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.
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.
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.