Giant love for the Giant Pandas

My last morning in China - notebook scribbles

Picture this: I am sitting in a taxi cab. My body is full of all kinds of energy. I am a little sleepy from a late night of packing, and the residue of the week's activities and memories carries over into my thoughts during this morning commute. We are in a sea of traffic - a tempest, really. The air is thick - layered in clouds and smog. But we are in China after all. I hear a symphony of sound around me - the driver has slightly rolled his window down and the chilly morning air fills my soul. I take a deep breath. Every couple of seconds, a beep, a honk, brakes screeching. It seems almost rehearsed; Everyone is all too used to this tune that they merely function in auto pilot. 

And then.... screech... BANG! Time is suspended for a moment. Our car is rear-ended and causes a 3-car collision. Oops. This is my second time in China and incidentally my second time in a traffic accident. Is the universe trying to tell me something? While I feel awful for our driver, he seems to get the situation squared away rather quickly. Given how people drive here, I anticipate this is an all too familiar occurrence. 

We are shortly on our way, because that is how life goes. We all experience setbacks. We just get back up, and face the new task head-on --- collision or not. 

Spending time in China is an absolutely unique experience and one I would encourage to any traveler. In my short time visiting the most populous country in the world (over 1 billion inhabitants!) I have experienced the intermingling of a nation reborn, replacing old with new and building higher and higher in order to accommodate its growing population. Simultaneously, while I ventured out to the Yunnan province in Southwestern China, which is home to 25 of China's 56 ethnic minority groups, I was faced with very different scenery; Small rustic towns, snow-capped mountains, and an abundance of lush plant life to explore. All this to say: China is a wildly interesting place with a dynamic social and physical landscape that will visually arrest you. 

During my most recent visit, I spent my time in the Sichuan province, bordering Yunnan in the north. This area, known for its spicy food and opera among other things, is also home to China's beloved Giant Pandas. These bamboo loving creatures are a national treasure and after spending just a few hours with them, I could easily see why!

The Dujiangyan Panda Base houses about 30 pandas. At the center, researchers focus on caring for and rehabilitating rescued pandas from the wild that may have been injured or subject to diseases. They also care for some of the senior and disabled pandas in the community. My favorite Panda, Dai Li, was actually one of the pandas rescued from the wild. When the researchers found him, his left hind leg was so badly injured they had to amputate it. Dai Li is now 18 years old, which is about 48 human years and he is as spry as ever! (See if you can spot him in my photos!) I spent most of my week paying special attention to this charming and playful bear. On occasion I even saw him excitedly rolling around in his enclosure.

Here are some images from my time in Dujiangyan. Enjoy!