Travels without Porpoise, part 3

The animal keeper took a bowl of green apples, unlocked a gate and took me down into the panda compound. Mr. Panda was fast asleep. She went over, shook him by the shoulder and yelled until he groggily sat up and saw the apple. He immediately took it and started eating, slowly, as pandas do–rather like humans eating corn on the cob only with a lot more finesse. The woman told me to go over and pet it. Meanwhile, a large crowd had assembled on the other side of the fence to watch me, the panda and the trainer.

I gave the trainer my camera and for the next ten minutes had a great time petting and kissing the animal. The panda took no notice of me except to take more apples from my hand, except for one time when I must have scratched a spot on his head he especially liked. He stopped eating, turned his head and attempted to kiss me on the face. “What big teeth you have,” I said, pulling back. Truth be told, he didn’t smell that good either, but I didn’t care. His ears were especially delightful, swiveling almost 360 degrees.
After that, I tried to see the Lesser Pandas, but they were hiding. I went back to my hotel, paying about half what I’d paid the taxi going to the zoo.
August 15
I decided to eat breakfast in the hotel dining room. You may have noticed there isn’t much eating in this story. That’s because I wasn’t eating much (what else is new?) The coffee shop was filled with French tourists. The tablecloth showed evidence of breakfasts past, perhaps as a means to showcase the antiquity of the city? The waitress was as indisposed to work as any hotel staff I’d seen, and equally as efficient. In succession she made separate trips from the kitchen to bring toast, then the egg, then the glass of juice, then the coffee, then the napkin—which I had to ask for—then the jam, and butter last. After I’d eaten most of this, she brought me some pound cake. She evidently took pride in her job skills because she placed each item on the table with a flourish. I found this all to be amusing but from their body language and tone of voice I knew the Frenchmen were displeased.

Back to my hotel room. The TV was showing COPS this morning, a broadcast from Hong Kong. Designed for foreign tourists, the room had many fine amenities. Inside the bathroom hung a diagram of the bathroom plumbing, labeled in Chinese to show how to use the shower. The bathtub was clearly identified as a bathtub–as if it could be anything else? On further reflection, because I’d once seen a sign in Tibet warning not to keep chickens in the hotel rooms, the possibilities were vast. However, my room cost about 55 USD and I felt that any Chinese who had the money to stay here would know how to use plumbing. Perhaps these directions just follow the general trend here: better to cover all the bases. On airplanes the safety movie included along with the usual talk about exits, etc., explanations on how to open the tray from the seat back, how to work the reading light and a drawing in side view showing a man sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper, smoking a cigarette, with the international sign of red circle with line through it to indicate not to do this. The segment about emergency slides showed people, supposedly in a time of great danger and stress, jumping up and down on them, bouncing like they were in an amusement park. But I digress.

After checking a city map—this hotel had one in the room—I went down and got a taxi. But the doorman decided that I couldn’t possibly want to go to “that” place. In China, they only want tourists to see new, clean, modern areas unless the spot has been designated as a tourist destination, but because I wanted to sketch, and wanted quite the opposite. Even though I told the taxi driver where I wanted to go, he began to drive where the doorman told him to go instead. I pulled out the map and asked in Chinese, “Where are you going?”
To be continued…

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~ by mickeyhoffman on March 14, 2011.

3 Responses to “Travels without Porpoise, part 3”

  1. how big was mr. panda? how did he feel? i heard koalas REALLY smell bad. remember mad magazine’s take on national geographic’s title page that included ‘why pygmys smell bad?’ you’ve got to start thinking book about this china writing especially if you’re going this summer. you were there at the beginning, how different and same it will be! jude

    • His fur wasn’t smooth like I expected, it felt spikey and didn’t lie flat like cat fur. I don’t remember that Mad magazine story but I can imagine…

  2. Wow. Mr. Panda sounds wonderful. Hotel bath-tub? Hmmm. And taxi to where someone else says you want to go… Sounds like quite a trip.

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