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A Guest Blog by Karen Barrett

PB was welcomed with open arms.  He immediately felt like part of the family again and being back made him incredibly happy.  After dinner, Mrs B asked him where he wanted to go for his first day trip.  He had missed the zoo the most so the very next day Jane helped PB into her backpack and they all climbed into the car.

Even after a good night’s sleep, PB was so tired that he fell asleep before they arrived.  He never saw the sign that read ‘Closed to help stop the spread of NoCuddlitis’.  Before heading home, Jane accidentally dropped her backpack and so now, completely unaware, PB was being carried away by the zoo’s security guard.

When PB woke up he peeked out of the backpack, trying to work out where he was.  He was surrounded by stacked boxes filled with objects tagged with different dates; there were posters of animals on a notice board; and on top of a desk next to the door was a small box and a pile of leaflets about adopting animals. 

“This must be the zoo”, he began to muse aloud, “but where is my family?”

The room was dark, and it smelt musty.  He decided this room was not used very often.  I am lost, he thought glumly.

“Lost property!” he exclaimed.  He began to chuckle at the irony that he had found himself in the lost property.  It would have been easy to stay in the backpack and remain in his comfort zone until he was rescued, but he encouraged himself to work this out on his own.

Before he had chance to explore, something brushed passed his back at such speed that he fell against an old buggy, pushing it across the room which knocked the small box off the desk, covering the floor with the keys from inside it.  He hoped they were spare keys for the zoo and not lost keys, so he pushed the buggy against the door, climbed up into it and patiently worked his way through them until one finally fitted the lock.

As he looked around, the zoo was as beautiful as he remembered.  He had not walked far when he saw a tiger.  Although it was sleeping, he could tell it was a powerful beast with large features, and muscles that rippled under his thick striped coat.  PB decided to tiptoe past him and let him sleep.

“I do not miss anything, you know”. The tiger was now awake and looking at PB with his intense eyes below furrowed stripes of black and white.

“I am sorry, I did not mean to wake you.  I just wanted to enjoy the zoo a little before I tried to find my way home.  I am lost… again.”

“Well, I would love to help you.  I have been here for many years and I see lots of animals wandering around when the humans are not here, but I cannot walk very well, so I am no use at all.”

PB was taken aback by the tiger’s perspective.  He might not be able to walk like the other animals, but he had other qualities.  The tiger was kind and attentive in the way he spoke and was obviously knowledgeable and eager to help.  PB politely excused himself then ran back to the lost property room just round the corner and returned with the buggy.

“Can you use this at all to help get around?  I think I would very much enjoy your company on my walk.”

The tiger used his strong front legs to push himself up to a sitting position and, once the gate was open, the two set off slowly on the tiger’s first adventure, using the buggy to carry his poorly back legs.

The rhino enclosure was next.  The rhino seemed sad and when PB encouraged her to share what was troubling her, the rhino stammered and struggled to speak.  PB felt the urge to help and took a moment to think.  If the rhino could carry the tiger on her back, could the tiger be her voice?  The two animals knew it would be a challenge, but they trusted PB.  Before long, they were walking alongside PB; the rhino carrying the tiger, and the tiger helping the rhino with her words so she could join in the conversation.

PB was excited to see a giraffe up ahead pulling acacia leaves from a tree.  Once they were closer, PB shouted to greet him but he ignored them.  The tiger shouted too, but again the giraffe kept pulling at the leaves.  PB did not want to believe that this animal was ignoring them, so he climbed the tree, and as soon as he popped his head over the branch the giraffe jumped with surprise.  It turned out that the giraffe could not hear very well.  The giraffe explained how detached he felt and so PB decided to invite him on their walk too.  PB climbed up his neck and held on to his horns while they continued their walk.

By midday it was turning cold, so PB suggested they retreat into the gorilla house for their last stop.  PB knew it would be rude to bang on the glass, so he waved his arms to try and get her attention.  She looked up from her fruit, squinted, then returned to her meal.  PB thought this reaction was odd, so attempted to gain her attention once more, but got the same reaction.  He decided to take a risk and gently knocked on the glass, not expecting much to happen as the glass was particularly thick.  However, the gorilla did hear him and sauntered over to him.  She apologised and explained that she did not see very well and often felt lonely because of it.  Once again, PB wanted to help so he shared his ideas with the rest of the animals.  Could the giraffe and the gorilla work together if they combined their strengths?  The gorilla wrapped her long arms round the giraffe’s neck and repeated anything that the giraffe did not hear, and the giraffe happily carried gorilla, acting as her stronger set of eyes.

As they left the gorilla house, something caught PB’s eye.  A shooting star lit up the sky then fell to the ground.  Do shooting stars land? he thought.  He said goodbye to his new friends and headed towards where the light had set down.  It took him until late afternoon to reach the furthest side of the zoo but found nothing but a tall hedge.  PB was just about to head back the way he came when he heard a familiar voice behind him.

“Well done, PB, you have done it again.”

PB spun round.  The moor monsters were gathered behind him and looked as happy as if they had been reunited with an old friend.  Once PB had recovered from his excitement, he relaxed and smiled.

“Yes, the animals seem happier now.  However, it did not seem as challenging this time.  I think anyone could have figured out what I did.  But lucky for me, it was me that got to help them.”

“Achievements do not always have to be difficult, and you should not judge your successes by how difficult they are.  You are special in the way you react to situations, you have a genuine love of learning, and you are eager to help others, making friends wherever you go.”

“I am just a typical panda who enjoys learning.”

“We have been guiding you towards opportunities ever since you stepped foot on the moor.  These opportunities have prepared you for your future.  The world needs inspiration and you, PB, are an inspiration to us all.”

The moor monsters pointed to a small hole in the hedge which had now mysteriously appeared.

“This will not take you to the other side of this hedge, instead it will take you on an adventure of your choice, but once inside there is no turning back.  Obviously, this is a risk, but you need to remember that if you want to see things that few others have seen, you need to take risks that few others have taken.”

Although this was a huge decision to make, he now knew his purpose in life; the world needed ‘The Adventurous Panda Bear’!  He knew immediately what adventure he wanted and spoke passionately about his dream to travel the world meeting different animals from every continent.  He then wanted to write books about his discoveries.  The only bad step was the one that did not happen, so he took one step towards the hedge, but paused and turned back one last time.

“Do you know what pushed me from behind on the moor, and again in the woods, and again in the lost property room?”

“Yes, it was Morris, the moor mouse.  He is our protector, and he was following you, ensuring you found every opportunity to learn what you needed to know.”

“And what do I need to know exactly?”

“That you are enough, that you really can change the world if you care enough, that hard work always pays off, and that there is always something to learn.”

The moor monsters wished him farewell before he cautiously walked into the hedge.  As if by magic, the hedge around him turned to stone and, after a few more steps, he saw a beach.  Waiting for him in the shallow water was his ship that he had left at the quayside when he first arrived in England, and already on board was his suitcase and his books which he had had left on the moor.  PB stepped aboard and took out his trusty notebook to make one final note:

‘Do not see a dream
An adventure is waiting
See only a plan’

Special thanks to Carmen Bergmann for letting me share The Adventurous Panda Bear who has been inspired by Challenging Learning.  One day his life will flash before his eyes, and everything he learned from Challenging Learning will have made it worth watching.