The flight to China went smoothly (with the exception of the terminal connection at the horrendous LAX airport) and thankfully all of our luggage awaited us after finally arriving in Chengdu. The wonderful Sarah Bexell was there to greet me, along with fellow interns L’Jean and Valerie, at the airport along with a driver from our new internship at the Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding. There was a lot to take in our first day in China. The first thing I noticed was the whiteness of the sky from all of the smog and pollution. One of our main educational endeavors while in Chengdu will be to teach the visitors at the Panda Base and the children at the summer camps about the environmental dangers of pollution. Besides unsettling smog and heavy humidity, there was much more to take in such as the smells of street food and the sounds of constant beeping as tuk tuks and motorbikes weave in and out of traffic. People on the streets work busily selling their goods and peddling fruits and vegetables. There is much to see in the bustling city of Chengdu!
After getting settled into our hotel, L’Jean, Valerie, and I decided to go get some lunch. It
was an interesting ordeal attempting to order food with no knowledge of Chinese (although I planned on doing a speed language lesson on the plane, I ended up sleeping instead). Even pointing to the pictures was a challenge, to say the least. We finally ended up with dishes we didn’t know we ordered and a very large dish of vegetables after L’Jean tried explaining she was a vegetarian. The great thing about the Chinese people is that they are almost always friendly and willing to help. Foreigners usually provide a good source of laughter for the locals. My wavy red hair also causes many stares and giggles, especially from the children! Although we are still learning to order food, we have made a few friends who sell the equivalent of an American hot pocket with spicy noodles and vegetables–Mmm! We even managed to find donuts during one of our ventures!
The Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding is an amazing site to see and I am excited to have the opportunity to spend the next six weeks interning here! Sarah told us the
history of the Research Base that opened in 1989 and how it started out so small and was used only for research. They never expected that the Research Base would grow to be one of the top tourist attractions around the world in such a short time. Even Chengdu itself has doubled in size within the last ten years with nearly 14 million people currently living in the city. Ironically, the people that love these pandas the most are causing them to dwindle in size due to overpopulation, overconsumption, deprivation of natural resources, and pollution. It is our job at the panda base to educate and spread awareness of the One Health Initiative, which is the interconnection of humans, other animals, and the environment. In order to save these cute and cuddly pandas, we have to work together in order to save our environment that is so detrimental to our health.