My thoughts are with the Calgary zoo these days.
I met the Calgary zoo President and CEO, Clément, while I was still in Chengdu over 3 years ago and having roots in my neck of the woods, we bonded, and we have kept in touch.
As a pambassador, I’m very happy that they’ll be host to the “Canadian” pandas in about 5 years, for the second half of their stay.
But these days, I just want to cry learning about the devastation of the zoo due to the flood.
Here is what Clément just posted on Facebook:
As I write these words, much of your Calgary Zoo sits covered in water. To survey the island in a kayak this afternoon [Friday] was a surreal experience, one I thought I’d never have and hope never to repeat.
The Administration building, SCOW, ENMAX Conservatory and Kitamba Cafe all sit in several feet of water as they sit in some of the lowest areas on the island. Despite the damage to our infrastructure, I am very proud to report that our animals are secure and safe. For this, we must applaud the remarkable effort by so many dedicated employees, particularly those in Animal Care and Facilities, who worked together late into Thursday night to move as many animals as possible to higher ground within the zoo and to our Animal Health Centre.
Despite the many media reports, our big cats have not moved to the courthouse! With the exception of two pot-bellied pigs moved to the City’s Animal Shelter and two zebras moved to the ranch, all our animals remain at the zoo. We are closely monitoring those animals that remain on the island — I checked in on the camels, hippos, giraffes, elephants and gorillas myself today.
I know many employees want to come down to help but it simply isn’t safe at this time. Only essential Animal Care staff remains onsite to care for our animals. From my tour today it is clear there is much work ahead. You can be sure that once the water has receded, you’ll be hearing from your supervisor — we will need the help of every employee and every volunteer.
It has also been inspiring to see the outpouring of encouragement and offers of support from people and organizations across our community and nation as well as from colleagues in the United States and overseas. I have no doubt we will need a lot of help to restore our zoo, so we are grateful that so many friends care and are ready to step up.
The Calgary Zoo will remain closed for the next two weeks. We are developing a plan to resume operations and begin the restoration. Employees can expect to hear directly from supervisors about how you can help, and everyone should continue to watch our Facebook and website for additional updates.
Please take care of yourself and your family. I look forward to working with you to rebuild our wonderful zoo.
It’s great to learn that all animals are safe!
But the zoo is all under water and will need to be redone.
I hope I’ll be able to help, in any way I can.
You can become a fan of the Calgary Zoo Facebook page to get updates HERE
Sorry everyone who follows me… This is long overdue.
I guess the disappointment made me kinda want to forget about all things pandas for a while (as awful as it may seem). Well no, OK, not really… but about what it could’ve been for me, anyways. And it means this blog too… I think my mind did this on it’s own because I really forgot about it!
Here’s what happened, for those who wouldn’t know:
I had been feeling under the weather for a few weeks when I learned I had been selected as a North-American semi-finalist, but it’s nothing new to me so I wasn’t too worried, was just hoping I would feel much better by the time I would leave, of course!
Except I got worse. And eventually realized, a week before I was to leave, that it wasn’t just “normal, sick, me” but it was a sinusitis… needing antibiotics. I went to the clinic, got the meds and a bronchitis diagnosis (on top of the sinusitis!)… but was not worried. I would be alright in plenty of time. Alright, I was a bit worried… I figured I would be feeling a bit sick and tired, not 100%. I felt my chances of winning and going back to China were not as good, and it would be much harder to get through the 3 days, and I might not be able to have as much fun. But I was sure I COULD do it, no problem.
Except I didn’t get better. I got WORSE. Much worse.
24hrs before I was due to leave, I was so weak I couldn’t even stand up.
So I had to contact the contest organizers and withdraw. I was devastated, crushed.
On the day I was supposed to leave for Washington, I was back at the clinic and learned I had a pneumonia on top of all the rest, which is why I was so sick. I had to be on complete bed rest for a full week, and rest for a few more weeks after that.
