A Panda from an Indian Zoo

I wish I was a Panda from an Indian Zoo.

Listen up and you’ll want to be one too.

Because when you’re a Panda from an Indian Zoo,

You’re Black, White, Asian, and Indian too!


You’d meet the Indian government,

And go on a World Tour.

You could cross every border

As a great ambassador!


You would represent four groups,

And be strong, steady, and true.

And everyone would want to know

The Panda from the Indian Zoo.


But when you’re a Panda

From an Indian Zoo,

When there's a problem,

They all turn to you!


You must set the example

In how you behave.

You have to be kind.

You have to be brave.


So when you feel a hissy fit,

Rising up in your chest.

You must take a deep breath,

And stay calmer than the rest.


They will criticize you.

They’ll gripe and they’ll moan.

They’ll complain until you scream:

“I can’t do it alone!”


And you won’t be alone!

Be realistic!

None of us are only one color,

One trait, or one characteristic.


Look closely, you’ll see:

We are all Pandas from Indian Zoos.

We’re made up of many ingredients,

Kinda like a stew!


You're a color, nationality,

Origin, and age.

A gender, profession,

Orientation, and heritage!


You represent many groups,

Which is hard in itself.

But more important than that:

You must represent yourself.


No one will judge on color.

By the time you are through.

They’ll see lots of things,

When they look at you.


So watch what you say.

And watch what you do.

And behave like a Panda

From an Indian Zoo.

The Root of (Most) Evil

In South Africa, the history of racism slaps you in the face.  It isn’t that their record is any worse than others.  It’s just much more recent.  The Apartheid regime wasn’t voted out of office until 1994.  That was two seconds ago.  Which means someone from my generation would remember being definitively classified by his or her color.  That struck me hard—apparently I’m very protective of my generation.

Being in South Africa is like being dropped in my grandparent’s time.  And just like the frog in the boiling water anecdote, the racism burns.  But despite it’s recent racial turmoil, South Africa isn’t a hateful place.  It is a place that’s overflowing with hope.  This hope is of a people who wanted change and saw it happen.  A people who were recently granted their freedom and don’t intend to waste it.  They’re also learning to hate many of their current politicians (a basic right of all democracies).  They have a long way to go—but don’t we all?

The reality is that we’re all a little bit racist.  Not all our racism is hateful, though most is hurtful.  And the slope to hateful racism is slippery and dangerously treacherous because racism can sound so reasonable. 

The Apartheid regime labeled their system “good neighborliness” and a “celebration of differences.”  “Separate but Equal” sounded so fair.  Hitler’s book, Mein Kampf, is apparently very well thought out.

“So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.”
-Benjamin Franklin

Racism is the single greatest evil I’ve witnessed in my life and it is responsible for some of the greatest atrocities of our time.  It takes sensible men and women and turns their hearts hard and visions red.  So what do we do?

 Well firstly, since we’re all a little bit racist, you have to wage a constant and ruthless war on racism in your own heart.  Work every day to judge a person based not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character (to paraphrase a man who knew what he was talking about).  And that’s the easy part.

 We’re all also responsible for representing our own race. 

 I’m a white girl.  And I know exactly what racists think of me.  So I’ll uphold the good and combat the bad by overcompensating constantly to prove racists wrong.  There is nothing more abhorrent than hateful racism being proven right. 

 This fight is too important to rely on the Government (though Governments are equally responsible).  It requires a thorough examination of your own heart and your own skin.  Only knowing yourself will allow you to move forward.  Ultimately, racism will only lessen with each generation and we must fight for even that small progress.

When I think of my grandparent’s generation, I’m appalled by their mentality on race.  And I pray our grandchildren feel the same way about the racism of our generation.  I hope they’re mortified that we could be this way.  I hope they’re shocked. 

Let’s pray that they are horrified by our mindset instead of stuck in the same one.

Speaking of the next generation, here’s a children’s poem I wrote to help discuss racism with little ones.   So sit back, relax, and enjoy the story of A Panda from an Indian Zoo.

How To Pick A Pack

As usual we did loads of research and there is no limit to opinions.  From the saucy with snarky nomad to the analytical from our fave A Little Adrift.  The skinny- this is a search you gotta do in person.  So read the articles and know what YOUR trip will be.  Then head to the store with the widest selection and the best associates.  Just like online dating, you can't trust the picture or the online description.  

Our Priorities

  • Hip straps to help with weight balance
  • Small pack section that can be separated
  • Multi entry point for oganization
  • Water bottle pockets

In the end, Ryan decided on the Gregory Baltoro 75 Pack and Blakely went for the Osprey Aura 65 AG EX Pack (AG stands for Anti-Gravity.  NDB).  

Last piece of advice from our amazing REI Associate Alison- Comfort is King.  Put weights in it, walk around, get a feel.  You'll be together for a while so you better love each other (the online dating analogy continues...).

Month + Country Itinerary

(Best viewed with google maps...)


AFRICA: South Africa


AFRICA: Zimbabwe, Zambia


AFRICA: Kenya 


AFRICA: Egypt (Possibly Morocco)



SOUTH AMERICA: Argentina + Chile


OCEANIA: New Zealand & Australia


SE ASIA: Indonesia  & Philippines 


SE ASIA: Thailand & Myanmar (Cambodia)


SE ASIA: Vietnam (Laos)

ASIA: Nepal + India (Holi March 23)


ASIA: India + Bhutan


Turkey (possibly Jordan)


ASIA: Japan & China



List of Vaccines

Remember: Even with this list in mind you should also consult your doctor.  Keep in mind your destinations and type of travel.  Also realize your own personal level of paranoia.  Peace of mind is worth a lot.

The Usual Suspects (These are vaccines you should already have.  But be sure you're up to date):

  • Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR)
  • Tetanus
  • Chickenpox (Varicella)
  • Polio

Next Level (These are still fairly common and definitely needed for travel):

  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever (Important: you need this vaccine to get into some countries.  When you get it ask for a yellow book.  No this isn't code, it's the proof.)

The Serious Shots (Consider these depending on your destination and type of travel):

  • Japanese Encephalitis- You should consider this if you'll be in Japan over a month or if you'll be visiting rural areas in Japan or spending a lot of time outdoors.
  • Rabies-  Crazy expensive but also a crazy scary disease.  Talk to your doctor about whether this is right for you (how's that for opting out of telling you not to get it and getting sued?).
  • Malaria- See Rabies.  There isn't a vaccine for Malaria so you have to take pills.  We'd advise the daily pills since those have less severe side effects.  The weekly ones can make you go kookoo.  And we're kookie enough, thanks.

We ultimately opted out of the Serious Shots.  Reason being: Our Japan trip doesn't qualify as high risk;  Even with the Rabies vaccine, you still have to go to the hospital. And for Malaria, we go back and forth but for now are opting out.  Not only are Malaria tests and cures reasonably cheap, contracting the disease very rarely fatal.  Just stay very wary of flu like symptoms and take those tests like a cray.