Pandas, Pandas, Pandas! Even Cooler than You Think!

rick huggy panday

You’re looking at — forgive me — the dream of a lifetime: a personal, face-to-face meeting between my husband Rick and Ching Ching, a 1-year-old giant panda.  He’d wanted it forever.  After all, he spent a pretty large percentage of this trip’s temple visits taking photos of resident dogs and neighborhood monkeys while everyone else went after the remarkable beauty of the temples themselves.  We set a pretty large detour on our China visit so this could happen and I don’t think he’s come down from his happy place even three days later.

This is the Dujiangua Base of the China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda, in Shiqiao (‘Stone Bridge’) Village,in Dujiangyan Prefecture, 40 miles from the city of Chengdu.  Our brilliant guide Selina, suggested that, since Rick wanted to “hold” a panda, which the better-known larger facility no longer permitted, we visit this brand new almost-open facility on a cool, grey morning.

Unlike the closer, more frequently visited Chengdu base, Dujiangua sits in a lush, quiet forest, panda enclosures set into the woods, a path allowing visitors to be just yards – and a low wall – from them.  It’s so quiet you can hear them chew their bamboo or draw a deep breath.  No noisy crowds to mar the sense of peace provided by researchers and volunteers, just a sense of closeness, and wonder.

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When someone we love is able to do something this personally meaningful, it brings at least as much joy to the rest of us. The additional gift: meeting these amazing animals and being so grateful to be along for the ride.

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Cynthia Samuels

Cynthia Samuels is a long-time blogger, writer, producer and Managing Editor. She has an extensive background online, on television and in print, with particular experience developing content for women, parents and families. For the past nine years, that experience has been largely with bloggers, twitter and other social media, most recently at Care2's Causes Channels, which serve 20 million members (13 million when she joined) and cover 16 subject areas. In her three years at Care2 monthly page views grew tenfold, from 450,000 to 4 million. She has been part a member of BlogHer since 2006 years and has spoken at several BlogHer conferences. Among her many other speaking appearances is Politics Online, Fem 2.0 Conference and several other Internet gatherings. She’s also run blogger outreach for clients ranging from EchoDitto to To the Contrary. Earlier, she spent nearly four years with iVillage, the leading Internet site for women; her assignments included the design and supervision of the hugely popular Education Central, a sub-site of Parent Soup that was a soup-to-nuts parent toolkit on K-12 education, designed to support parents as advocates and supporters of their school-age kids. She also served as the iVillage partner for America Links Up, a major corporate Internet safety initiative for parents, ran Click! – the computer channel - and had a long stint as iVillage's Washington editor. In addition, she has developed parent content for Jim Henson Interactive and served as Children’s Book Editor for both Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Before moving online, she had a long and distinguished career as a broadcast journalist, as senior national editor of National Public Radio, political and planning producer of NBC's Today Show (whose audience is 75% women) where she worked for nine years (and was also the primary producer on issues relating to child care, education, learning disabilities and child development), and as the first executive producer of Channel One, a daily news broadcast seen in 12,000 U.S. high schools. She has published a children’s book: It’s A Free Country, a Young Person’s Guide to Politics and Elections (Atheneum, 1988) and numerous children’s book reviews in the New York Times Book Review and Washington Post Book World. A creator of online content since 1994, Samuels is a partner at The Cobblestone Team, LLC, is married to a doctor and recent law school graduate and has two grown sons who make video games, two amazing daughters-in-law and three adorable grandsons.

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