Even had I wanted to not listen to the doctor and go anyways… I couldn’t have. I could barely stand on my feet for 30 seconds or walk 3 steps and I was at a risk of fainting even just sitting. Some people told me : “you are making a wise decision, health is important”. Those didn’t understand! I didn’t make a DECISION… My body decided for me, I had absolutely no choice!!! Had I tried to go, I’m guessing I would’ve simply fainted somewhere on the way to the luggage registration at the airport and would’ve ended up at the hospital.
I’m still recovering from that pneumonia, getting very short of breath as soon as I do a bit of exercise and caught another bronchitis last month!
In other words… it’s been a very crappy few months health-wise.
I was happy to see my friend Ylenia go back, wish I could’ve been with her… it was pretty hard seeing the 2.0 competition unfold, I won’t lie. But at least it’s more panda awareness and that’s always a good thing!
We are October 2nd in the evening, and a few hours ago I learned I was chosen as one of the American semi-finalists.
The last 3 weeks have been pretty hard on me. As I said, one reason I almost didn’t enter the contest was having to ask people to vote for me… I hated it the last time, and it lasted about 10 days if memory serves right… this time it was a complete 21 days.
But I am proud of myself… for pushing through it. I’m not even being sarcastic. That was hard for me, but the goal was there to keep me going!
So I used all the means I could think of, and used my experience from 2010…:
I sent a FB message to all my contacts… which almost blocked me from the website, because, as I learned, sending one message to a large number of people is the same as sending a LOT of messages and is automatically flagged as spam or abuse… The exact number isn’t listed anywhere, but I now know it’s between 50 and 150…
I posted on my FB everyday, trying to find different ways to ask people to vote… and trying not to always post at the same time either.
After about a week, I created an event on FB, which lets you “invite” all your contacts (without being flagged…), and people get notifications. In 2010 my friend Emilie had suggested that idea and it had made a huge difference. It did, once again!
Each time I posted new information in the event page, everyone would get a notification and I would see a big boost in votes.
Remembering that not everyone is using FB, or that even those who are members don’t necessarily go every day (I was thinking about my best friend who doesn’t even log in every month!), I sent a regular email to every contact I have, telling them about the contest, suggesting they log in to FB to vote for me… and I even suggested, mostly as a joke, that it would be the perfect time to join the website!
I had the shock of learning that my aunt actually did!!!
I learned that the email was a good idea when 2-3 friends told me they would not have known without it, and would go on the website just to vote for me.
In the first few days, just like in 2010, there were bugs with the app. At first people using the french page to vote would get an error message and couldn’t vote; then sometimes hitting the “hug me” button (votes were hugs this time!) would not always work (no matter the language)… but after 48hrs that was fixed.
For those first few days, also, the only link I had led to the general page and people had to make a search with my name to vote for me. The procedure was quite complicated, and since I had explained it all in detail (because people had asked so often, not understanding how to vote for me), it seemed worst, I think, and some were discouraged to vote by it.
Others did not vote because it was through an application that you had to approve and agree to have it have access to your personal info. Most people don’t like that, and I’m sure many would not have done so if it wasn’t to help me and if I didn’t vouch for the organization.
Luckily, in the middle of that first week of voting, and before I created that event, I got a personalized link, and the bugs were over, so everthing went much more smoothly.
Just before the last week of voting started, I used Twitter again, and asked every person or organization I follow (with a few exceptions) to vote for me and retweet (share) the link. On about 150 queries, 6 did.
But it wasn’t in vain, as the messages I sent were public and it’s possible hundreds or thousands of people saw those.
Sadly, just like in 2010, I did not see any impact. But I still had to try!
I also contacted the local newspaper, half to inform them of the “story” because they had been so interested last time… half in the hopes that they would print my call to vote! In 2010 I didn’t have enough time between the start of the voting and the newspaper deadline for it to have been possible.
Well, the newspaper did print my story, without even an interview, the journalist just used the information from my email and an archive picture… he made a half-page! And I got a few more votes out of that.
At first, people could only vote once a day, for one contestant.
After a few days it changed and it became 10 votes per 24hrs period, and for as many contestants as you wished. Which I liked since I could then vote for both my friends JJ and Ylenia!
