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Inner Mongolia Day 3

Before we dive into today’s events, a quick word about Han Chinese. The majority of the China (91.11%) population is composed of Han Chinese. In essence, descendants of the Han dynasty. Within China there are 56 designated ethnic minorities. I got a taste of this a year ago when visiting the Yunnan province. Yunnan has the most ethnic minorities, but many are smaller groups. Mongolians are one of the largest of these minorities.

Inner Mongolia? Is there an Outer? Not exactly. Inner Mongolia is the portion of Mongolia that remained a part of China after Mongolia declared its independence in 1911 away from the Qing dynasty. However, there was an inner and Outer Mongolia long before 1911. The warring factions within Mongolia had split the nation into four regions after the reign of Genghis Khan. The Manchus which chose to remain with China in Inner Mongolia comprised the region that we would now call Manchuria.

Okay. Enough rambling. Why bring up the Han Chinese? The Han have a perception of the minorities here in China. I wouldn’t call it overt racism, but this perception leads them to think that life in these areas is not as safe is it in the larger Han Chinese dominated cities. This came up yesterday when we were talking about allowing our 10th graders some freedom to roam Baotou a bit. They had two hours after dinner that I would have prefered them have a chance to roam around away from the hotel. This idea was shot down for two reasons. First, not as safe as Hangzhou. Second, really no stores, shops, or other places that close to the hotel. Well, okay then.

Day three of our trip started with breakfast and a three hour bus ride from Baotou to the grasslands north of Hohhot. It followed a path along a small mountain range before having to turn into it and cross over a pass. The bus struggled a bit to climb into the steep elevation.

The Mongolian grasslands look a lot like the Great Plains in the states. Fairly flat, and quite literally not a tree in site. Nothing but yurts, horses, and sheep. This is the view in all directions from our site.

Our crew stopped at a restaurant to have lunch. Another fantastic meal of lamb and other dishes.

The farther north you get rice becomes more rare and potatoes take over as the base of more dishes.

Our next stop was to see a Mongolian horse show. It took place in a large arena and told the story of the warring Mongolian nomadic factions from the past.

It was quite a display of horsemanship. Lots of acrobatics on a horse as it ran by. The most impressive was a group of riders standing on their sprinting horses and accurately shooting arrows at a target.

We made our way deep into the grasslands and found our home for the evening. a

After getting settled we had to collect “firewood” for bonfires that evening. Wait. There’s no trees. So what did we collect? Cow pies and horse dung. Yep. We walked around with two large garbage cans and picked up poop. It was a bit of a surreal experience. Not a shocker that girls were much more into the task. Young Chinese boys from our school are often a bit too entitled and pampered to complete such a task. Guess who got stuck dragging the can of poop around?

Dinner was amazing. A full lamb barbecued over a pit. I ate way way too much again.

Before dinner the teachers had to be properly dressed.

The locals that were hosting us entertained with a lot of song and dance. It was quite the show. They greeted us to dinner by placing a blue sash (Hada) around each person neck and handed them a beverage.

The bonfire was super cool. A giant ball of fire composed of poop that lasted more than an hour. Kids had a large speaker set up and a microphone. They sang and danced around the bonfire for a long time.

During the music fest I requested a song. Big thanks to Shauna for doing John Denver proud. It doesn’t get much better than a bunch of Asian kids singing Country Roads. I must admit, I teared up a bit thinking of where I’ve come from. From my little home town in the Appalachians to Mongolia? Would have never thought that was possible when I was ten years old.

That was a long busy day. Looking at a similar day tomorrow including a long horseback ride.

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