How I met the Panda Woman

Katerina, CZ

“When I was a child, approximately ten years old, I went to a fancy little fair in Brussels near Gare du Midi. I found my first panda teddy bear there, I spent money to buy it to sleep with it in my bed,” the brunet lady is telling me the story standing in the door of her very nice house. Her name is Laurence and certainly not only for me she is the Panda Woman.

Laurence is 48 years old, works in nursery as a secretary and has two children, two girls. As she told me, both love the giant pandas as well. One of the most wonderful moments in her life was the trip to China. “When I was forty years old I went to China in Chengdu with WWF to better understand how the giant pandas grow up and give the birth, which is so difficult in an artificial environment, as it was proved by research. And imagine I had a chance to carry in my own arms one little panda baby. It was amazing,” the youthful looking woman remembers her dream trip to China.

Little treasures

Why I called her the Panda Woman? Because from that moment at the little flea market in Brussels she felt in love with the giant pandas and became a big fan of these black-and-white extremely protected bears. Since that moment she has been collecting all the stuff with the motif of the panda bear.

My name is Katerina, I am on maternity leave and since last year I have lived in Brussels with my husband and our little boy Filip. Every time I was passing the house with blue windows and the statues of panda bears behind them I was curious who lives there. And why he or she exposes these statues?

Few days ago I have finally gained enough courage and dared to ring the bell and with full of anticipation I was waiting who opened the door. I was lucky. Laurence, one tiny dark-haired woman, was at home and asked me how she can help me.

So I told her why I am standing in front of her house. “You know you´re not the only one who takes pictures of my windows. Besides those displayed statues, I have dozens of other little pandas, sometimes also very small ones. Some of them are made by Swarovski crystal. Maybe in total amount of all things I might have 3000 items,” she answered. She has been collecting really everything: small statues, pictures, small decorative things, teddies, clothes, toys, bed sheets, clocks, calendars, art pieces and you can even find picture of panda on the mat. Just every little piece means treasure for her.

Pandas are everywhere

After few minutes she invited me in to have better image about what we were talking about. It was breathtaking. The giant pandas were everywhere: in living room, in the kitchen, above the stairs, on the walls. One thing surprised me the most. The toilet room seems like a little panda cave. All the stuff – from the tiles over the toilet seat to toilet paper – everywhere you can find the motif of the giant panda. “Ones we were with my husband in Turkey, walking on the street and suddenly we found a shop with all sanitary stuff. There I saw something, what I had not seen until then – the toilet seat. I am very proud of my toilet room. I like it very much.”

Sometimes she found little present in her post box. “From time to time I receive present from the person living in the neighborhood. Sometimes it is a little panda or a postcard. Every time I put back the paper to answer and say Thank you to that person. Today you cannot meet lots of these people who give you a gift without any expectations,” she admits.

Laurence has one big dream. She would like to visit China again to have another chance meeting the giant pandas. (Images of Laurence and her panda bears you can find in photo section of this competition.)

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