After our group trip to Old Fuzhou in the morning, we went back to the hotel, ate some snacks and leftovers, and then decided to make the most of the fact that it wasn't raining and try to find the Panda Zoo by ourselves. We knew you could walk there by way of the trails around the lake and we just assumed it would not be an issue to follow some signs along the way.
We set out in the direction we knew we had seen it mentioned on a sign and enjoyed the scenery along the way. It was to become an epic adventure.
It was a beautiful time of year- there were so many flowers blooming everywhere(so nice after leaving cold Fargo where spring hadn't quite emerged yet) and everything around the lake is in pristine condition. You can tell the grounds are very well taken care of. In China there are sweepers everywhere- they sweep all day and keep everything so nice. We always said hi to them and smiled but it seemed like they weren't accustomed to being spoken too. I wonder if they are just a fixture in the background that everyone is used to?
We kept taking little breaks to look in the lake at the fish.
There are food vendors here and there- I always wanted to try things but it seemed too risky so I didn't. Probably better to be safe than sorry, right?
Then we stumbled upon the most interesting, out of the ordinary thing ever. There was a crowd of people all gathering around a man that was holding a trash bag. He set it down and we approached to get a better view. People had begun praying and chanting. I got a good visual and what it appeared to be, although it makes no sense to me, was a bag of wiggling, writhing eels of some sort. You can see the bag in the picture below(but not a great shot of what was in it- sorry) and then the people praying. I would have taken more pictures but I didn't want to be disrespectful since it seemed spiritual in nature. I hope to find out someday what this was all about!
Look at this amazing tree!!!
Ok, so here was one of the signs that we took a picture of so that we could show people if we got lost. We quickly became unsure of which direction we should go in and so we tried to ask people. No one spoke English and no one seemed to have any clue where Panda World was! It was strange since it was on so many signs.
Finally an older man who was out for a walk with his radio playing music from his bag(many people do not bother with earbuds here) took pity on us. He motioned for us to follow him. Which of course we did. He was so sweet to help us.
Like many of the men his age in Fuzhou, he was very smile-y and friendly. And he really liked Ruby. The older women, on the other hand, mostly glared at our family or blatantly gave us dirty looks. I am not sure why. I tried to ask our guide and they guessed that maybe they disapproved of how many kids we had or that we were adopting a Chinese baby and then taking them away. It is hard to guess though really. It was only the older women who did this. And not so often that it bothered us. I always just smiled and said hello to them and kept walking.
Our journey was full of beauty but it ended up being very long. Way longer than we anticipated. A few times we thought we knew what we were doing(by where we thought a sign was pointing) and started to walk that way but then our helper(who after awhile fell back but still followed us) started yelling and pointing a different way. John became leery of his directions but I basically insisted we listen to him. Obviously he knew better than we did!
We FINALLY arrived and waved goodbye to our new friend. He smiled and left. I felt so bad that he had to walk so far for us but we were so thankful. I really don't think we could have found it on our own! He was like our guardian angel for the day! :)
So here's the deal about Panda World: it wasn't worth that long walk. I'm sad to report that it was very run down, depressing and concerning. I do not recommend going there. We were the only visitors there besides the workers(which there weren't many!) and it felt eerie and a bit like you were on the set of a scary movie. By the pictures we saw, we surmised that this had once been awesome during it's hay-day. That day has long since passed. The conditions were not great and things had not been kept up. In the museum there were jars of human fetuses. I'm not kidding. That is when I was like: aaaallllright, let's get going... and steered the kids out of there. What on earth!?
As you can see, there were indeed pandas. But not many.
We stopped and watched some red pandas doing tricks for awhile but we have those at our zoo in Fargo so it wasn't super exciting. Although ours do not do tricks I guess.
Ruby mostly just hung out in her Ergo with Baba.
Here's MB wearing her panda attire and indicating that yes, indeed, there are pandas here.
Sidenote: the other group of people in the park helped us to know how much to pay when we got there- the young man knew English and was very helpful. He argued down our admission price with the gate attendant because he said they were charging us too much for the kids. He was probably in his late 20s or early 30s and was there with his parents. His mother became very interested in our family and after we had all gone in and started walking around, she kept making him approach us to ask questions. He was so apologetic but you could tell he had better obey his mama- ha! She wanted to know why we had so many kids, why we would want more, did Ruby have a cleft lip, why did we want to adopt a child with special needs, on and on. She wasn't being mean but just matter of fact. After this went on for a bit(going back and forth) he approached us one last time and said that his mother thinks we are a wonderful family and that she wishes us well and thanked us for taking care of Ruby and giving her a family and a good life. I was very surprised and looked over at her after he translated all of this to us and she had a huge smile on her face and was waving at us.
I guess we won her over!! :) I told him to tell her thank you very much and we feel very fortunate to have Ruby as our daughter and that we promise to always take good care of her. They all smiled at that and kept waving at us. This exchange did not upset me, it actually left me feeling very happy that they seemed to understand how much we loved Ruby and that we didn't believe that having more kids was a negative- but really a positive... that our big family only meant more love.
The kids posed in front of the impressive bamboo.
The final "show" we watched on our way out was the park's oldest panda. Here's what he did: he SLOWLY walked to a tree and a keeper put an apple on his belly. Then he promptly fell asleep. I think Mickey has it recorded. We all just stared at the panda then at each other. It seemed a fitting end to the weirdest "zoo" experience of our life. Ha!
Well, at least we have another interesting story to tell! And I guess the adventures on our walk there made it worth it in the end. But right after this picture we thought, crap- now we have to walk ALL THE WAY back to the hotel! Ha!