Homestay Reports from Hohhot

 

Brent and Rajit:

We stayed at the home of Mr. Guo, whose sixteen-year-old sister Nancy came to his apartment to live with us for the two days.  We had met Mr. Guo previously, as he had been driving along with us and taking pictures for us on our trip through Inner Mongolia.  We communicated with him in Chinese, and although Nancy’s English was very good, we tried to speak mostly Chinese with her as well.  When they first picked us up, we went to the mall and browsed the stores. We played in the mall arcade and tried our hands at some pottery. Both of us were surprised by the sheer number of floors in the mall (12!). Then we stopped at a restaurant where we ate spicy fish with lychee and shrimp. Later, we played badminton and grew an affinity for the game despite being relative newcomers to the game in the beginning.

In the evening, we bicycled around a large park on two-seater and four-seater bikes, with Mr. Guo’s girlfriend and Nancy’s friend accompanying us. Mr. Guo told us that Lwazi had arrived at the same park to enjoy barbecue, so we shouted his Chinese name out as we biked. Unfortunately, we did not meet Lwazi. After we returned the bikes, Mr. Guo gave us delicious fried tofu from a cart on the street and informed us that it was Mao Tse-tung’s favorite food. Finally, we arrived at Mr. Guo’s apartment and watched forty minutes of Pacific Rim as Mr. Guo’s girlfriend prepared a scrumptious dinner consisting of egg, beef, two chicken dishes, and noodles.

The next day, we ate both breakfast and lunch in the city, and we got to visit a princess’s palace. We took a photo with an excited security guard who said he would proudly show the photo to his son. Next, we drove to a restaurant and dined on multiple dumpling dishes. Appreciative of all the Guo family had given us, we bid them adieu back at the hotel after giving them a few parting gifts.

 

Andrew and Jeremy:

Our host, Du Ren, was the main tour guide during our time in Inner Mongolia. Du Ren has been very helpful throughout the trip, and he was no different while we stayed at his home. He is considered among the students as the most awe-inspiring man ever. Du Ren and his family did not speak English which was helpful for our practicing speaking Chinese. Our activities consisted of visiting the huge 12-story mall for lunch and passing time at the arcade. Later in the evening, Du Ren took us and a few of his relatives to the basketball courts for a few pickup games. At dinner, Du Ren’s relatives were all good to us, and the family-prepared dumplings were fantastic. Miraculously, Du Ren allowed us to sleep in (the exact time is unknown) as he prepared breakfast and lunch himself. The morning was filled with lots of relaxation and bonding with Du Ren’s family members.

 

Lwazi:

I spent my homestay with Zhou Buo, a student at a local school going into tenth grade next year and who is 16, just like me. After leaving the hotel at 10 a.m. my host took me to a barbeque in a very large park in Hohhot, the same one Rajit and Brent went to evidently. At the barbeque, I got to meet some of Zhou Buo’s classmates and enjoy some classic Inner Mongolian barbeque cuisine. After we went paddle-boating in the lake in the park, we went home tired. But the day wasn’t over, as my host insisted that after dinner we go to a fountain. But this was no ordinary fountain, oh no; Zhou Buo explained that this was the largest fountain in Asia (which I am not so sure about) and it had the most beautiful display. Even though the first part of that statement need fact checking, the second part was spot on. When he had said it was “very very high” and “very very big” he wasn’t over-selling it. It was a spectacular display: the water danced to the rhythm of beautiful music wearing a costume of projected laser lights. It was a water-laser light show. It was a sublime way to end the day. After breakfast, we went for a game of basketball with Zhou Buo’s friends. An unusual but great way to start the day. For lunch, I had the best noodles on this entire trip: braised noodles with meat and vegetables. Then we spent the last few hours of our time together playing PlayStation. And after some gift exchanging we separated and probably the best experience, at least for me, of this trip came to an end.

