Felines, Fernet, and Feriados: Part III
I am not much in the mood to write a novel today, so sorry if this post is a little less fun to read than usual; I’ll probably end up writing a lot now just because I said that haha.
Well I will continue:Monday:
Because I didn’t go to bed until like five in the morning on Sunday night (I guess technically Monday morning), there was no way that I was waking up in three hours to go to the zoo with Christine. All the good intentions and true love’s kisses in the world couldn’t have woken me from my slumber. I had set like four alarms because I didn’t want to leave Christine waiting at the bus stop in the morning by herself. I’m a bad friend. Four missed calls and several texts ordered in increasing anxiety later, I woke up at the crack of 10:30. I don’t know what pulled me from my sleep without an alarm, but I’m really glad I woke up! I called Christine as soon as I woke up (she had just given up on me and gone home after waiting for over an hour) and told her I’d be ready in a half hour. I layered makeup over what was left over from last night, attempted to pull a brush through my hair, failed, put my hair up, put on yesterday’s outfit, couldn’t find clean socks, didn’t want to wear dirty socks, slipped on flip flops, put a flower in my hair and wore a necklace to make it look like I tried, grabbed a wad of cash (no time to make lunch), and shoved my finger on the button to call the elevator.
When I got out onto the busy street I felt my headache. I’m not one to frequent Starbuck’s and McDonald’s (unless it’s free) in a foreign country, but I needed something enserio. I think the coffee warded off my hangover for most of the bus ride and I don’t know what would have happened without it. I was running of ibupirac (ibuprofen), McDonald’s coffee and excitement. We were going to the Lujan Zoo. It is not your typical zoo, and it’s been condemned by several organizations for it’s practices of letting tourists in to pet and handle the animals. Some people say they drug their animals, some say it’s just cruel. I definitely had my doubts about going there. I didn’t want to support that type of organization, but several people from my program had already gone and said they didn’t believe any of those rumors. With further investigation, the negative reviews are from people who have never actually been to the zoo. Everything positive comes from people who have actually been there. The zoo claims to raise their animals with dogs and domesticate them that way. Who knows really. Personally, I found the animals to be quite charming and happy. Not drugged…but I do think that there’s not near enough room to foster that many lions and tigers, that it goes against the nature of these animals (as does any form of captivity), and that it’s probably not the most honorable form of tourism.
I may have been shallow to go, but it’s kind of the chance of a lifetime to pet a tiger! So we went. It was ten pesos for the bus ride (we had to wait a half hour for the bus to come) and it was about an hour’s ride to Lujan. We told the bus driver that we were going to the zoo but he didn’t stop, so we ended up in Lujan. It turned out alright though because I needed food stat. Hangovers and minimal sleep cannot be fixed with just ibuprofen, coffee, and water. Christine and I were laughing at the silliest things (we were talking about how prom is such a ridiculous custom and when she told me her prom’s theme was candy I was nearly in tears with laughter…yeah I needed food); we were outrageously giddy the whole ride. I found this hidden little kiosco that sold sandwhiches and bought a giant sandwhich and a yogurt for 15 pesos. I think it was fate that we missed the stop. When we returned to the bus stop we only had to wait two minutes for the bus to arrive (again, such luck!) and $2.50 later we were returning to the Zoo.
Like I said, everything was incredibly lucky because we were dropped off right in front of the zoo. If we had gotten off at the right stop on the way there we’d have been totally disoriented and had to cross the highway and such. So we went straight into the entrance. It was much different from what I expected. First of all, the flip flops were a typical Autumn-you-airhead decision. It was a rainy weekend and the whole zoo was a mess of muddy slosh and hay…plus, since the zoo let you in with ginormous monstrous cats…well duh. What if a lion stepped on my foot?! (Actually that seriously happened. It was like a six-month old lion, so not full grown, and only for a second. But seriously, who can say that they’ve been stepped on by a lion?! =D) Those of you who know me will understand that I have a very intimate relationship with my flip flops during the summer, so you wouldn’t be surprised if I wore them to the Denver Zoo, to climb Horsetooth, or for pretty much any other activity…but I’m still an idiot for wearing them here. Whatever, touristy weekend. The other thing that was weird was getting into the zoo. It was eerily empty, and the lady just took our 70 pesos and gave us a map. There were people in zoo T-shirts who looked anywhere from 14 years old to their 50’s. Some were clearly working there but didn’t have shirts on. It definitely had a family-business kind of feel to it.
There were ducks and geese walking around EVERYWHERE. They kind of annoyed the **** out of us. I had half an uneaten sandwhich and my little purse in a plastic grocery bag that I carried around with me all day and the geese would ninja stalk behind me and nip at my bag. It was barely holding on by the time we left the zoo, and only then because I gradually developed a keen awareness of stealthy geese approaching.
^^They were all ugly ducklings…
Anyways, the first cage we went into had tigers mainly, and two lions. We were really disarmed by the way that the handlers were so nonchalant about us going into the cage. They didn’t really tell us anything, you leave your bags at the gate, go in and they tell you not to touch the animals head, ears, or paws. They say this is because they’re raised with dogs and that the dogs use these areas to initiate play. Both Christine and I entered the cage timidly. We kept as close to the gate and away from the tigers instinctively and the zookeepers ushered us forward. We still were completely terrified until the zookeeper actually grabbed my hand and put it on a tiger’s back.
I was seriously petting a Bengal tiger. I don’t know how to describe how awesome that is. His name was Aron and I even got to feed him milk from my hand. His tongue felt like wet velcro…but alive–it was such a strange sensation. I really think the pictures describe the day better than I could do with words.
The day could not get any more surreal. I ate dinner with my host family, uploaded the pictures from the day to my computer and just tried to realize that this was real life. I slept very well Sunday night and my dreams seemed more normal than the day.
**A note on the controversy of this zoo as a tourist attraction: Like I said before, I don’t think they drug the animals. They couldn’t really drug the animals every single day of their lives without it seriously impacting their health and them dying, or without them eventually becoming immune. I honestly think that, being raised with dogs and such, they are just really domesticated. Outside of that though, I do think that this zoo encounters the same moral issues that someone would find with any other zoo–like the size of the cages, the fact that the animals are outside their natural habitats, and basically just any general problems you’d find with a zoo. I still enjoyed it though. 🙂
- Pet a tiger (actually several, including one a month old!!!)
- Rode a camel
- Fed an elephant cantelope and “pet” it too…elephants feel really weird…
- Pet a lion (several)
- Fed a bear
- Saw a peacock in a tree
- Went to Lujan
- Heard a lion roar in real life
- Waved to a chimpanzee–and he waved back! 🙂
- I don’t even know how many more, but many, I’m sure.
Posted on October 19, 2012, in Fall Semester, Travel and Study and tagged Argentina, best cure for a hangover, Buenos Aires, feriado, freaking awesome, lujan zoo, standinginargentina, Study Abroad, tigers lions and bears!, tourism, Travel. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.