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By Veialu Aila-Unsworth

The Giant Panda has put a spell on me. I love them. I worship them. I now rank them higher than camels on my Coolest Animals of the World list (and camels have held that position for over 10 years).

The intensity of my love is rather unusual considering I've only just met them.  I have grown suspicious of this swift-forming love.

I figure that sometime during my visit to the Panda Research Base in Chengdu (China), the Pandas kidnapped me, brainwashed me, then using a Jedi-Panda Mind Trick made me forget the whole ordeal.

In my flashbacks the Pandas are different. They're dressed in white coats, holding laptops and there's a map on the wall marking the countries yet to conquer. The girl Pandas are sexy but not objectified by the boy Pandas who respect their intelligence and female strength.

Is it possible that the Giant Panda has cunningly convinced us humans that their species is "endangered" when in fact they're all hiding somewhere in a futuristic bamboo city, growing their army and taking turns to do their Tour Of Duty in the wild and in zoos?

Perhaps they've even convinced the scientists and doctors at the Panda Research Base (PRB) to dedicate years to panda breeding and artificial insemination programs to increase the panda population. It's rather genius.

Just how to you know what's the truth and what is panda propaganda (also called pandaganda)?

According to the PRB, Pandas have survived for the last 8000 years; evolving from meat- eaters to vegetarians (although on rare occasions eat meat). But maybe they've evolved more than we think. Scientists say, today only about 1000 Pandas exist in the wild and less than 100 in zoos. Of course the pandas want us to think that!

Pandas have us believing that they are close to extinction because:

  • Pandas usually give birth to tiny twins but mum can only take care of one of them so one always dies (Lazy!)


  • They have sex about once a year 'cos generally pandas are loners so finding a mate takes a while. And they don't necessarily wanna jump into bed with the first panda they see (Prude!)

  • Male pandas have a small penis so fertilisation is harder. (Bitter ex-girlfriend panda probably leaked that one)

  • Pandas eat bamboo but when bamboo flowers they can't eat it so bamboo isn't always readily available (Fussy!)

  • To make matters worse, Pandas' digestive systems don't effectively get the nutrients they need from bamboo so they have to eat heaps of it each day and conserve their energy when they're not eating (Excuses!)

  • Farming and deforestation has taken away their home (Pandas should become farmers!)

  • Last century, poachers hunted Pandas for fur (Well, they strut about showing off their fur so maybe they were asking for it!?)

Now those gullible scientists at the Research Base have developed world-class breeding programs to help future generations of panda. No, not panda porn to help put them in the mood.

Hmmmmm it all sounds too dramatic to be true... Is it a panda conspiracy or are they really on the brink if extinction?


By Veialu Aila-Unsworth

So while I was busy partying, writing and meeting new people in Mumbai, I kind of forgot that living in a new country and new culture means many of the simple things that make you 'you', disappear. Poof. Just like that. Call it Magic, call it The Risk or call it something more sinister like Cultural Suffocation. I shall call it: my Discontinuity in Space where the flow of my experience is either cannibalising or renovating my existing reality. In other words, I’m changing.

Unravelling can be a messy business. Unravel a ball of string and you get a knotty mess. Unravel some trousers and the wearer is a blushing mess. Unravel the human Sense Of Self and you’re left with... an emotional mess.

So now what? Do you brush it up and bin it? Glue it back together? Ignore it and have another drink?

In the beginning there is you. With your 25kg suitcase and naïve optimism. Standing at the airport feeling oh so empowered. Then... take away your friends, take away your family, take away your lifestyle, take away your diet, take away your cultural etiquette, take away your ability to walk down the street without feeling like a freak, take away your support network and you’re left feeling like an idiot. A lost idiot. A lost idiot with 4 left feet, 3 arms and eyeballs that are beginning to see the world as Dr Sues: surreal, fluffy, wobbly and subtitled with a bunch of made up words.

So you cope by being quieter. Especially around people who are different to you, to avoid offending them (God forbid if I’m too open, too loud, too quiet, too random, too sexual, or just not enough of something else!)

Things you take for granted become an issue like what to wear (is this too flirty?), what you eat (how do I eat this??), where you walk (why is everyone staring at me?), where you go (how do I cross the road without being killed?), who you trust (is he trying to get into my panties?), and then you start to miss dumb, meaningless material things you don’t have with you (electric toothbrush, duvet, feather pillows, 42 inch plasma TV, jewellery, clothes, gadgets, teddy bear...) and before you know it your confidence has plummeted ‘cos the things that came so naturally are now clunky and clumsy. This is the Unravelling.

Add to this Unravelling the excitement of new love and a brand new job with a new boss... and boy oh boy, what an emotional rollercoaster ride! (Boiling your head in a barrel of tar maybe a less scary option.)

Now the irony is that I’ve moved country three times in my life, so you’d think I would’ve seen this coming... but I kind of forgot ‘cos I was too busy swinging between Poofing myself one minute and then guzzling up this new experience with gay abandon the next. It’s exhausting. Juggling the You with the Mumbai-You is weird. Figuring out the rules while simultaneously being You is like dunking a chocolate biscuit in a hot drink – hold in too long and it breaks off, but get it just right and it’s a treat!

But then slowly, this new You starts emerging... this You that sheds it’s dead skin, finds new routines, accepts the challenge. Perhaps the change is small at first. You may smell a little different or watch an ant. The angst falls away. The confusion falls away. And what is left is... is...


I’ll have to let you know.

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