It's great to be back at the Chengdu Bear Rescue Centre

There's a wonderful expression here in Chengdu, China where it is said that "the dogs bark at the sun", it being such a rare occurrence nestled as we are, deep in the valley. And today the thick grey cloud covering our bear sanctuary is testament to that quote. But oh how wonderful it is to be back "home" after three.....long.....covid......years.

From my window I can see the House 10 bears exploring their enclosure, lying contentedly in their hammocks, or using chubby legs to climb their platforms and bag the last tomato or head of green cabbage before someone else gets the prize.

I don't think I've stopped smiling since arriving here last week. Driving through the gates on Wednesday it was unusually quiet until the car turned the corner and a cheer went up from a sea of smiling faces - and here I was, home. In that second I felt that nothing had changed, and everything had changed. The years rolled back to see my beloved China family looking just as they had before - but amongst them were new faces and new stories to share too.

And right by my feet was Muppet. Sitting quietly and contentedly as he had when I last saw him in January 2020. Older, fatter and just as unkempt, bless him, and the tears rolled down my face for the love of the mud magnet I had missed so much.

I love this country more than I can say - I love our people here and their resilience and kindness in the face of so much adversity and sadness. Over these past 23 years we have suffered fires and floods and earthquakes, and always without fail our colleagues here have never wavered in their determination to protect this place of peace and kindness.

Now with COVID settling down and Spring granting us a little sunshine and blue skies, we continue to focus on our most treasured patients and residents, the bears. Everyone has gone above and beyond in settling in the bears from the ex-bear farm in Nanning, who were given permission to move after 8 long years. The last time I saw them they were in cages - and now they're lumbering out of their dens and onto soft sweet grass.

And Muppet? With never-ending thanks to our astonishing vet team, especially Molly and Ryan, for his care and happiness - our routine was as if a gap in years had never happened. This morning we strolled around the sanctuary together while some of the newer bears did a double take and curiously followed Muppet along the fenceline for a while, before ending up outside House 1 and his favourite "salad bar" treat where some dropped cabbage leaves for the bears became his mid-morning snack.

I am grateful beyond measure to our entire team here in China, to the organisation, to the authorities and to you - because this sanctuary continues to be "food for the soul", and our Nanning bears are home. And I am home too.