Monday August 9, 2010

Thought for the Day: You can turn off the sun, but we’re still gonna’ shine.

Today we had morning classes, and the rest of the afternoon was free. Class flew by, mainly working on pronunciations of different, but similar sounding words. (For example, rule / rural, lead / lad, wheel / will…)

After classes, we had lunch at the hotel. Bao Li ordered the perfect amount of food this afternoon… Shocking! Definitely a memorable event in our short two week stay.

With lunch and reviewing the team goals under our belt, (literally and figuratively…) my dad (Bill) and I decided to cross off the Kunming Zoo and Wild Animal Park off our viewing list. Bao Li assisted in our communication to the taxi driver. She even had to pull the “they’re helpless Americans!” card to get him to agree to drive us to, and wait for two hours while we roamed the Zoo. Luckily, he agreed in the end, after warning us that normal people can spend up to five hours in the Zoo. Well, we aren’t normal. We’re crazy Americans, substantially worse than usual, given that we’re from California!

Anyways, the Kunming Zoo and Wild Animal Park was pretty interesting… We were each given two tickets, one for the entrance to the Zoo, the other I translated as “electric bottle car”… Not really sure what that was for. Turns out, it’s your pass to get on an oversized golf car and ride around the Zoo. Once we saw the map of the Zoo, I was grateful for the “electric bottle car”. The place is huge. It would have taken much longer than two hours to walk the park…I guess the taxi driver really did know what he was talking about! It would take days to walk and see each of the different animal enclosures.

The Zoo had some “normal Zoo creatures” – giraffes, antelope, assorted bears, monkeys, apes, tigers, pandas… They had a couple of unique animals indigenous to China, and raccoons, which I found to be a little odd in a Zoo, but they were cute, so I was ok with it. There were three pandas that I saw. I’m sure they’re quite active when they’re a bit cooler, but today it was pretty sunny out and they were sweating, if you’ll excuse the idiom, like pigs. They looked pretty miserable… And I thought it was hot in jeans and a t-shirt.

While exiting the tiger exhibit, after watching people who had bought chunks of meat and had them tied on bits of string, attached them to a bamboo pole and were swinging the meat over the tiger’s enclosure, we noticed signs attached to the fencing that led us through the far end of the enclosure. Two of them I found to be really amusing. The first – PLEASE DO NOT FEED FINGERS TO TIGER! The second – Only those who strongly believe in Rebirth should risk going near. Good ol’ Chinese humor… I think?

The notable unique thing about this Zoo – the animals are free roaming. But some of them (not the big cats, don’t worry) have open enclosures, which, while being an oxymoron, was really interesting. People were allowed to walk through the deer, antelope, and peacock enclosures, while the animals roamed around. Many times, they ventured close enough to touch. While I decided it was probably not the most intelligent idea to touch some of these animals, many of the visitors risked their fingers to pet a deer. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it… It was definitely a personal person – to – animal experience. If you have the chance, visiting the Zoo is worth the effort just to be so close to these normally wild animals. Not for the faint – of – heart, however. An emu almost took a bite of my cell phone… Close call.

We returned to the hotel, and went to dinner with the team, less Grace, who was attending Sean’s 21st birthday bash. Che Che’s is dubbed an American restaurant, which proudly proclaims, under its name, “We use no MSG”. Well that’s reassuring. We had two pizzas, half fruit, half meat, and another one a whole meat – mushroom, as well as an herb – roasted chicken. It was actually pretty good. What I found most amusing was that Bao Li, who ordered her Asian dish after we ordered our American dishes, received her dinner substantially earlier than we received ours. I guess the staff had to go through the bookshelves and dust off the American cookbooks. The wait made the food taste better, so perhaps that was part of the strategy?

After dinner, my dad and I ran to Wal-Mart, to re-stock our chocolate supplies, which were running dangerously low. I’ve decided the walk to Dairy Queen is much shorter than to Wal-Mart, and, in the end, more rewarding. Although, the DQ route it is more dangerous, containing many dangerous large – intersection crossings. How much are you willing to risk to get your sugar cravings satisfied?

I’m happy either way.

– Marissa

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