"What? You still have some more? Do I have to get up, again? Oh my." says Panda.
23.12.2011 - 02.01.2012
Chengdu Panda Base, December 28th 2011
The view as I entered the gate with Ruth, was startling to me. Yes, I was fully aware that it was winter. But I didn't expect it to be so different than the view of 15 months ago. In terms of sky, so greyish. In terms of trees, so barren. In terms of people, so quiet. Nevertheless, Ruth said to me, "You've come on the best time."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because there are not many tourists," she answered.
Ruth, the lady I had been in contact with during this program's registration, introduced me to Pao Pao (sorry for misspelling), who would be my guide during the whole program.
"Does he speak English?" I asked.
"Don't worry. He does," Ruth replied.
10 minutes later the other 6 members of my group arrived. 5 Americans and 1 Chinese-American. I had been so worried of being late and left out for the program, and yet the whole rest of the group were worse than me. Hahaha. When my teacher told me how the students from our home country used to be late, in my heart I replied, "Americans do worse, you know!"
Among my whole expenses from the start of this trip until the end, this internship program was the most costly: 600 yuan. That includes the regular entrance ticket: 58 yuan. In the end I did not regret it a bit. It had been a very worthwhile experience.
The first visit of my International Internship Panda Keeper Program was: Panda Kitchen.
Guess what these are! The ingredients for Panda Cake. Tralalala...
Here's the recipe. I don't think the English translation is complete. Look, number 2, where's that "75oC" and "1400C"? Pandas, beware your cook reads Chinese! Of course - lah...
As a member of the internship program, we got the privilege of witnessing the making of Panda Cake. And here's the video clip of it:
I wonder whether the pandas recognize it's their face on the cake?
The next thing to learn about was the specimen of bamboo preferred by Giant Pandas.
Giant pandas are listed in the Order Carnivora (meat-eater). While the bulk of its diet is bamboo, in reality, pandas are omnivores. There are over 60 species of bamboo, among which, 16 species are their favorites, 11 species are eaten often and the rest are sometimes consumed. Many parts, such as shoots, stalks, branches, and leaves, can be eaten by the giant panda. Bamboo shoots are their favorite. An adult panda can eat 10-20kg of fecal material a day.
I didn't know that bamboo varied this much.
I'm quoting from the other information boards:
In order to guarantee the safety of giant pandas, food, all raw materials are inspected and selected for quality. The nutritional value of all food is also tested. For bamboo, experts are appointed to visit the collection sites, selecting only the best quality plants.
Bamboos provided to the giant pandas is transported from their mountain habitat at the fastest speed. Then after careful washing, the bamboo is given to the giant pandas.
The foods, such as milk powder, grain and fruits are that prepared for the giant pandas are stored in such a way as to guarantee their freshness and quality. Bamboo that has been collected is stored in a special refrigerator to keep it fresh.
Here's the milk. Milk from Japan.
Eventually, something that comes in needs to come out, doesn't it? Here's panda poo!
The older the panda, the bigger the poo. LOL
This is Pao Pao, our guide.
It was kind of a morning exercise ascending the hilly roads until reaching...
... the other Panda Kitchen.
Each of us is assigned a task to prepare apple slice for the pandas.
One piece of apple was cut into eight slices.
Before feeding the pandas, we had to do the job cleaning the panda pens. This was what the corridor looked like. That's one of the panda caretakers.
This is one of the volunteers: me. We had to wear a plastic coat, plastic gloves, and plastic shoe cover. Ordinarily I don't look this silly. This is because I had a camera and pouch hanging on my neck. I thought I could take some pictures during the job. But there wasn't time at all for that and besides my hands were full.
The 7 of us were divided into 2 groups by Bao Bao. The 4 Americans which were friends of one group was grouped into one. I was in the other group with a mother-and-son. So there were the three of us in my group. We were required to clean panda's bed, and the whole floor. First we had to separate bamboo leaves from poo. Then the caretaker will collect the poo and weigh it. You don't need to feel disgusted thinking about poo. In cold weather, as Bao Bao had explained before, panda's poo doesn't smell at all. He proofed to be hundred percent correct. Besides, Bao Bao said also, panda only digests 20% of their food. So basically what comes out is just bamboo.
I watched my team mates rake the floor and then panda's bed. The other raked the outer corners and then the inner corners. Hmmm... "These people must have never do housecleaning," I thought to myself. But... shouldn't labor cost be higher in America than in my home country? Considering on that matter, they should be more expert in housecleaning than the middle high of my people who can just leave everything to one even two maids for one household. So? Why can't these Americans see that by raking the floor first and then panda's bed, they put their previous work into vain, because the dirt from panda's bed drops on the already raked clean floor. After that they would have to rake the floor again. That would make three steps of process. Hence, more time.
Same is it with moping the floor starting from the outer corner into the inner corner. By them time you mop the inner corner, you will bring the dirt passing the outer corner which makes the previous mopping job of mopping the outer corner pointless.
Of course I did my best doing the most efficient process in my theory. In the end, my team which consisted of 3 members, was finished far before the other group of 4 members.
It took pretty a long time for me until it occurred that these Americans might do a lot of housekeeping, but with a vacuum cleaner. Hahaha... I laughed at myself. How countrified am I! Of course you don't need to bother which process come first when using a vacuum cleaner, because the dirt will be sucked into the machine, thus would never spill on any previously-already-cleaned part. Hmmm... this is something about culture revealed to me.
We had to feed the pandas inside, and outside, the pen.
See? Panda is waiting anxiously, excitedly...
There you go, panda!
Everyone of us got a turn to feed panda. But wait... panda needs a drink.
Now we go out to feed the pandas outside. That's my turn. You see me? ;-) Bao Bao took the picture for me.
"Qǐlái!" That's what Bao Bao would the pandas. "Get up!" I imitated Bao Bao. That was my first time talking in Chinese with a creature other than man. Hahaha.
Sometimes, in spite of Bao Bao's 'qǐlái'-s, panda would just lie down and prefer bamboo leaves over our wishful looks. There was a panda who didn't care at all. When he was busy chewing a clump of bamboos, Bao Bao said to us, "Just wait until he finishes this one."
However, when panda finished that clump of bamboo, he grabbed another one, and another one. Ah, maybe he doesn't speak Chinese. That's why. Japanese, maybe? ;-)
"Okay. So what do you want me to do now?" asked Panda.
"Qǐlái!" Panda gets up.
One of the trick to get panda get up is to swing the piece of apple near panda's nose and then gradually bring it higher to make panda stand. Panda needs to exercise, Bao Bao told us. Moreover, panda's eyesight is not good. Pandas rely on their sense of smell. Therefore you have to bring the food close to panda's nose to entice it. Ah, panda must have not recognized the difference between me and the other 5 Americans in my group...
"A moment, please. You guys are over-excited feeding me a piece after another. I need a drink."
Panda says again, "What? You still have some more? Do I have to get up, again? Oh my. Leave that for the next post, will you?"
"Fine, Panda. Will do so. I will have lots lots of you in the next post."
Stay tuned, everybody!!