 

Jacob:

I spent my homestay with XiangXiang and Riley and their mothers. Riley and her mom picked me up at the hotel around 11 AM and we went to pick up Xiang at her school where she was meeting with teachers about her GaoKao score. From here, Riley’s mom drove us to the mall where I shopped for some extra gifts. Two of their friends met us at the mall for shrimp, chicken, and noodles. One in particular, LiKeChen, was very kind and we spent a lot of time talking about the current events of the NBA as well as our favorite teams and players. After our delicious lunch, we all headed to the arcade where we competed in racing competitions in roller coaster-like chairs and fighting brackets in Street Fighter. Mid-way through our outing, however, LiKeChen had to leave to attend his driver’s-ed class so we said our goodbyes and continued our contests. After the arcade, we stopped for smoothies and some “octopus balls” which moved as if they were still alive (and I believe that they were, even though my friends tried to convince me it was because of heat). After drinks, we saw “The Mummy” movie with Tom Cruise which was as good but a little corny.  Next was home with XiangXiang and Riley by taxi and some delicious home-made pork dumplings. We decided it was a good day for an early night and so we did. The next day was very relaxed: a late wake up at 9 AM and a short trip to have the best noodles ever — beef noodles with a hard-boiled egg that marinated in the broth. It was amazing. Next we went to an Internet Café where XiangXiang was working on her college choosing process. While she was going over choices with the moms and Riley, I met some friendly people with whom I played League of Legends until it was time to return to the hotel. At the hotel, we hugged and said our goodbyes. Their hospitality was greatly appreciated and I’m happy to have spent some time as part of the family.

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Homestays in Hohhot

There is no student-written blog entry today because the boys all scattered to their different homestay locations this morning.  Ms. Bai and I explored the city all day today, mostly on foot.  The highlight was finding and wandering around the fascinating and bustling Muslim neighborhood in Hohhot.  I can’t wait to hear about the boys’ different homestay experiences tomorrow when we re-convene in the afternoon.  Tomorrow’s our last full day in Inner Mongolia.  On Monday we take the overnight train to Beijing.  Do any of you have special plans for July 4th?  –Peter Fry

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Far from Ho-Hum in Hohhot

By Rajit Khanna:

The boys enjoyed their latest morning of the trip, waking up for a 10:30 brunch containing delectable shao mai. Duer (our head tour guide in Inner Mongolia) even said that the relatively cheap shao mai elicited much more fanfare than the far more expensive FULL LAMB we had in the grasslands on Ms. Jin’s birthday.

Afterwards, the group went to a “culture square” (literal translation from Chinese to English), a peaceful space in stark contrast to the constant hustle-and-bustle of Hohhot.

Inside the square, the boys walked inside a bow-and-arrow store and shot arrows at a target nearly 10 feet away. Jake managed to hit the bull’s-eye. Then, the group entered a museum that had documented the evolution of Mongolian traditional instruments. Our tour guide was a professor of music from a nearby college. The group saw violin-type instruments with two strings made from horse-hair with different animals at their heads, including horse, antelope, and deer heads. The horse-hair strings later gave way to steel strings, like those on a modern guitar. Moreover, the museum paid homage to the respective masters of the instruments it had on display, including the world’s most famous cellist.

Finally, on to the highlight of the day, the students walked from the hotel to the nearby massage parlor. There, the students received a toe-nail clipping and back and foot massage.

Thoroughly relaxed, the group ventured on to the Hohhot Grand Prix International Judo Federation tournament where they watched multiple highly contested matches, while being slightly confused about the rules.

After a quick dinner near the hotel, the boys checked in for the night, in anticipation of the beginning of their homestay the next morning.

 

P.S. from Peter Fry:

Rajit forgot to mention one other event from today: After watching the judo matches and before dinner, we were driven to a nearby university athletic complex where the boys played some lively 5-on-5 half-court basketball with a group of friendly (and more skilled) undergrads:

 

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Goodbye, Grasslands. Hello (again), Hohhot.

Here’s a list of the things we did today:

  1. We woke up for the last time (during this trip, at least) in our cozy yurts in the grasslands.
  2. We ate our last breakfast in the grasslands in the big dining yurt.
  3. The boys (and Ms. Jin) went for a ride on a fleet of small ATVs: 
  4. We finished packing.
  5. We boarded the bus and headed back toward Hohhot.
  6. On the outskirts of Hohhot, we toured a giant, ultra-modern dairy products facility, one of the largest of its kind in the world:
  7. We checked back into our hotel in Hohhot (the same one we stayed in before).
  8. We ate lunch at a simple but delicious noodle shop just down the road from the hotel:
  9. We saw the new Transformers film (in English, with Chinese subtitles) at a movie theater in an enormous 12-story shopping mall about a mile from the hotel:
  10. We ate dinner at a barbecue karaoke restaurant near the mall/movie theater.  Several students (and teachers) took a turn with the microphone:
  11. We walked back to the hotel, arriving back in the lobby at 11:30 PM.

