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  • Susan Brown

Adventures at the Chiang Mai Zoo

Some days just turn out differently than you expect.

I was all ready for my ladies’ class on Monday and looking forward to studying truths from the life of Rebekah.  About an hour before we were due to start I found out that there was a conflict and Bro. Anond couldn’t translate for me.  I had an empty day to fill.

It didn’t stay empty long!  The children were out of school because it was Buddha day, the time set aside to celebrate the day Buddha gained his knowledge.  (I’m thankful I serve an omniscient God!)  The kids were going to the zoo, since they had a free day.  I asked, “Who will be watching them?”

“So Pic will drive them.”

“But who will WATCH them?”

“The older kids will watch the younger.”

“But what ADULT is going to watch the kids?”

“I will see. Maybe Rudy will go.”

I decided to go, too.  I discovered right away that we all had different ideas of how children should be taken to the zoo.

So Pic thought he should take them there and then sleep in the truck until lunch time.

The older kids thought they should ditch the younger ones ASAP.

Rudy thought keeping one eye on the group and the other eye on her texts would do.

Obviously, they all consider the zoo a safe place and planned to let the children basically run loose until noon when they would gather at the gazebo.

I, on the other hand, am paranoid about this being the pedophile capital of the world.  MY idea was to watch them with eagle eyes and be alert to anyone who looked at them cross-eyed.  I also determined to make sure no one was lost or eaten by animals (which turned out more likely than I thought.)  On a side note, I was going to make sure everyone was polite and that no one littered or fed anything inappropriate to the animals.

You can see that I had a somewhat frustrating time, especially since I couldn’t explain to anyone what was troubling me when I lost a few children.

The three teens ditched us at the gate, but I managed to keep the other fifteen together for a trip around the zoo.  It is quite a zoo!  You can see the animals much better here than at any other zoo I’ve seen. That’s because, for a small fee, you can buy animal food and feed them yourself.  I’m not talking about goats here, but giraffes, elephants, hippos, and even tigers.  No lurking in the shadows for these guys!  They come right up to the edge of their enclosure with open mouths.

In some cases (as with this hippo) they were less attractive than they were at a distance. 

Even the giraffes were somewhat intimidating when they bent their long necks and got uncomfortably close while they gazed at me with a “Aren’t you going to feed me?” look.  (Giraffes have LONG eyelashes!)

The elephant was the funniest, because he stuck his trunk outside his enclosure and checked the kids out, looking for something to nibble on. (I kept my distance.)


One or two parts I didn’t care for. The safety standards are definitely different.  They must not have lawsuits here. Also, it is in a mountainous area, so we went up and down super-steep hills.  In one section we traveled a long, steep rock staircase whose uneven steps went on forever. Every time I stopped to catch my breath, the kids behind me would swat at my legs and yell, “Ants! Ants!”  (You knew there would be ants in this story, didn’t you?)  Sure enough, swarms of tiny ants would take the opportunity to climb up my feet and legs in record time.  I reacted like a tired cow to a cattle prod.  I would shake them off and lumber up more steps before repeating the process.  At last we reached the top to see the rock coney:


At noon we went to the gazebo to meet the others, who showed up around 1 o’clock. So Pic had been entrusted with the money for lunch and brought back bags of cooked rice and bags of chicken.  No plates, no silverware, no napkins.  I was at a total loss, but they knew what to do. They “washed” their hands at a nearby hose (cold water, no soap — insufficient, in my opinion, as I had seen those hands in close contact with an elephant, as well as inside their respective noses).  They just reached into the bags and pulled out rice and chicken. It was amazing to see them eat rice fairly neatly with their fingers and no plates.  I, however, suddenly wasn’t hungry any more!

After lunch I took a group to the bathroom. When we came back, the others were gone.

“Where are they?” I asked with alarm.  “Some went to truck,” Rudy said. “Some look at hippo.”  She obviously wasn’t worried and went back to texting.

In a panic, I collected the kids I had with me and went out to search for the others.  My “eagle eye” mission was in serious jeopardy!  At the hippo exhibit I found several kids — and my heart stopped beating.  The two littlest boys, Arlong and Supucket had crawled over the fence and were sitting on the stone wall just a few feet above the open mouth of the hippo.  One false move and they would be crunched before the hippo realized they weren’t hippo food.  I nabbed them and dragged them away. They were puzzled. I was panicked!  If you can imagine them sitting on this inner wall, you will see why.


I re-counted the kids.  I was down to six.  I was determined to return with at least a third of the original group, so I held onto them.  We went around, looking at the same animals again, although I passed on the rock coney that time.  I found a couple of other kids who had been buying junky toys and latched onto them, too.

“Don’t let them buy toys,” Anond had told me. “They break.”  Sure enough, the boys had purchased extremely annoying noise-making toys. I am thankful to say they soon broke.

At long last we were ready to leave.  We collected 17 kids at the truck at 3 o’clock.  Before I had time to hyperventilate, I discerned from the charades that Bro. Anond dropped off another group in the afternoon and one of the 18 stayed with them. (Not happy, but not panic-stricken.  I was a bit numb by then.)

There were evidently some lunch funds left over, so So Pic stopped at 7-11 and let them spend the rest of their money on treats.  As I tried to watch all seventeen in the store, I couldn’t help but see they were having fun.  And they are much more independent and self-sufficient than our kids at home tend to be.  In spite of my worry and frustrated attempts to safeguard them, they survived the zoo, as they have countless other times.

But before I go with them again, I’m going to teach them what “Everyone stay together!” means.

Blessings from Thailand,

Susan

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