Posts filed under Travels

She’s here

Filed in Stress Busters, Travels

Personal photographer to the San Diego Zoo’s giant panda family, Mollie Rivera (aka Rita Petita on Flickr) arrived in Fuzhou at 12:22 p.m. this afternoon.

She’ll be visiting Basi and gang at Fuzhou Panda World and her babies Hua Mei, Mei Sheng and Zhen Zhen in Bifengxia Panda Base.

And yes, I’m here, too, arrived around 10:45 p.m. yesterday night. I have to be here, or I wouldn’t be posting this.

No access

Filed in Tech Stuff, Travels

I’m off to the land of no access to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Dropbox. But I will be keeping in touch through this blog which is set up to cross-post to Facebook. And apparently I can post photos to my Facebook account via email. We’ll see …

25-year-old mug

Filed in Memories, Travels

I’d bought this red mug during my first trip to England in 1985. We (aunt, cousin and cousin’s family) were driving up to Manchester to visit cousin’s husband’s cousin and aunt, and at a rest stop somewhere between London and Manchester (a cafe with a pottery store), I saw and fell in love with this mug.

Its pristine condition shows that I’ve not used it much over the years. I didn’t want to risk breaking, or even just chipping, it, so I’d kept it away all these years.

There was another reason – tea stains that clung on and refused to be washed off. But recently, I tried a tip I’d read online – I soaked the mug with water “laced” with a denture cleansing tablet and the stains came off but not 100%. Maybe I’ll soak it again. But will I use the mug? Nope. I still don’t want to risk breaking, or even chipping, it.

That 1985 trip was a turning point in my life. I fell in love with England, having experienced it first-hand and not just through books and magazines. I told myself I would return and stay longer, but I knew the only valid reason to stay longer was if I returned as a student.

A year later, I was retrenched (laid off from work). It was the start of the 80s recession. Instead of looking for another job just to get by, I told myself it was time to go back to school. I spoke to my parents about it, and my mother said “good idea, we support you but we don’t have the money to help you.” She spoke to my sister who said I should’ve thought about it earlier (literal translation from what she said in Cantonese).

So I got to return to England, thanks to my sister’s generous financial support. I got to stay there longer (3 years) and legally as a full-time student.

Oh, I’ve digressed from the story of this 25-year-old mug …

An amazing end to an amazing trip

Filed in Travels

With all my travelling to the Sichuan Province in the last couple of years, this had to happen eventually. And it did, in the last minutes before my return flight from Chengdu finally took off after an almost hour-long delay.

The captain had made an announcement that our 40-minute delay would be delayed by a further 10 minutes. The Chinese lady sitting beside me spoke out that she wasn’t sure if he’d said it would be another 40 or 10-minute delay (the announcement had been in English). I offered my help, and soon we were chatting.

There were the usual travel-related questions. I told her I’d been visiting giant pandas. To my surprise, she replied that she’d lived near Wolong as a child. Most people, when I tell them I’d been visiting giant pandas, assumed I’d been visiting Chengdu Panda Reserve. This lady didn’t. She assumed Wolong, and she assumed right.

I went on to tell her I’d been visiting Bifengxia, where the pandas from Wolong had been relocated after the earthquake. At the mention of “earthquake”, she tapped her companion’s arm to get his attention and said this was his first flight since the earthquake. She got very excited and her Mandarin picked up speed. I heard the words “earthquake” and Yinsiu, a place name that’d figured during the earthquake. She said something about him being an “earthquake something-something”, which I interpreted (wrongly – my Mandarin’s not that advanced) as “earthquake rescue worker”. It was only when I heard the words “metal clips” and “all over the body” that I realised I was in the presence of an earthquake survivor from the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

I asked him a little about his experience and later wrote up the following notes in my travel log:

Met an earthquake survivor on the flight. His first flight since 512. (512 is the name given to the earthquake by local Chinese, taken from May 12, the date it happened.)

Was in a meeting in Yinsiu with the earthquake happened. Was trapped for 3 days. Not scared during the 3 days, only after. 65 people, 9 survived. Nearly had his left leg amputated. Lots of metal clips in his body.

And then I decided to ask him to write down his name next to the notes I’d made. He was surprised. “My name?” he asked. After which I got his girlfriend to write hers down, too. She wrote it below his.

Mr Guo Yang, a survivor of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake. From the little he told me of what happened, he impressed me as a brave man who never doubted he would be rescued. Cheerful and gentle, too, from the way he spoke with his girlfriend.

I’d wondered if he walked with any limp and had my answer after we landed. After clearing Immigration, I saw them at a distance and noticed he did walk with a slight limp. That was the last I’d probably see of them. But I’d never forget him or his story.

My best meal at Bifengxia Panda Base this trip

Filed in Food, Travels

It’s the Chinese National Day today, and the start of a seven-day holiday for the whole country. Approximately half the panda team is on holiday and with many visitors expected over the next seven days, those on duty will not have time to go for lunch in the canteen at the staff quarters. Instead, the canteen will be sending a food van (Bifengxia’s version of “Meals on Wheels”) around to every department and exhibit.

Around 11:15 a.m. this morning, I saw a couple of the team members carrying a bowl and pair of chopsticks each. Then someone called out, “It’s here!” Melody from the Panda Club office asked if I’d like some lunch. But I didn’t have my own bowl and chopsticks. Instead, my lunch came in a set of three paper bowls and pair of disposable chopsticks.

The first bowl had white rice, the second bowl a mix of sprouts, stir-fried pork and cold meat, and the third bowl cabbage soup. The fourth bowl, which had white rice buried beneath the sprouts, stir-fried pork and cold meat, was Melody’s. We ate at the coffee table. Levi, with his own metal bowl, was eating at his desk, behind his computer monitor, but soon came to join us. We ate and discussed panda stuff and I had the best meal of my trip to Ya’an, and on the last day, no less.