Somebody's Having a Birthday Today!!

Trip Start Jun 24, 2010
Trip End May 18, 2011

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Flag of China  , Sichuan,
Friday, October 29, 2010

What to do!? What to do!? What do you do for your beautiful little daughter on her 8th birthday when you're in Chengdu China which is on the completely opposite side of the globe from your home and away from all your family and friends????????   Well, like the old saying goes: "when in Chengdu, do as the Chengduans do!"

Chengdu is most famous as the home of the internationally acclaimed Center for Panda Research, so upon asking Lisha what would be most special for her birthday, she decided that what she’d really like to do is see the pandas!  So that’s what we did!  It’s not easy getting there though, but it is certainly worth the effort.  After a 2-hour road trip driving on some beautiful and very remote country roads that took us through the midst of some outrageously gorgeous landscapes of fields and mountains and terraces of crops being tended to by their hard-working owners, we arrived far up into the steep-sided hills of the mountains at the entrance to the Panda Reserve.   This is a research center dedicated solely to the welfare, safety, health and protection of pandas that was established after the big Sichuan Province earthquake two years ago destroyed their original home.  This had been a wild animal zoo, but the fate of the pandas was more important, so they moved the big animals out and brought the pandas here.  It is extraordinarily remote, and thus a very quiet and peaceful place, nestled amongst the trees, bamboo groves and thick native vegetation far removed from the sights and the sounds of the bustling civilized world we left behind a couple of hours ago.  And oh my, what a visual delight!  And we’re not just talking about the scenery!  Walking along the array of winding, up-and-down pathways that meander amongst the varied and expansive natural safety enclosures of the panda’s homes, it’s an exciting surprise to turn a corner or round a bend and find yourself stopping dead in your tracks as you come upon those delightfully tranquil black-and-white bears just taking it easy lumbering through the woods or snoozing up in the tree branches or just reclining against a log chewing on bamboo for their tasty snack treat.

Lisha was certainly having a good birthday getting to do something this special, but we wanted to make it extra special by giving her the opportunity to hug a real panda.  But our desires didn’t quite align with the realities of the panda’s daily schedules, as there are only certain very short times when outsiders are allowed to interact with the pandas in their enclosures, and we just happened to be far removed from those times.  Drat!!  Oh well, even though there was some teary-eyed disappointment, Lisha took it in stride and was very happy she at least got to see the pandas up-close and in person!

With the few days we were in Chengdu we celebrated her “birthday week” with other fun events too!  We went to a traditional Chinese arts performance called Shu Feng Ya Yun at the Sichuan Opera House where we enjoyed the amazing performances of a variety of musicians, quick-change artists, comedians, life-size puppets, and a hand shadow artist.  We went to a place called the People’s Park, a large rambling park in lush surroundings in the middle of the city where the kids could just run around and be…………well, kids! 

We had a great dinner specializing in the local cuisine called Hot Pot, where we chowed down on some incredible food in a cook-your-own style (rather than the typical community pot).  It started out with appetizer munchies of candied pecans and spicy peanuts, followed by a cavalcade of ingredients to toss into the boiling cauldron of extraordinarily flavorful beefy broth: beef, lamb meatballs, fish, lotus, Chinese potatoes, mushrooms, garlic cloves, cilantro, endive, spinach, and then accompanied by a dipping sauce concocted of sesame oil, minced garlic, spring onions, parsley and salt! Good golly, what a fabulously tasty feast!   Hot Pot (and Sichuan food in general) is known for its outrageous hot spiciness, so we kept stressing “bu la”…No Spicy!!  And our big birthday meal was darn near perfect!  Just the right balance between a host of intense flavors and a little bit of hot spicy zing!

And of course, we just had to have the requisite birthday party, even if it was in the confines of our little hotel room.  It was quite the festive event!  Complete with balloons, gifts, and even a birthday cake bought by Jim, our very kind tour guide, we had a pretty darn good party in honor of the birthday girl!  She was giddy and happily wired for her whole special day!

                                                            HAPPY 8th BIRTHDAY, LISHA!!

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John Neff on

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! jpn

diane barrett on

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LISHA!!! You are growing up so fast. You are a beautiful princess. Thank you for sharing your birthday adventures. Benjamin you could be a grand documentary reporter, you do a great job on the videos. May our Lord bless you BIG. diane barrett

James D. Reddick on

Happy Birthday Lisha. The cake looked so good, yummie!!!!!!

Keri kauffman on

Hi john and family! Just a note to say hi !! Love the pandas!!!Glad to see that your haveing a great time. What a experince for you all.Things here are the same,getting colder and well see how this winter go's !!! Take care and keep the pitchers comming!!! Have a nice day (:

LIese on

Happy Birthday Lisha! Glad you had such a fantastic and memorable day! :)

Unc Warren on

Happy birthday Lisha. Just think 8 years ago auntie Zen & I were married. coincidence? Nope, you're meant to be part of our family.
Love you.....

mary nelson on

Happy birthday Lisha! So, who's birthday is next and where will you be? what an adventure!

Vicki Whitaker on

Pretty cool way to spend your birthday!

Rebecca, Wim, Hanne and ? on

Shame on us for not checking in sooner! But we stil wish you a very very happy (very very) late birthday!!! Seems like you had a wonderfull time!!
Big panda hugs from all of us!

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