Peacocks, Pandas, and….Sleepwalking Girls? Oh my!

大家好! (Hello Everyone!)

Today is probably one of the hottest days since I’ve come to Chengdu; it’s in the 90s, though it feels worse because the sun is out AND there’s humidity. Being the Seattleite that I am, after enjoying the sun for about 5 minutes, I went back inside to sit in my air-conditioned room and write my blog.

I never had time in my earlier posts to talk about working out here, but I thought that I should. In the first few weeks I went running a lot with other students in the program, usually along the river next to campus. The first time wasn’t so bad, we ran 3 or 4 miles and I had no problems. However, each time the bad air in Chengdu became more and more apparent and I started having difficulty breathing, so I stopped running. My roommate and I are doing a 30-day ab challenge and there’s a group of us that like to go out and play ping pong, so I still get some exercise. The point is, I don’t think I ever appreciated Seattle’s amazing air quality this much before.

One thing I’ve noticed about Chengdu that even separates it from Beijing is the pet culture here. Dogs aren’t really kept on leashes, but cats are frequently tied to posts or kept in cages (though there are also a large number that wander freely). In Beijing, pets are almost always kept on leaches for walks, even if the owners still don’t bother to pick up their poop while walking them. At first we thought there were just a lot of stray dogs, but it soon became apparent that they had owners, but the owners just didn’t bother to leash them. It just seems that pet-owners in Chengdu don’t take good care of their pets, for example, a lot of the dogs have mange, limp, or clearly never get bathed. Another huge difference between pets in America and here is that almost none of the dogs and cats seem to have any interest in being petted. In fact, a lot of them flinch away when we put out hands for sniffing, which makes me think that they are used to being hit and generally abused. The following picture is of the saddest kitten I’ve seen here. She was kept outside of a small food stand inside a cage, so that she had to stand on bars. It had been raining earlier and she had very little coverage, she was mewing so much we were afraid she would go hoarse.2014-07-10 13.45.27 (1)

Two weekends ago (June 28th) we were taken to Dujiangyan, an ancient irrigation site, and Mount Qingcheng (青城山 qīngchéng shān). It was raining that day, so tromping around on the bridges of Dujiangyan wasn’t particularly fun and it was quite difficult to hear our tour guide, so I don’t really feel I learned much from the trip (cover photo is one of the entrance bridges to Dujiangyan). Qingcheng Shan was more interesting. At one point we took a ferry across a very visually appealing misty lake; at first I believed that the mist had to be real because using fog machines to create atmosphere on a mountain just seemed too excessive. I was wrong. It became pretty clear, especially on the ferry, that not just one, but several, not very well hidden fog machines were pumping mist out onto the lake. I enjoyed the trip because it was a semi-good climb and I got to eat fresh, peeled cucumber, which was nostalgic.

Last weekend (July 5th) we went to the Panda Breeding Center, quite close to the city of Chengdu. Besides giant pandas, the park also had peacocks (therefore my oh-so-clever title) and red pandas (!!!). I’m going to be honest here. I think giant pandas, while cute, are probably some of the most lazy, uninteresting animals on the planet. All they do is eat bamboo and sleep, even the younger ones are rarely active. Also-I think a lot of people don’t know this-but pandas are omnivorous; they like to eat meat, they’re just too big and slow to catch other animals, so all they eat is bamboo, which is not very nutritious. It’s like a vicious cycle where they don’t get enough energy from bamboo to be able to chase and catch meat, so all they can do is eat more bamboo or sleep. Red pandas were much more interesting. Our teachers had to drag us away from the red panda exhibit, they were so cute and fun to watch! They were climbing up and down the trees, playing, they even seemed to pose for pictures (the one below was one of the latter). Abramson_3_3 Abramson_3_2

And now, the explanation for the last part of this post’s title.

Before I begin, here’s a little back-story. My roommate falls asleep really easily. And when I say really easily, I mean she can fall asleep anywhere, anytime; I’ve seen her fall asleep sitting, standing, while holding her phone above her face (I’ve heard that dropping a phone on your face is not a good way to wake up), even while walking. So sometimes, when she goes to someone else’s room to watch TV or do homework, she occasionally falls asleep there, and they just let her stay there, so she doesn’t come home that night. I’m used to this now, so I’ve also taken to leaving the door to our room unlocked in case she forgot her key. We both also tend to get up quite early because every morning we do our ab workout, except the 30-day challenge’s built in rest days.

Back to the title. Wednesday night, July 9th, was one such night in which my roommate did not return to our room. Around 1:30am I woke up thirsty, so I drank some water and went back to sleep, vaguely noticing that my roommate was not in her bed. At 6:30am I woke up with my alarm and went to the bathroom to start my day, noting on the way that my roommate was back in her bed. Suddenly, the door to our room opens, my roommate walks in and says “You can go back to bed! Today’s our rest day!”

My reaction is along the lines of a hoarse, panicked yell.

Then my roommate says “Is someone in my bed?”

At this point I’m just hoping that my sleepy brain misinterpreted a lump of bedding as a person so I say “Are you sure it’s a person?”

“Yes, it’s a little girl.”

So sometime between 1:30am and 6:30am, an 8-ish-year-old Chinese girl wandered into our room and fell asleep in my roommate’s empty bed. We figured that she was probably from the room next door, so we knocked, but since they didn’t answer, and the girl’s ability to keep sleeping was impressive-she just rolled herself into a blanket burrito in response to our efforts to wake her-we just let her stay in our room. Around 7am I confirmed with a maid (服务员 fúwùyuán) that the girl was from next door, and the maid told us that we could go to class as normal, they would let the parents in to get their daughter. Problem solved. Moral of the story? Never leave your door unlocked while sleeping, finding a little girl in your bed is probably the least bad thing that could happen.