Time for bed!

 

 

 

 

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Happy Birthday, Ms. Jin!

We had a quite a birthday celebration for Ms. Jin last night  in our dining yurt.  Not only did the dinner feature a magnificent whole roasted lamb and a specially ordered cake from Hohhot, but there was much singing — even by our boys!

Ms. Jin managed to blow every single candle out in one try.

What a wonderful way this was to spend our final night at our Mongolian yurt compound on the grasslands.  After breakfast this morning, we head to another town to work with some students and and to learn more about Inner Mongolia.  (Peter Fry)

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One More Horse Picture

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Photos from Today’s Big Ride on the Steppe

Riding today on the wide, windy steppe

Here we are after our epic ride today. The man in the middle (between Ms. Bai and Mr. Fry) was our leader — a terrific Mongolian rider.

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Temple, Factory, Performance, Dancing, Horseback Riding

The following entry was written this afternoon by Brent Gorton:

On Tuesday morning, we visited a two hundred-year-old Tibetan Buddhist temple.  It resembled the temple we had seen in Hohhot very closely because it was the summer palace for the original when the Hohhot weather became too hot.  Several monks had come on the same day as well to honor a high-standing lama who had recently passed away, and we were able to take a picture with the group.  In our bus, we then made our way through the small city to a dairy factory.  Inside we walked along a hall overlooking several rooms with different kinds of interesting machines.  In the other section of the building we took a break and enjoyed various dairy products, which tasted like chewy candy, and drank sweet and salty milk tea, a signature Mongolian beverage.  For lunch we ate at a restaurant nearby, where we tried a sort of flat pancake stuffed with seasoned ground beef.  For the main event of the day, we drove to a place on the grasslands and witnessed a magnificent horse-riding performance.  Even yaks and camels were a part of the act, and riders on horses performed impressive acrobatic stunts, such as riding standing straight up on the horse’s back and another more complex move that is too difficult to explain in writing.  On our way back to the yurt camp, we stopped by a small river to collect round rocks that would be used to cook that night’s dinner.  In the large dining yurt we ate lamb that had been cooked in the lamb stomach by the heated rocks.  Preparing it involved placing blocks of chopped meat carefully into the stomach along with evenly dispersed hot rocks.  At night we traveled back to the same area where we had watched the horse-riding show to see another horse-riding performance, but this one was much shorter and involved more music and dancing.  At our last stop of the day, we ordered sodas and lamb kabobs at a small restaurant for a late-night snack.

On Wednesday morning we finally got to ride horses on the steppe of Inner Mongolia, something we had all been anticipating for days.  It was my first time riding a horse, and I was excited to get going.  At around 10:30 in the morning, the eleven of us, along with two guides, set out on our horses for a four-hour-long journey around the grasslands.  Most of the time, our horses either walked or trotted, but towards the end of the ride, our horses broke into a canter a few times, which is a thrilling, swift speed faster than a walk or the quick, bumpy trot, but not as fast as a full gallop.  After we hopped off our horses at the end of the four hours, our legs were so tired that it felt strange to walk, and we rested for a while in the afternoon after lunch.  Tonight, there is more to come, as we will be celebrating Ms. Jin’s birthday on our last night in the grasslands!

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Another Great Day in the Grasslands

 

This afternoon, we watched an equestrian spectacle just down the road from our yurt camp. The riding was amazing.

Before heading to the equestrian spectacle, we had a delicious lunch of Mongolian “calzone”: home-made bread filled with ground beef, garlic, onion, etc.

Before today’s lunch and equestrian event, we visited a beautiful 18th-Century Tibetan Buddhist temple: Xil-Amuren Temple in Damao Allied County (Inner Mongolia). An important ceremony was happening when we arrived, which is why there were so many robed monks present!

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Photos from Today

Groton Boys in Traditional Mongolian Attire

Our Mongolian wrestling champ: Brent Gorton!

Tea Break in a Yurt

 

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