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Pandas and the rain

I actually enjoy this city, Chengdu China, home of over ten million people and lots of trees. Bryan and I arrived yesterday without any delays or problems, getting to the hostel from the airport was a bit tricky but somehow we managed.

The people here are very nice and helpful - like most big cities this one is full of fashion. This doesn't mean much for the men but I notice women wearing lots of whites, clingy clothes, and pointy toed stilletos that look very painful. Although I obviously stick out and I am able to catch (and exchange) a few smiles, for the most part people don't pay attention to me. It is nothing like the 24 hour gaze I experienced in India.

The weather is chilly and cloudy, I think it even rained last night. It is nice wearing some of this winter gear I have been lugging around (it felt totally useless in sweltering Bangkok). The city is nicely laid out; lots of greenery, stores, wide well paved streets, plenty of room for bicycles (always a way into my heart). It is entirely modern from its beggars to its internet, from the atm's to the metered taxis. In fact, this is the closest I have felt to the U.S. since I left six months ago. The only difference is the food and the fact that only one out of a thousand people speak any English. So far I have gotten around fine with my destination written on a card and using what Paulo Coelho calls the "language without words."

After my last entry you'd never believe it but I braved another temple. This one was an impressive garden dotted with large shrines housing huge buddhas whom I did not recognize. I was the only westerner there but many locals were praying and lighting incense - so much for religion being the opium of the people.

Before the shrine I experienced panda bears - there is a breeding facility on the outside of town. Very similar to a zoo, I spotted a few baby bears (meaning they were about my size) but no adults. The layout was gorgeous though and I had fun wandering around among the bamboo (the panda's were behind barriers) on old worn paths. There was a tremendous amount of peaceful solitude there, perhaps because of the winter and the weather (it is also a good hour outside of town). The babies were adorable, playing with each other and munching on bamboo - I can't believe that when they are born they weigh about the same as an apple! Talk about growth spurts, rumour has it they are only six months old but that is tough to accept.

In addition to the panda's I also got to appreciate peacocks, cranes, swans, several kinds of ducks, what I think are egrets (small, white, with long necks) and a very lost looking goat.

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