On a wall inside the Panda House, I saw a collection of letters to the pandas written by children. All the letters were on the same kind of tablet paper, and all began with the words “Dear Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling.” These were clearly not letters spontaneously composed by panda-loving children across the nation. Apparently, a first- or second-grade teacher in Maryland had taken her class on a field trip to the zoo and then assigned her students to write letters to the pandas.
Most of the letters were entirely panda-focused, consisting of expressions of admiration (“I think pandas are really neat!”) or questions (“What does bamboo taste like?”). But one letter stood out from the bunch. It said:
Dear Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling,
I liked the hyenas best.
[kid’s name here]
I don’t remember the kid’s name, but I remember thinking to myself, “Someday this kid will rule the world.” I imagine he pleaded with his teacher to let him write a letter to the hyenas, but she insisted he write to the pandas instead. So he followed her directions verbatim, while still saying what he wanted to say.
I’ve often wondered where that kid is now and what he’s doing. Of course, he’s not a kid any more; he’s probably about 28. And it suddenly occurred to me last night that this newfangled Internet-thingie might help me find out what happened to him. Hey hyena kid, are you out there?