Let me begin with the cricket that somehow made its way into our bathroom and chirped ALL NIGHT LONG. He was probably in the hole. Another reason I'm not particularly fond of the "toilet" situation... I mean what's really down there?! Back to the cricket. He was the loudest from 4-6AM. My air sound on Spotify drowned it out a bit but that bug was relentless.
All our meals are at the same time every day. 730AM, 12PM, and 6PM. My guess is breakfast will be consistently the same. Boiled eggs, toast, sweet buns (my choice), and I believe it's a hot rice soup? Not entirely sure just yet but I will confirm. The sweet buns look like a combo between a dinner roll and a biscuit so no surprise it will be my go to. And considering the walk, gimme all the carbs. #isbutteracarb
The walk is just about 30 minutes and rather difficult but every time it's a little easier. But let me stress "a little." My foot is hanging in there but I can't count how many times I repeat in my head "mind over matter." The uniform makes it a little tough but good news, we only need to wear it in the morning for the cleaning. Mine sags in the crotch and walking up hill is slightly awkward. Technically, there is a cheap shuttle we can take part of the way but with the crowd (still holiday madness), it's just not worth it.
Once we arrived at the volunteer center, we were divided into groups. Each team split and we walked to our designated panda areas where we will be working for the entire time we're here.
It's absolutely beautiful here. All the green and the mountains. Just gorgeous.
Tasha and I were assigned to Jin Ke and our first task was cleaning inside and outside the enclosure. We started outside gathering all the old bamboo to throw out. Fun fact: Pandas will not eat day old bamboo. So our panda keeper laid out some twine and we piled all the bamboo to create bundles. Once the big stuff was gone, the sweeping commenced. We were given brooms, a large metal "dust pan", and 2 brush brooms in order to get all the leaves (and some poo) into a large blue tub. Our keeper then pointed at the panda hut and told us to clean that too. For our panda, panda hut equals bathroom. Panda poo on top of the hut, around the hut, everywhere. On the plus side, panda poo is not what you would see from other animals. It doesn't smell bad and it's not brown. Fun fact: Even though bamboo is their main food source, they aren't very good at digesting it. Back to the hut. So we finally communicated "shovel" to our keeper and did the best we could.
Once we finished the outdoor enclosure, we swapped places with Jin Ke and started cleaning the indoor enclosure. First gathering the leftovers, then sweeping the poo, and finally hosing it down and using a "really fun squidgy" to dry the floors. Bonus if you get the reference. Clue: Clown Dog.
The remainder of the day consisted of 3 feedings at 11AM, 2PM, and 330PM. They only lasted for about 15 minutes but this is our introduction day. I know we won't interact with the adults because they can be dangerous. I heard a story today about a trainer that got a claw through the palm of his hand and another that lost a finger. Nothing gets in between a panda and his cake. Consider me formally warned.
At 5 o'clock we watched a Panda documentary in the social room. Right after, one of the Chinese student volunteers gave all of the "westerner" volunteers a gift. Her English name was Dream (they all choose their own name in order to make it easier for us to communicate.) She wrote a personalized note on a bookmark and tied others together. Very sweet and unexpected.
After dinner, we had our first Chinese lesson. Learned things like hello (ni hao), my name is, I am from [insert place here], my panda is, numbers (1-10), etc. I wrote it all down but hello is the only thing I've got down.
So here's where it gets funny. I'm going to throw it all out the window and just tell you because it's a hilarious story. We discovered from the Swedish guy, Chris, that is in his 3rd week here that the 4th floor has toilets. I had used one this afternoon because the floor was empty. When I went up tonight, most rooms were closed except for 2 at the end of the hall. I checked to make sure there was no luggage... gold, empty room. So I use the restroom and I hear loud chatter in the hall but think I am fine until the door to the room starts to vigorously move. Luckily, I was about to walk out anyway. It when I opened the door, there stands a Chinese family of 6 with the most confused looks on their faces. Adrenaline kicked in... I said sorry and basically ran out of there, flew down the stairs, and bee lined to my room. Whoops. Makes for a great story. Welcome to your room... just making sure your toilet works properly... 😳
Next, the Panda Bar. It was a 5 minute walk but on a "hill"... to me, a mountain. It was a cute little hole in the wall and best part, A PUPPY.
We all had a nice time talking over a few drinks but decided to retire early. Mostly because of having to get up early but I honestly just didn't want to tumble down the mountain. Let's be real.
PS I killed the cricket with OFF. I win.