It had been a long time since Li had returned home after his last adventure. He was still a young panda bear but he had become more experienced and even more courageous.
He had also changed physically, getting much bigger and stronger. Hardly anyone made fun of his longer ear anymore because it was simply a part of his appearance that made him unique. Li was growing up to be a confident young panda bear.
It was winter on the island, although one hardly noticed. There was no snow and it was still quite hot outside. However, it rained more often than at other times of the year, sometimes even all day long.
Other times it poured, as if from buckets, completely soaking Li in just a few moments. These strong winter storms were also rougher than they were in the summer. There would be a great deal of driftwood on the beach afterwards and several of the palm trees and bamboo stems would snap as if they were mere matchsticks.
Sometimes the aftermath of these storms reminded Li of his involuntary adventure out into the open ocean in his old boat.
He always thought fondly of his friends who had welcomed him so warmly back then and had helped him find his way home.
Today, Li played on the beach with his bamboo sticks as he did every day. It was a rare day without rain. The sun was even peeking through the thick cloud cover from time to time. When he was tired, he sat down in the sand and looked dreamily at the sea. He found the water and the sound of the waves very calming.
He squinted his eyes… had he seen that right? There was something floating towards him near the shore. He quickly rose and dashed to the water’s edge. Sure enough, he saw an object moving up and down in the large waves.
“What’s that?” wondered Li, squinting his eyes to see better. It was a green glass bottle. Li fished it out with one of his bamboo sticks.
“A glass bottle doesn’t belong in the sea!” he grumbled. “Someone might cut themselves!”
He took a closer look at the bottle. It was completely undamaged. Then he noticed a note inside.
Li had just fished a message in a bottle out of the sea! He had only every heard about them in stories and never thought of finding one himself.
“I wonder who the message is for?” he wondered. “This is very exciting! Maybe I should open and read it?” His thoughts were rushing through his head.
But Li had learned how to stay calm and weigh his options before acting.
“Hmm, I could take it home to read with the others. Or I could throw it back into the sea because it might be meant for someone else…Well, but until I read it, I won’t even know who the message is for,” He kept thinking. “Maybe there’s no message inside at all, just a blank note. Or it could be a treasure map! Or someone might be in desperate need of help and I would be the first one to know!”
Now Li knew he had to find out. He unscrewed the cap of the bottle and pulled out a slightly soggy, tightly rolled piece of paper.
The ink had run from the wetness and Li had a difficult time deciphering what was written on the note. He read it slowly:
Hopefully our message reaches you!
We haven’t heard from you in so long and hope you are well.
Send us a message back!
Your old pals,
Patricia and friends
A tear rolled down Li’s cheek as he read the letter. He was not crying because he was sad, but from pure joy at hearing from his friends.
His mind was made up. He absolutely had to see them again! And he already had an idea for how it could work.
He ran home and told his parents and brothers about the message in a bottle.
They all decided to invite Patricia the Turtle and the others to their island for a visit.
Li could hardly wait to extend the invitation in person. Of course, some preparations had to be made first because the trip might not be easy.
His brothers offered to accompany him. Together, they had enough muscle to steer the boat through the rough ocean.
They planned to set off on their journey in just a few days.
To be continued…