In April 1972, the government of China gave the United States two giant pandas (Ling Ling and Hsing Hsing) as a gift following Richard Nixon’s visit to the country. I saw those pandas right after they reached American soil (or so I’m told). I was 5.
In return for this gracious fluffy gift for peaceful international relations, we gave China a pair of musk oxen. Really? We couldn’t come up with something better than musk oxen?
This week, as is my tradition when traveling for work, I embarked on an adventure in my spare time to see something besides the screen of my computer. As I had not seen the pandas since I was 5, this seemed like a perfect quest. And let me tell you….a simple quest became joyful pandemonium!
The giant pandas at the National Zoo are delightful and entertaining. I watched one climb, take a dip in the pool, and, best of all, sit in front of me and daintily lick an orange and cranberry popsicle. The experience was so moving, I just had to have a panda of my own. So my colleague and I bought pandas at the gift shop…… and that’s when the pandemonium really started.
I learned that many people have misconceptions about pandas. They are actually not lazy. They eat 40 pounds of bamboo a day and that takes walking to find it and a lot of hard work. They also do eat meat at times—they are not strictly bambootarians. They are also not sweet and cuddly. They can be quite aggressive.
Armed with this knowledge, we deemed it important to take the pandas out for some fresh air to see the rest of the city and eat! So, after hours of long meetings, we took Chuck and Elizabeth (we gave them American names) out for a walk. And they really enjoyed the sites.