"Nǐ kàn kàn xióngmāo ma?"
23.12.2011 - 02.01.2012
Chengdu, December 28th 2011
Excited for this day I had been waiting for, I got out of bed. Somehow I felt relieved to have been released from the freeze of Jiuzhaigou. Today I'm going to meet the pandas for the second time. I hope it would be pandaS with an 'S'. No guide named Angel, no friends which I had too much concerned of, are with me now. The lesser the concern, the lesser the possibility of getting hurt. That's not right, I know. But sometimes it just proofs to be so true.
Spaghetti bolognaise and a cup of coffee milk for breakfast at Lazy Bones Hostel. Total, 29 yuan. Well, not too bad considering on the portion and taste. However, it can't beat Vietnam's European cuisine. Free and fast WiFi joint into my entertainment.
In order to make sure that I would get to see the pandas -- yes, with an 'S' -- no matter where they are or what they are doing, I signed up for an international internship which I actually had learned from Lazy Bones Hostel's website. At first I wanted to book this program through Lazy Bones Hostel together with the room booking. But the reply I got said that my booking was too far ahead of time and they can't make sure for me whether the internship program is scheduled on my requested date. I was suggested to confirm Lazy Bones one week before my departure.
I don't like to be left in uncertainty for too long. What if the program turned out to be off schedule by the date I've planned for? I'm still an office girl, you know. Thus, my itinerary is tight. One thing canceled might jeopardize the whole itinerary. Therefore I examined Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding's website and immediately found out about the internship program. I wrote the contact email address and got an immediate respond. I was suggested to change my schedule for the date I had requested was a Sunday. See? Luckily I found out immediately before I booked my accommodations. So I switched my plan for Jiuzahigou with panda. If I had relied on Lazy Bones Hostel until a week before departure and then found out that the program is not conducted on Sunday... wow! I would be crying on pandas for a second time.
Overall I'm satisfied with Lazy Bones Hostel. But other than room and food matters, they seemed to me not fully supportive. If I, a foreigner, living across the ocean, could get an immediate information about the internship program, how could not they? The same as my previous mentioned train ticket booking. They said that there's no train leaving at night from Chengdu to Wuhan, except in the afternoon. It would not be me, if I didn't double triple check the schedule before drawing an itinerary, not to mention booking something. I gave the hostel staff the train's number, but still said there was no train available. But when I eventually went to the train ticket booking office myself, I could get the ticket immediately without being questioned at all about the train schedule. See again! If I, a foreigner, can find out about the correct train schedule, why couldn't they?
Well, in the case of that internship program, I guess, it wasn't a matter of whether the date I had requested for was on schedule or not. Until a week before D-Day, they would not know whether there would be enough guest to take to Panda Base or not. Especially when considering on low season.
A lesson for me and possibly for you too: Don't take it for granted when a hotel/hostel/guesthouse whatsoever, tells you that your request is not available. Check, check! Double, triple. It would be best if you can get in contact directly to the source.
Eventually, too long surfing on the internet (except for Facebook) made me almost late for the program. I was required to be at the base by 8:30. In a haste I called a taxi in front of Lazy Bones Hostel. But before that I asked the hostel staff what the time was. She looked confused at my question. Ah, that's a story I didn't have time to tell her. After nearly being left by the bus from Jiuzhaigou to Chengdu because of my wristwatch fault, I became constantly trauma of being late.
Once again I mistakenly uttered a word to the taxi driver. I said "Xiangmiāo" when I had to say "Xióngmāo" which means "panda". But he nodded anyway. I showed him the picture of panda on my T-Shirt to make sure. The next was a mistake with my ears. In any language, including English, my weak point used to be with my listening. Now that I was furious about the time (just something to blame on), my ears became worse. After a few minutes, the driver turned his head to me and asked,
"Nǐ kàn kàn xióngmāo ma?"
Without paying close attention to his question, I started to panicked. "Didn't you say you knew the place just now?" -- in English.
He shook his head. I panicked more. He wrote on a piece of paper the character 看. Panicky overtook my attention once again. Actually I could read that character very well, but I didn't.
I called Ruth, the contact person of my internship program. I asked her to explain to my driver the place I was going to. It seemed to me rather a long conversation between my driver and Ruth on my cellphone. Then he returned the phone to me and said,
"Wǒ yǐjīng zhīdào le."
This time my ears were working well. "What?" I said not to him, but to myself. "If he knew, why did he asked?"
It wasn't until the next next day that I realized that it wasn't that he didn't know the place. He was just trying to be kind by making a conversation: "Are you going to see panda?" "Nǐ kàn kàn xióngmāo ma?" And the character he had written, 看, was "kàn". He already signaled with his fingers curled in front of his eyes initiating looking at something.
My wristwatch pointed to 8:30 sharp as I stepped down the taxi in front of the gate I had stood before 15 months ago.