Eric sees the WWF-World Wildlife Federation, no, not the one with Mr. Savage, where bright blue uniforms are draped over well-meaning but accidentally offensive kids- mostly undergrads trying to pay for school, convinced they are doing meaningful work, convincing the ignorant to Do Good, like secular missionaries: Unfortunate faces for new colonialism, all tied to the symbol of this really cute bear. He sees the logo bounding toward him
Rachelle sees the bear and says whoa WHOA
Mikaela does seethe Hogan- the Hulk, well, Kungfu Panda, specifically- because of how he once dressed up as Kungfu Panda for the Halloween episode of the reality show. She doesn’t care about that connection, because she’s focusing on, well, the bear pounding toward her. She really felt the ground rumble, reminding her of the time that she stood too close to the tracks with her father for coins to be flattened
Charles,the husky,growlsand backs away
Graham seeshis grandfather’s old carpet- a real, and very dead grizzly- how it smelled like bonfire and sugar, which he would later learn to be the Glenfiddich Fifteen Year. He remembered how his white nose-hairs curled, how he had stopped trimming them since all of the funerals… He remembers pandas, too, in the wilting pages of some National Geographics in a contemporary Jenga stack by the fireplace, and, well, the severed head on the wall
The Guide has her arms up in the Stop Right Now, Thank You Very Much pose
Mary sees water, the white tip of wave over rock, about the row that morning and the duck that climbed onto her paddle
Nick sees the bear and reaches for his iPhone: The Vine of a real Panda bear- think of the likes- and to make an emergency call, but (1) he didn’t speak Cantonese, and (2) especially not the local dialect; (3) the Guide wasn’t listening to him, and (4) they were trespassing.
Vita sees the bear and thinks about other things: She doesn’t see a bear running, or understand the very real, very serious implications of the thing. She doesn’t focus on the rumble in the grass, or Rachelle’s whoa whoas. She sees a freeze-frame of the panda’s approach, pre-pounce, imagines a monkey riding it- Curious George, her favourite. She sees the outline of a robot, not a monkey, seeing that she’d recently seen Star Wars… She imagines the sprockets, gears, metal loops, and a long, half-bent tail, the unconscious trace of a purple ladle, from home. She screams out her best imitation of Jabba the Hut, what she thinks a two-hundred and thirty pound panda would understand as Sit: Stay.
This is what the bear sees. This family of white people, evaluating her, bringing along their memories, biases, and what they want to draw from her land: photos, trinkets, phrases. Because the bear is not like them, and even more ‘foreign’ in a country that isn’t theirs, their curiosity fuels some documentation, judging if it acts like a normal, North American bear, how it’s abnormal, because it’s from the East, good intentions fueling hierarchies, when the bear, well, just wants to say hi, maybe. They assume, from movies, maybe, that panda on hind legs means attack, when it might mean hello. They know how to say hello in the local dialect from a joke that the Guide made when they first met at the hotel.*