Five years ago today

Filed in Personal, Stress Busters

Today is the 5th anniversary of the Wenchuan earthquake. Today is one of the reasons I am here in Ya’an – to be with the giant pandas and their keepers who lost their home in Woloing Panda Centre that was extensively damaged by the 5.12 earthquake.

Thanks to the existence of Bifengxia Panda Base, Wolong was able to keep most of its pandas together. Bifengxia was originally set up in 2003 “to avoid panda fatalities and the spread of infectious diseases in the Wolong captive population … Several pandas were taken to the base in order to secure the safety of the entire population as a whole.” (Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda official guide)

This means Wolong’s captive population is located in two places at any time – an excellent strategy, as it turned out, especially in light what happened during the 5.12 earthquake in 2008.

There are many things i am grateful for. Giant pandas, Wolong and especially Bifengxia Panda Base are some of them.

The road to Ya’an

Filed in Travels

I’m writing this in my room in Ibis Hotel Ya’an. The road here was not littered with earthquake rubble. In fact, today’s journey was a journey like all my previous journeys to Ya’an. Perhaps the only difference this time is I have a travelling companion, a new friend from Malaysia; while we have been corresponding via email, we did not meet until at the airport about two hours before the flight.

We’d arrived in Chengdu late last night and stayed at a motel within walking distance of XinNanMen bus station. This morning, we got to the bus station at 8:10 a.m. I went to the ticket counter to ask the time for the next bus to Ya’an and was told 8:20 a.m. Such good timing, so that we didn’t have to wait long to be on our way to Ya’an.

What can I say about the bus ride? It was uneventful. The ride was smooth, there was little traffic, and in fact, the highway looked better than it did during my August 2011 trip. No disruption of any sort along the way. Actually, it wasn’t that uneventful; I had someone to chat with and make the time go faster.

We arrived at the Tourist bus station in Ya’an about two hours later. As there are two of us, I’d arranged for Mr Yang to fetch us but he was nowhere to be found. A phone call later, during which we made alternate arrangements, and we were both on our way to Ibis, each in a trishaw all to ourselves.

Mr Yang showed up while we were checking in; he’d got us another driver and was there to introduce us. And just like that, after putting our luggage in our rooms, we were on our way to Bifengxia Panda Base.

Like the highway from Chengdu, the narrow road to Bifengxia looked better than it did in some of my previous visits here. The day, too, had been unusually hot, and there’d been no recent rain to wash any of the mountainside onto the road.

Later, when I saw friends on the base, one of them commented that I dare to visit at a time when there’d been an earthquake recently. For me, it’s an opportunity to experience something new and to be with my beloved pandas and their keepers at such a time.

Come to think of it, while waiting to leave the airplane last night, I felt it sway. Was that an aftershock I experienced?

Bifengxia Panda Base remains closed to the public; so is the Bifeng Gorge scenic park. The main entrance to the Gorge was an unusual sight today – devoid of tourists. But the volunteer programme has reopened; this is what Soraya, my travelling companion, is here for. There are other volunteers here, too, including two women from Brazil and a woman from Russia who finished her four-day experience this evening and left for Chengdu to go on to Beijing and then home.

Perhaps Bifengxia Panda Base will be reopened to the public soon.

Updated

Filed in Test Stuff

Plugins updated – Akismet and Wordbooker. But Akismet requires API key.

Posting from my Tabbie

Filed in Tech Stuff

Thanks to the WordPress for Android app.

Hopefully, this will get me posting more often on Chet’s Chatter.

My one-in-a-million photo

Filed in Stress BustersTags: , , ,

During my first panda volunteer trip, to Wolong Panda Centre in September 2007, there were four pandas I knew and was up close with, the three I was helping to look after – Ling Ling, Hai Zi and Xi Xi – and my adopted panda, Feng Yi. I made sure to ask the names of the pandas I was looking after; years from now, I wanted to remember not just that I helped look after pandas, but who they were. There were also others I knew by name (from the Web) but did not actually see, or if I saw them, did not know who they were.

During my free time, I would walk around the Centre, look at the other pandas and photograph them. In my photographs from that trip is a set showing pandas in outdoor yards on the other side of the breeding centre. I had worked at the breeding centre (aka maternity ward after the breeding season) as Hai Zi was in confinement there, and Xi Xi was thought to be pregnant and was living there, too. The yards were connected to the rooms in the maternity ward, so these pandas in the yards were either new or expecting mothers.

I recently showed these photos to a good friend who has a knack for recognising pandas. She identified each of these pandas to me. Among them was a panda who would never be photographed again. I got three photos of this panda, and here’s my favourite, and probably my one-in-a-million photo.

Unknown to me at the time, I had photographed Mao Mao who will never be photographed again because she died in the 2008 earthquake that devastated a big part of Sichuan Province and caused extensive damage to the Wolong Panda Centre.

This photograph was taken on 9 September 2007. Wen Yu, her last cub, was born 15 days later on 24 September 2007.