Ever since we moved closer to the National Zoo, the Mister and I have become total zoo fans and frequent visitors. Like the rest of DC, we were pretty thrilled when the Zoo’s giant panda, Mei Xiang, gave birth to a tiny healthy panda cub this past summer. We’ve eagerly followed all the news updates about her and watched her exploits (mostly sleeping and snuggling) on the zoo’s panda cam.
Last weekend, her exhibit finally opened to the public, so on Saturday, I woke up early, threw on my warmest layers, and walked over to the Zoo. This week’s frigid temps and piles of snow seemed to keep the crowds at bay, at least for a little while, and I was able to walk straight into the exhibit and get my first in-person glimpse of the little cub. All of last week’s troubles melted away as I watched the tiny panda scramble all over her mother, nurse, cuddle, and generally tumble around.
There were sort of a reverent hush among the early morning crowd, all huddled together and snapping pictures while wearing an amusing array of panda paraphernalia. Children would enter the exhibit and say, “Bao Bao?,” in their tiny voices, and the crowd would part to let them stand in front and have a peek at the tiny panda. What is it about pandas that inspires so much awe in people? Probably the extreme real-life cuteness, but still it was almost as interesting to watch the people there as to see the cub herself. I have a feeling I’ll be visiting the Zoo even more often this year.