Yesterday I came back from a three day trip to Inner Mongolia, which is sort of like a province of China. The bus ride there was 10 hours, but that was because at first we went the wrong way. Fang Laoshi thought that there was a short cut, and upon finding a fork in the road, he got out of the bus and asked the way to Inner Mongolia. If you've ever driven a manual car, and cruised down the highway, and instead of changing from third to fourth gear, you mistakenly changed to the second...the reaction of the car was the same reaction as Fang Laoshi. Total astonishment.
We had lunch on the way, and once we got there, everybody was so relieved to get out and walk around. First we were asked to walk in and sip the baijiu (white wine), which is actually about 70% alcohol. We went to our tents and set up our beds (which were just blankets on the floor, really). Then some Mongolian singing, and then dinner. The dinner consisted mostly of toasting in order to get Fang Laoshi drunk. Since five Japanese students came along, we had a much easier time of it than the previous times. The Japanese students that came with us are extremely good drinkers, but at one point Fang Laoshi escaped to the table with all the women. Oh, except Eileen, our guide in Beijing, who wanted to come along with us to Inner Mongolia. We got her drunk too, and she ended up asking the waitresses for the Mongolian headware. Friday night was free, so we went to the Japanese guys' tent, and got even more drunk. Then, out of nowhere, Fang Laoshi showed up and drank even more. First he asked the white people to drink (myself and Andrea), and then I asked the huaren (people of Chinese descent) to drink, and I think that put Fang Laoshi over the top, because Benny, my roommate, then asked people with red shirts to drink. Fang Laoshi was the only one wearing a red shirt, so he took it off, and therefore didn't have to drink. Then, somehow I found myself in a tent with a Mongolian woman and the three owners of the resort. After a bit of singing, Fang Laoshi arrived again with some of the Japanese fellows, and then he started singing in Japanese. I was pretty impressed, but people can do just about anything when they're drunk.
Saturday morning, after a restless night on the ground, we toured the area and watched a horse race. After the race, we were treated to Mongolian wrestling, and afterwards, the Canadians were offered to go against the Mongolians. I declined an offer to go, smartly it turns out. The second guy that tried, Aaron, won, but in the process he dislocated his shoulder. So that was a bummer. We had to wait five hours as he was taken to the nearby hospital, which wasn't so nearby after all. But it was okay, because it gave us an opportunity to explore on our own, play cards, and study. Then that night, at dinner we again tried, this time not as successfully, to get Fang Laoshi drunk. Fun times! After dinner, the Japanese went looking for a huge rat they claim to have seen, and started pouring beer and hot water in all the holes in the ground they could find. Strange people, those guys.
The sunset was very beautiful, and we were treated to a bonfire with some Mongolian singing. The Canadians sang "Oh Canada!", the only song we all knew. Then the silly Japanese sang a Japanese pop song, and then we danced for about an hour around the fire. Then we sat around, and somehow (I saw the whole thing and I still can't explain it), Mikami, one of the Japanese students, dove unintentionally into the pond. Like I said, can't explain it. After he dried off, the Japanese guys bought a case of beer, and came over to where the Canadians were chatting and started playing drinking games. There's a game called Seven, and you go around in a circle, starting from one, and saying all the numbers except 7, any number of 7 in it (like 17, 27, 37, etc.), or any multiples of 7 (14, 21, 28, etc.). Of course, we did it in Chinese. It was hard to start out, because we were all trying to remember our Chinese numbers, but after a while it got easier. After that we played Thirty-One, and out of nowhere Fang Laoshi appeared, so we ganged up and tried to get him drunk again.
Inner Mongolia was beautiful, and it was worth the long trips there and back. The stars, the sunsets, and the moon were sights for sore eyes. Just as I was getting on the bus to go back to Changchun, one of the Mongolian waitresses hopped on looking for me. She wanted to get a picture of her and I. Then two others wanted their pictures taken with me. Must have been a while since a white guy has come there.
About a half an hour bus ride away from the place we stayed at, we stopped at a Mongolian village and visited a family living there. We found an old man and his wife, taking care of their granddaughter, whose mother was away studying for her doctorate degree. The girl was five years old, and spoke only a few words of Mandarin, Mongolian being her native tongue. She was very cute, and she would always wave back when we waved hello to her.
When we got back to Beiyuan, our hotel, most of us had a newfound appreciation for Changchun. The facilities in Inner Mongolia aren't as good as Changchun, and nobody had the opportunity to have a shower for three days. I think most of us enjoyed the trip, however, and we're glad we are able to say we were there.
This week I'm finally going to have some time to study, because there is nothing planned other than classes. We have our test next Thursday, that night we say goodbye to our Chinese friends. I'm scheduled to leave Beijing on July 2nd, with a one night stopover in Tokyo. I'm going to ask the Japanese if they know anybody who might be willing to show me around Tokyo for one night, because I really want to see the city, rather than the suburb surounding the airport. Lots can happen between now and then though, so we'll see.