In the course of the 4th National Giant Panda Census, there were innumerable stories that we continue to cherish tenderly in our minds. I remember Yingjingj a pilot site for the census, where the Paocaowan area possessed such a maze of a terrain that even we got lost and our guides did not know what to do. We took out our relief maps and PDAs, which proved to be of great help and led to the guides’ admiration of modem science. These hi-tech solutions sparked recurring discussions among the guides and led to their appreciation for this modem device.
I remember Leibo in March, where I heard the roaring of spring thunder for the first time in my life and devoured the special dish of the Yi people, tuotuo rou (pork chunks). I was in awe of the mystery of nature and quite curious and amazed at the peculiar customs and habits of this minority ethnic group.
Another fond memory was the collection of panda feces. In order to find the feces, we crossed hill and dale in the vast expanse of the panda habitat, following any traces they may have left behind. When our legs were heavy with fatigue and our patience was worn thin by the long journey, a bit of giant panda excrement would come into view, seemingly out of nowhere, filling us with wild enthusiasm and a renewed determination. Giddy joy over the discovery, followed by the meticulous measuring, sampling, and filling out of forms marked a typical workday for the census team.
Still another vivid moment was hearing the rainfall in the still of the mountains. With the relentless and monotonous pitter-patter of rain on the canvas of my camping tent came my nostalgia. I thought about my home, wife, child, and dear friends who were far beyond the mountains and rivers. In the solitude of my tent I sometimes listened to the radio that I brought along to ward off loneliness and boredom.
The camaraderie between team members also lingers in my mind. Supper was never served until the last of us returned from a mission, team members vied for the ^ farthest transect line job, and everyone had space to sleep in a tent even when there were not enough functioning tents to give each man his own. This group of tough guys who drank hard and spoke roughly to each other also showed gentle consideration for one another through their actions.
Many years in the future, I believe, the mountains that bear our footprints and witnessed the solidarity between comrades through harsh weather and rugged terrain will visit and revisit us in our dreams.