Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday 11-21-12

It's panda day - the whole reason we flew all the way to Chengu! The breakfast buffet at this hotel was sumptuous, particularly with regard to the Chinese selections. The American fare was not as plentiful but they had jujube and pineapple yogurt drinks, which were a welcome item for most of the group. Driving to the panda reserve took about forty minutes and Shi Shi got us very excited on the way over. The first stop in the panda reserve was to see the black swans and the koi fish. The swans were gorgeous but the fish were freaky with their gaping mouths all reaching up at us for food. And we came to see pandas, not feed grubby fish!
Pandamonium hit us hard as soon as we rounded the bend and saw the kindergarten pandas. They were so close you could almost touch them and they were beyond adorable as they rolled on their backs and munched on bamboo. Pandas spend ten hours a day eating, twelve hours sleeping and another two to play and loll around. "Spoiled pandas!" as Susie kept saying.
The babies were unbelievably cute, but only viewable in the nursery through a glass wall. Still, incredible. We learned some interesting facts about baby pandas, for example, did you know that they cannot poop when they are born and that the mother has to suck it out of them? We watched a panda caretaker not doing that exactly, but brushing the nethers of the panda to help it along - we have a video if anyone is interested, and I assure you it is not nearly as intimidating as a child birth video.
The big deal is to hold a baby panda and while it's very expensive it's also money that goes back into the reserve, so how could we resist? Jemma followed the rules to a tee and did not hug the panda or touch her ears as pandas have very sensitive ears. Juan Juan, which actually sounds like Jwin Jwin, was a year old and probably two hundred pounds. Everyone was suited up with disposable scrubs and gloves but some of the girls on our trip poked holes in their gloves so they could feel the fur. But not rule-abiding Jemma! Then we had probably one of the worst lunches on the trip. It was dicey from the start when we walked in and nobody was there except for a few men smoking cigarettes. Later we had some free time so we explored some of the local shopping in Chengdu at a nearby outdoor mall. Some of the shops tried to lure us in with giant pandas and crazy characters. We realized we would have been better advertising for a store if the three of us just stood in front. We have been stared at and on display this entire trip. Most of the time it's rather sweet - we've even had some people thank us for adopting Jemma. But sometimes the stares are a little too lingering and creepy. That night we went to the Sichuan opera which is a variety show of music, shadow puppets, theatre, and most importantly, the magical mask changing show. Jemma conked out almost immediately but we enjoyed the show very much. The performers were really talented and pretty funny. The mask changing truly was magical although we all figured out how they did it on the bus ride back, which delighted Shi Shi.

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