Traveling in China: Working Again in the Panda Kindergarten

Once again we took our hour bus drive to the panda base. This was the first time we saw people out in the fields working. It was apparently time to harvest the crop. On the way home we saw rice grain bundled like small corn stalks, about 18 inches high. Back at our seminar room, we continued inputting the data we had collected over the past few days. Then off to clean up the breeding cages. This time we had Mei Sheng, the famous male panda who had been born at the zoo in San Diego and then returned to China. He was shepherded out of his cage before we could enter.

Panda watches as I clean her cageFrances and I split up. I did the sweeping while she, the experienced virologist, insisted on doing the poop patrol. She was in heaven. There in a corner she found a round blob of yellow mucous with a tiny while round worm in it. It looked to me like a small lentil. "This panda is sick," she declared and went off to find one of the facilitators to report her discovery. The trip would have been a success for Frances if we had left immediately after that.

With the cleaning completed, Mei Sheng came back into the cage and we began our observation.

Lunch at the cafeteria. Some of the group forego what is the spicy dish of the day but Glenda and I get it. It doesn't seem at all hot once we push aside the red peppers. Apparently they haven't had time to season the rest of the dish.

IMG_0425In the afternoon we return to the kindergarten area outside.

This time they have their milk brought to them while they're playing. Like puppy dogs, they sense it's time for feeding, and run to the gate where the keepers are bringing in their milk. But now there's a problem. One of them spots the open gate as the keeper comes through and tries to run out. I come from behind, grabbing her around the middle and lifting her to carry her back into the yard. But now I discover, this isn't the little stuffed panda toy I had as a child. This is a 45 pound dead weight. I can't move. Finally one of the keepers rescued me. Now it was milk time but the keeper could only bring in one bowl at a time. This didn't go over well with my panda, Zhang Zhang (double name for good luck) who was second in line. Ready for milk, she moved over to the other panda's bowl. And there was another tussle.  The keeper, just returning to the enclosure with my panda's milk,  handed me the bowl, grabbed my panda and moved her to another part of the yard while I thrust the milk bowl I was holding under  her nose. Satisfied, she settled down to lapping at her own bowl.

Me and ouutside panda

We played with them for a while, then had to leave but continued playing with them through the fence.

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    Carolyn Boiarsky

    " I am an American," but not "Chicago born" like Augie March. Only Chicago aged. I'd like to think that if Henry Louis Gates were to investigate my geneology, he would discover in my past three women who traveled around the globe, chronicling their adventures. Sarah Kemble Knight traveled 112 miles by carriage from Boston to New York in 1704, a journey most women did not embark on alone (and men did so only with some trepidation). In fact, women were only just beginning to exercise their independence in the 1920's when Emily Kimbrough took off with her friend, Cornelia Otis Skinner, to explore Europe. But it is Auntie Mame, transforming herself from a New Yorker to the wife of an Austrian Baron and climbing the Matterhorn, whose mantra I have adopted. "LIFE IS A BANQUET...LIVE!" I began travelling in the 1960's when I traveled around western Europe between graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and my first job as a statehouse correspondent for UPI (United Press International) in Charleston, West Virginia, which was about as foreign a place as Europe was to someone who grew up in the environs of Philadelphia. Since then, I've also traveled to Kaunas, Lithuania, to teach at Vytautus Magnus University and to Sheffield, England, to present a paper at an engineering conference. I've been to the Alps and seen Auntie Mame's Matterhorn while climbing, by a series of cable cars rather than by foot, toward the peak of Mont Blanc. For 10 years my husband and I traveled to unique places: a sheep farm during lambing season in England's Lake Country, a hotel on one of the Barromeo Islands in the middle of Lake Maggiore in Northern Italy, and a cottage in Dun Quin on the Dingle Peninsula which the Irish claim is the last parish before Boston. Between excursions, I'm a professor in the Department of English at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Indiana,. My husband passed away recently and, Auntie Mame-style, I am in the process of transforming myself. I've joined a tour to Central Asia and traveled to China to work with the pandas. Two years ago, I returned to Europe--Inreland, England, and France--to present a paper at a Conference and then visit friends. It's 2017 now and London once again draws me in. This time I'm fulfilling my dream of taking my grandchildren to Europe. I've rented a flat near Hyde Park and ordered London passes for everyone. A new adventure. Old friends. Another banquet.

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