I ended up in the top 3 in America and in the top 12 in the world. With over 5400 votes. I don’t know exactly, since I wasn’t home when the contest ended, and they removed the results immediately.
I hope we will know how many people entered, worldwide and by region… and I would love to know exactly where I finished and how many votes I got!
The voting ended yesterday at noon (my time), and I thought we wouldn’t know the results until tomorrow… because it says on the website that they’ll announce it tomorrow… But I forgot they had to confirm with everyone first… So I got the email this afternoon, at 3h30pm, telling me I had been selected!
I had to sign a form and send it back with information, like the closest airport and my contact information.
I got some information, like the fact it will be airplane transportation, they will reimburse travel insurance, and that the event will take place from 3pm on Oct. 15 to 3h30pm on Oct. 17… but that’s it.
I have no idea what we will do.
Ashton, who contacted me with the good news, said I would have more details, including my flight info, “soon”. I can’t wait!!!
I must say, I was very happy… but what makes me the most emotional is, like in 2010, the fact that it’s thanks to all those people who helped me by voting. My friends and family members who took time every day for the last 3 weeks to vote for me. Some of those, who have shared the link and pushed their contacts to vote for me… Strangers who have voted for me and gave me words of encouragement!
And today, after I announced that I had been selected, and thanked everyone… so many have congratulated me already… I had tears in my eyes.
So… now I have 2 weeks to get ready for a short trip to Washington!
At midnight, Monday Sept. 10th in China, the Panda Quest contest app was launched on Facebook.
In the following minutes, I saw the homepage and already, my decision was made and I couldn’t believe my eyes!
I went to read the detailed terms and regulations… and it was true!
My good friend Jeroen from Belgium had told me the previous day that, from the rumors he heard, it looked like “this time it would be even bigger”… and how was he right!
The word that had me hyperventilate (in a good way) was “global”. Not as in “global search for a pambassador” like last time… but as in “the winner will go on a global quest for pandas”! I was thinking I was dreaming, but when I read the details, even the small characters of the rules… indeed we were talking about going all around the world! My dream!!!
This time, to participate, you only have to register. And then you have tasks (quests) to complete, which each give you points. You need to post a short presentation of yourself. You need to choose a banner that will top your profile page and complete it with personal pictures from your FB (Facebook) account. You need to ask 3 friends to write a very short recommendation and post it on your contest profile page. And the biggest “quest” is posting a 60sec. video. But the video isn’t the entry.
Another main difference is, people start voting immediately and judges will select semi-finalists from the contestants with the most votes.
There will be 4 regional semi-finals. The regions are China (they are not using FB), Pacific-Asia (like Thailand and Australia), Europe/Middle-East/Africa and America.
In each region, judges will select 24 semi-finalists from the top 40 vote-getters.
So 96 people will be semi-finalists.
My semi-final will be in Washington, D.C.
At the end of the semi-final, 4 will be chosen (out of 24!) to go to Chengdu… for a 3 weeks final! It’s already much more interesting than last time, much longer!
But only 4 out of 24…
And then, after those 3 weeks, there will be 3 winners out of the 16… and those 3 winners will go on that global tour for 5-6 months next spring. They will visit pandas on all continents, Mexico, Scotland, France, China, Japan, Australia, USA… It’s totally incredible!
So, less than 1 hour after the contest was launched, I had entered!
Well it’s been a bit over a year, and it seems both like it was in another life, and like it was a dream!
I wanted to tell those who followed me last year where I am right now!
I am in the process if writing a book (in french, for now) about that amazing adventure.
I am also putting together a photo book of the panda pictures.
And, last but not least, I’m starting to give lectures about the adventure as well.
The first one will be at the end of November.
I realized that my story can inspire people and I am happy to tell it and relive the memories, and I hope some good can come out of this!
Thank you to everyone who have followed me and showex support, it meant the world!
CCTV (China’s national TV channel) special page for Panda Project, where you can see all videos :
Project Panda page whith almost all newspaper articles and video links, from before we got there to the end of the project :