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Swimming Summer Diaries: Ryann Kopacka and Caroline Jones In China Part II

July 22, 2008

Photo Gallery (last updated July 22)

While many college students use the summer to relax by the pool, go to the beach and work as waiters and waitresses, members of the Georgia Tech Swimming Team are making full use of their time. Some are traveling the world, while others are getting a head start on their careers with some unique and interesting internships or jobs. will give you a feel for what some of these student-athletes are doing with “Summer Diaries.” In part two, rising senior Caroline Jones and rising junior Ryann Kopacka check in from Inner Mongolia as part of their summer studying abroad in the Far East. Check back throughout the summer for more updates.

Georgia Tech Community and Fans,

AHHHH Caroline and I just had the best weekend in Inner Mongolia!!!!!! Vast stretches of grasslands, fluffy white clouds on the brightest blue sky, sunsets, sunrises, endless desert sands and experiencing pure freedom 🙂

A group of 14 of us from the program rode an overnight K-train to Hohhot the capital. We were joking around about how funny it would be if we were taking an M-Train (which is the term that refers to management majors at Georgia Tech).

We ate breakfast in the city, and every meal we ate in Inner Mongolia the entire weekend was Lazy Susan style. We sat at round tables with a turn table in the middle. Twelve dishes were served at every meal, and we shared them by rotating the Lazy Susan. For breakfast, we had rice with green bell peppers and chicken, hard boiled eggs, some watermelon, and a variety of different looking bread rolls that all ended up tasting like dough. There were even some rolls that looked like they had chocolate and cinnamon in them, but it ended up being red bean paste. It was still tasty. Our dishes at lunch and dinner were pretty similar. Usually we had white rice, a spicy chicken dish, a whole fish (not filleted), steamed bok choy, egg drop soup, bread dough balls, tasty lamb mutton, cabbage, and watermelon. We were served hot green tea or traditional Mongolian milk tea to drink.

After our breakfast in Hohhot, we took a three hour bus ride to the Gegentala Grassland in the Aobao hills. The scenery along the ride was absolutely gorgeous, but it was nothing compared where we were staying for the night- gentle rolling hills, covered with the greenest grass against a clear blue sky with the fluffiest white clouds, ahhh so picturesque. Even the weather was incredible! It wasn’t humid at all! In fact, the air was dry and quite cool, but the sun kept us warm. It was the perfect temperature the whole day.

We spent the day riding horses across the grasslands! The horses were smaller than I expected, and it was quite funny to see all of us tall Americans on them! We rode to the top of a hill to see a monument the Mongolians use for prayer. Then we rode out to visit a traditional Mongolian family at their farm. They live in dwellings called yurts. Yurts are circular tepees with a hard clay floor covered with rugs and a wooden frame draped with canvas. There was a circular opening in the roof for ventilation that could be closed when it rained. We sat inside the yurt and were served milk tea and deep fried bread sticks for dipping. Yum! An interesting thing to note, the Mongolian woman served tea to the boys first! Quite patriarchal.

After the amazing horse ride, we watched a Mongolian rodeo that featured horse racing around a track, Mongolian wrestling, and acrobatics on horseback! People were doing handstands on a galloping horse! They were also hanging off the side of the saddle, carrying another rider on their shoulders, making a human pyramid, it was awesome! After the rodeo, we went out into the fields to take some pictures with the grasslands. Then, we ate a Lazy Susan dinner and afterward, all of us went back out into the grasslands to watch the sunset! It was incredible! Such vivid colors against such a big sky! We took so many pictures, and looking back at them now still takes my breath away! Did we really see that in real life??

When the sun finally set behind the hills, we went to a bonfire where we watched some performances with Mongolian dancing and singing, and then we went to sleep in our very own yurt! How fun! We woke up at 4:30 in the morning to see the sun rise. We watched the pink sky for a good hour, and we were about to turn back when the sun finally peeked out from behind the hills. A big orange globe! We watched it rise from behind the hills, and once it appeared, it rose so quickly! haha it reminded us of the opening scene in the Lion King. Looking back at pictures, the sky is a beautiful pink and orange with the circular sun right at the horizon. The grasslands are darkened, and if you flip the photos upside down, it looks like the pictures are taken from space!

After the sunrise, we ate breakfast and then got back on the bus for a five hour ride to the Gobi Desert!! The section of the desert that we visited was called the Resonant Sand Gorge. When we arrived on the dunes, there was just desert everywhere, stretching in all directions! How cool! The dunes were gorgeous. The wind had created ripples across the sand like the waves do to the ocean bottom.

We went on a camel ride, which was so fun! All of our camels were tied together in a line, so we looked like a nice train of camels traipsing across the desert. During our camel ride, there was some lightening in the distance, and then we started to hear thunder, and then it started RAINING in the desert! INSANE! We had to stop and get off our camels in case they spooked. An ATV was driven out to our group to pick us up and take us back to the base camp. We piled 16 soaking wet people into this ATV, and the driver was crazy! He raced across the dunes, bouncing us into the ceiling. The windows were all foggy, so none of us could see outside. There were times when I thought the car was going to roll over! It was like a roller coaster, kind of like a Jurassic Park theme ride.

After waiting out the storm, we took some sled rides down the side of a steep dune, in which we all got covered in sand from head to toe! We then headed back to Hohhot, and stayed in Jin Jiang Hotel in Hohhot, a FIVE STAR HOTEL!!! Obviously, it was the nicest hotel I have EVER stayed in! Caroline and I shared a room on the 16th floor, and it had two full size beds, with big fluffy comforters, and two fluffy pillows for each of us! There was also a sitting area with a glass topped desk and a big window overlooking the city. The bathroom was incredible! The shower was actually separated from the toilet! YES! There was also a bathtub, and they gave us complimentary shampoo AND conditioner AND lotion! There were even big soft white towels and BATH ROBES!!!

The next morning, we visited the Dazhao Lamasery, the Five Pagoda Temple, and the Zhaojun Tomb. The Dazhao Lamasery was a traditional Chinese Buddhist temple built in the same style as the temples in the Forbidden City. The Five Pagoda Temple was really pretty, and there were little buddhas along the walls that people had given little yi jiao coins. To get to the top of the pagoda, we climbed through a steep staircase in a small dark tunnel. Nice! At the Zhaojun Tomb, there was a museum about the Huns that included artifacts like swords, bowls, and armor from 200 B.C.! The Zhaojun Tomb was for one of the Hun Kings, and it was at the top of a hill, guarded by a pagoda.

After touring Hohhot, we had some time to spare, so we walked around a mall in the city, and Caroline and I bought some juice and relaxed in a nearby park, similar to Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta. They had a big concrete amphitheater with a huge TV screen that was showing a soccer game. There were also these ponds, and floating on the water were these big, clear, hollow plastic balls. Inside the balls were CHILDREN! Yes! Like hamsters! Running around in the balls on the water! Crazy! It looked like fun, but something like that we don’t think would never happen in the U.S.

Later that evening, we took the K-Train station back to Beijing. We arrived in Beijing at 7:30 in the morning, and we made it back to campus just in time for our 9:00 Supply Chain Logistics class. Phew!

ATL in 11 days,

Ryann and Caroline


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