apartments—representing inhabitants of all economic backgrounds.

Later on this evening, all the competitors had to draw lots to determine their order in the competition. I thought they were going to go into a plain room and draw numbers out of a hat. But no! It was a big deal. They bussed us all over to the Ningbo Concert Hall. On the way there, there were several signs and posters advertising the competition. You know the Chinese models that were always seen during the Olympic medal ceremonies? Well, 6 of them were at the Hall escorting the singers to the stage. Once there, they would walk up to the rotating table, pick a scarf, unwrap it in front of the crowd and facilitators, and reveal their number. Robert was 43 of 47. Thank you Jesus. This means he’s going on the last day, in the last group. He won’t sing until Monday! Woohoo! Afterwards, all the competitors took paparazzi pics. Can you find Robert? I also took pics of our clique (that’s for you Tamara): members of the American, Canadian, Irish, Hungarian, and Slovenian contingent.
After the drawing ceremony, the relatives and friends were separated from the competitors and taken back to the hotel while everyone else went to the opening ceremony. There they enjoyed several traditional Chinese opera performances and lots of food. Robert had chicken feet and octopus. I hear it was great… I went back to the hotel and had dinner with a mother from Thailand. The competitors came back a few hours later and we all went to bed.

Day 3

Breakfast again. Okay. I don’t think I can eat any more noodles. They’re cooked in heavy grease…a little too much for breakfast. When I get back home, it will be a long time before I order lo mein again…

Time to hit the city! Today, we decided to visit Tian Yi square. It’s the main square of Ningbo—and resembles a suburban version of Times Square in NY. There were lots of very expensive shops. We passed and decided to find a place to eat lunch and after passing up KFC, Outback Steakhouse, and a couple other chains, we settled on a place called Coffee Café, or something like that. It won out because it looked the most authentically Chinese. It was the longest ordering experience of my life. Robert ordered rice and fried fish. I ordered rice with corn and fish. Probably won’t go back there again. We should’ve stopped at the street wok near our hotel. It smelled so good… Mmmm…

So Joy, no we have not gone to any underground churches or sung in front of the liquor stores! Although Christianity is legal in China, it is still tightly controlled by the government. But because of the tight reigns, many still choose to meet underground and in home churches which are considered illegal. Those are the ones that are persecuted. Even so, non-Chinese visitors can set up fellowships in hotels and public places for Bible study and service. But, you cannot join in if you possess a Chinese passport. I haven’t seen any Buddhist temples yet, but I have seen 2 gorgeous Catholic churches. One could even be seen outside the restaurant from the middle of the square.

After walking around a little bit more, we decided it was time grab a taxi and get back to the hotel. But, we, being as smart as we are, chose to leave during rush hour… big mistake. We flagged down taxi cars for about30 minutes, but no one stopped. We were finally able to get a taxi truck to stop. 4 of us squeezed in like sardines and made our way back to the hotel. The driver laughed at us the whole time. Now it’s time for the first night of competition at the Concert Hall. (Sorry! No pics allowed!) It was filled with local residents and national media. The international panel of judges processed to their seats with polite applause. Then Group 1 was up! All 7 singers gave 3 selections. Whew! What an evening… Then back to the hotel… 3 more days until Robert sings…

Good night!


Anonymous said...

Hi, Kelly. It sounds like you are having a wonderful time. Keep up the postings - they are delightful.

Our best wishes to Robert. Enjoy!


jerry said...

Hey Kelly, I know we have talked every day since you left, but try to fine me a couple of suits, ties, and some shoes for about $100.00.

Your favorite dad.

Tiara said...

You are so awesome for writing all of that down! It sounds like you are having a great experience! I wish you could bring me food back :-( I'll take shoes though I'm a size 8 ;-0

God bless!

Tiara (tyra)

Anonymous said...

Great blog, I hope there's someone named Tamara reading this this has problems with cliques 'cause the last time I checked my I.D. lol my name was Tamilah. ahahaha

Love yall, be safe and keep writing!

Leslye said...


Sounds like you are having a blast. Stay away from those noodels U know they will equate to many hours at the YMCA, SMILE.
Keep up the post, stay safe and ENJOY. Tell Robert I said Good Luck, he'll be Great!


Michelle said...

Wow, sounds like you guys are having a great time. Did I write enough to get a gift?

Jon and Tamara said...

Wow. It sounds like a great experience. Its not real chinese food until you eat a pet. I'll wait for the pictures of that experience. Otherwise, be blessed! Robert you will do well. My family is praying for you. JB

Peace & blessings

P.S. Chicken feet & octopus?!?

Anonymous said...


Great Blog! I am really enjoying the pictures and your experiences. My prayers are with you both. Tell Robert that we are praying for him. Enjoy, take plenty more pictures, and be ready to share when you come home. We love you both and can't wait for the next update.

Love Darlene

Anonymous said...

hey you two I am glad all is well
with you. It looks like you two are
having a great time.. It looks very
exciting to me.. and the food "YUM YUM" what a way to loose weight. Best of luck to you Robert I am sure you are going to do well... And Mrs. Kelly I can't wait for my present..and no I don't want a bag of noodles lol. You all be Blessed and continue to have fun.. also put little hot sauce on those noodles.
Janet G.

Jamie said...

Hey Kelly! you are officially the best storyteller ever! i loved the pictures of course! Do feel obligated to put MORE up! lol!
Be safe and have tons of FUN in between all the competition!

Anonymous said...

Dear Kelly
it sounds like you and Robert are having the time of your lives. Everyone in the office is jealous. please bring back lots of stories. Good luck to Robert!
denis and the TCDF gang

Nicola said...

Wow. From the pictures it seems so awesome. Must be an amazing experience. Take more pics!!! Bring back some authentic asian food. LOL!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kelly, This blog is great and i'm really enjoying the pictures!! I'm anxious to read your next update. :-)

Be safe!