This morning, Feb. 4, one of Washington’s favorite Chinese diplomats is flying to Chengdu.
Natalie and I are quite familiar with this diplomat, so on Saturday, we went to the National Zoo to say our goodbyes to Tai Shan, the 4.5-year-old giant panda. (And let me just say, I’m slightly perturbed a panda has its own Wikipedia entry, and I don’t.)
I first moved to D.C. in July 2005 about one mile from the zoo. Because it is free to visit (thank you, taxpayers!), and I love zoos, I used to go there at least once per month. The most popular exhibit at the time (and probably remained so all the way up to today), was the newborn Tai Shan.
We’ve kind have had paralleled existences in D.C. Within days of my moving here, he was born. In accordance with Chinese panda diplomacy, Tai Shan was supposed to leave when he turned two years of age in 2007. At about that same time, Natalie and I moved from D.C. to Crystal City.
And now in 2010, Tai Shan is leaving the US of A a few months before I do the same.
I’ve watched the bear cub mature and was glad to have the opportunity to see him one last time over the weekend. And now he is off to the panda equivalent of a stud farm on a panda preserve in China. Too bad that is where our paralleled universes come to an end.
(By the way, for some yucks, check out Stephen Colbert’s wikialtiy page on pandas. And how is it that I’ve never heard of this site until I was doing some research on pandas? I don’t watch the Colbert Report on a daily basis, but I’ve seen it enough that I think I should have been aware of this site.)
So I leave you with two of our photos of Tai Shan. The first one is from his earliest days; unfortunately, we didn’t date that photo so I can’t say for sure when it was from. Based on the clues in the photo, I'd say early October 2005. In the second one, he is munching on some bamboo during his farewell party – cut short by the “snowstorm” on Saturday.
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