Thursday, August 13, 2015

See you China

Name: Kelly Jackson
Class/Year: Class of 2017, Junior
Hometown: Waterford, Wisconsin
Location: Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China
Internship: Animal Behavior Research

            What a crazy last few weeks Macie and I had in Chengdu! First off, I met one of the sweetest girls at the panda base! Her name was Shuang, and she had been working at the panda base for about seven months. Her main job at the base was sanitation/ cleaning the areas and assisting the keepers in helping move the pandas, or restrain them for medical purposes. In the future, she hopes to become a dog groomer, and cut their hair for them! We talked about a lot of other things, like our families, where we are from, and our likes/dislikes. She specifically enjoys the song “Call Me Maybe” and started singing it with me! She also thinks Justin Bieber and the Titanic are “hot.” :P Shuang was very interested in different foods we eat in America and social media we have. It was nice for both of us, to practice our Chinese and English. She was so sweet and spent a lot of her time watching the pandas with me too! I am definitely going to miss her! :(
            James, Song Rei, Macie and I went to Dujiangyan to visit Jake, as well as see the four cubs that we were watching before they were relocated. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding Dujiangyan Field Research Center for Giant Pandas, otherwise known as Panda Valley, is a massive, mountainous area where they work on releasing captive pandas into the wild. Compared to the panda base, Panda Valley was so different. There was a lot less people, and fewer pandas available for the public to see. Jake took us on a tour of the facility, showing us how they work with the pandas. It was pretty hot that day, so a lot of the pandas were inside. However, Macie and I did get to see two of the cubs, Xing Yu and Xing Yuen! They were still as cute as they were when they left, and we got to see them playing with each other in their enclosure. :)
            After our tour with Jake, we all decided to go on a walk up towards the mountain. There was a paved path that we walked along for almost a half an hour. The view was absolutely breath taking. As we walked, we saw a lot of interesting things. There was a cave that was at least twenty degrees cooler than the temperature outside, and rivers that winded next to the path. We also saw tons of wildlife! There were several butterflies, a few birds, salamanders, lizards, and even snakes! I also got to hold a little crab too! It was so neat! :D
The last couple of days at the panda base, Macie and I spent a good portion of our time compiling our data together, and double checking to see if everything was entered correctly. We also had time to watch a few more sessions of our little cubs. We took tons of pictures with all of our friends and all of the pandas. On our last day Macie and I gave gifts to all of the people who have helped us so far. We got to watch James train several pandas for one of the intern’s projects. He is going to see if pandas can recognize a smile versus a frown. It will be interesting to see the results of it!
Thursday we headed out for our last adventure in China! James, his girlfriend Delia, Macie, and I all went to Mt. Emei. It is about a two hour bus ride from Chengdu and a very touristy area for foreigners. We stayed at a cute hotel called “The Teddy Bear.” And yes, the rooms were covered in teddy bears. After we checked in, we went hiking around the lower part of the mountain. Mt. Emei is the spot where monkey-style kung fu was invented and practiced so there was a lot of historical information about it. We visited a few temples, one of them being the temple of 500 Arhats. Delia was explaining to us that you pick your favorite Arhat, and then count your age down the line. Whichever arhat you land on is your number then! Mine was number 273! I loved looking at all the different statues there. :)
Once we finished our hike, we decided it was time for the hot springs! We grabbed our suits and headed on down. The water was so warm when we went swimming and very relaxing after hiking! There were so many different pools and areas you could swim in, although the water was not super deep. We swam for a bit until we decided to try what was one of my favorite experiences in China. There was a pool that had millions of fish in it, and the fish eat the dead skin off of your body! The feeling of the fish nibbling on you was so bizarre! At first it tickled A LOT, and eventually you got used to it. I ended up sitting in the water with the fish, and let them eat away! They adored my feet and my legs, and munched on them the whole time. Afterward, my skin was the smoothest it has ever been! Definitely going to do it again when I have the chance. :)
For the next few days Macie and I traveled all around the mountain. We took a bus up to the top one day, but it was very rainy and foggy. Although we couldn’t see much, the journey up to the top was enjoyable. It was scenic and actually cold once we reached the peak! We walked a lot around the mountain too. One day we hiked a solid seven hours! Walking up the stairs at the mountain was by far the hardest workout I have ever done, and if you know my coach us softball players do some pretty intense workouts. ;) Mt. Emei is also famous for the monkeys there. Apparently, they go up to people and try to take their stuff! They love soda and all kinds of fruits. Unfortunately, Macie and I never got to see a monkey while we were there. It was just too wet and rainy I believe. I mean, if I were a monkey I wouldn’t be out in the rain!
Monday Macie and I went to our final Chinese attraction, Leshan’s Giant Buddha! We were looking forward to seeing it since the beginning of our trip, and it was definitely worth the wait! We stood in line for about two hours to see it, and there were several stairs and steps we had to climb to get to the bottom. It was a little scary because they were so steep! The view was breathtaking as you looked out onto the lake. Legend has it if you look out towards the lake and see the lying Buddha in the shapes of the tress, you are blessed for life. I couldn’t see it, but Macie did! :) The buddha was HUGE! It was a struggle to get it all in one picture but we did! We spent a while snapping pics of the historical landmark, and then headed on back to Mt. Emei. From there, we hopped on a bus back to Chengdu.
Our last day in China had arrived sooner than we knew it. We spent a large portion of our day packing, cleaning, and shopping for foods for our families and friends. In addition, we ate at all of our favorite restaurants around our house. For dinner, James and Delia took us out for some traditional Chinese fish! We drank watermelon juice and a delicious cold bean drink Delia got for us. We reminisced about our time at the panda base, talking about which pandas we liked the best, and all of the people who helped us. Macie and I then took a bus back to our house and finished packing. At six in the morning, we met James and he helped us back to the airport. We said our goodbyes, giving James our final departing gift! Twenty four hours later, Macie and I were back in America.
It hasn’t even been that long and I already miss China so much. Words cannot describe how grateful I am for getting such an amazing opportunity to enjoy a whole new world. I learned an immense amount of knowledge from a whole new language and culture, to tons of information about pandas, research in itself, and what I need to do to further my education. Most importantly, I learned the most about myself, and who I am as a person. Out of all of the things I am going to miss about China, it is the people I will miss the most. We had tons of people offer to help us around the area and take us various places. The panda base people, our Chinese teacher, our neighbors, and a few others; I truly appreciated all of the help they gave us, and if it weren’t for them, our China experience would not be the same. I wish I had more time in China. I know I will go back again someday, I will miss it too much to not. But for now, I’ll enjoy my time to spend with family and friends, sharing all of my memories with them. “It’s not a goodbye, it’s a see you later.” :)

Macie and I posing with our favorite red panda, Xiao Qi. :)

 Our intern friends at the panda base (minus Fei-Fei)
No monkeys here! :(
 Macie and I at the Giant Buddha
One of the views on Mt. Emei!
A famous pavilion located on the trails of Mt. Emei
Our view of the mountain from the Temple of Five Hundred Arhats
 Me and three of the pandas we got to watch, Qi Xi, Qi Qiao, and Zhenduo :)

Shuang and I on one of the last days of work!
Macie, James, and I posing in front of the Golden Panda at the panda base
Leshan Giant Buddha, from the top of the stairs
The crazy stairs we had to go down to get to the bottom of the Buddha!

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