The National Zoo sponsored a trip to China in September 2008 and I was fortunate enough to go on it. Initially we weren’t sure that we would even be able to see pandas on the trip because of the devastating Wenchuan earthquake that struck in May 2008, but we did. We were one of the first groups of tourists who visited the Sichuan area and we spent an awesome day in Bifenxgia. One of the highlights was being able to spend time in the panda kindergarten. I decided to stay near one panda (although there were several to play with) and afterwards I asked the keeper to write down her name for me, Xin Nier. This is a photo of us in the panda kindergarten as well as a photo of her after she ate – a bit messy, I’d say.
When I got back to the states, I realized that I could “adopt” her through Pandas International and have been renewing the shared adoption since that time. It is my special Christmas present to myself.
I was able to go back to Bifengxia in 2010 on a trip sponsored by Pandas International – this time it was to volunteer with the pandas at Bifengxia. I asked the folks at the Wolong Panda club office if there was any way that I could volunteer to clean and feed Xin Nier, or at least spend time with her. Her keepers said that was fine so I was thrilled to spend the day with her (and her roommates). I wanted to spend as much time as I could watching her and I did that in my spare time on the third day. I just hung out and watched her and her roommates interact and of course, eat bamboo.
I have to laugh because every update that I’ve received has had comments on how much she likes to eat – that didn’t change at all. Someday I hope to go back to see her again, but until then I excitedly keep an eye out for photos and updates on how she is doing.