I have debated with myself whether or not to honestly share my experiences today. Partly because today was the first day that India has totally overwhelmed me and partly because I do not want to insult my Indian readers. But, it was my day and my experience and my blog, after all. I want to capture the feelings I had – so here goes – no insults intended.
Hubby had to work today. Please remember our flat is little (compared to the living space we are used to). I have 3 children who love to watch t.v. but eventually they actually do get bored by electronics. It is spring break – no school. There is a lot to see in Delhi that we have not yet seen. I needed some blog material.
I also need to remember to be careful what I ask for.
I gave the kids 3 options – the craft museum, the Red Fort, or the zoo. It was unanimous. The zoo.
Our regular driver was not working today – so we had Zaffar. He is a nice man with limited English skills. I asked to go to the zoo. He said, yes ma’am. I showed him the map that had our neighborhood and the zoo on it. Both of them were circled. We want to go from here to there. Yes. Ma’am.
Then he pulls into a gas station. That is fine. Really. I would rather him ask than just drive us around all day. But I can tell he still really is not sure. He asked me for the address. Well, the book does not list the address. There is a map, remember. But not the physical address. So, I called hubby’s assistant. She is so helpful to us. Really, I am very lucky. She explained where we wanted to go.
Ohhhhhh, the zoo? Zarraf just happens to know exactly where that is. Hmmmm. She got back on the phone with me and explained that in India they call it “the zoo”. So he did not know what I meant. Funny thing – in America we call it the “zoo” also. It must be my accent.
Anyzoo, we got there without too much trouble and I took a look around. This is what I saw.
This picture is not worth a thousand words – because it really does not give the sense of how many people were milling about. There were hundreds of people. There were 3 lines – cubbies to store your bags, tickets, and security.
I saw women in the security line with purses, so we went straight for tickets. I was not sure if you were allowed bags or if the cubbies were just for convenience. I guessed convenience. That line was (ridiculously) long. So we moved on to tickets. There were only men in the ticket line. In the ticket line we get.
Men cut in front of us in line. They cut in line behind us too. I am not a big fan of people cutting in front of me in line. But I quickly decided to let. it. go. The line was crowded. I was (ever so slightly) outnumbered by men. I was manless (for the day). I don’t do the damsel in distress well, but I also do not invite trouble.
The man behind me explained that my children could wait out of the line for me. You know, over there. My kids looked at me and then they looked at him with their best “good luck with that dude” look. Our mom isn’t going to have us wait away from her. Even if it is over there. You’ll just have to deal for a few more minutes.
He was actually very helpful and explained where to get in. But he does not know me. The kids stayed in line with me. They were happy to do that.
So here is the sign that explains ticket prices. Once again we are paying a skin tax. Fine – it’s a whole dollar. We’ll (happily) pay it.
My dad might laugh that I should have gotten in free – but alas, I am too smart for free admission. (Yes, I miss my dad terribly.) I think it is very nice that India gives its citizens a break on admission prices. America could never do this – it would be a paperwork nightmare. Americans are far too diverse to be able to tell who is from where just by looking. Too bad – I love a discount.
On to security.
Bear was (more than) a little concerned that he might have to go in a separate line. The lines were very long and frankly, I was a little concerned too. Many of our sightseeing adventures have had our family in separate lines – men on one side, women on the other. It is just a matter of logistics – women checking women, men checking men. But I was not going to put Bear in a very long line by himself. Whew. I did not have to.
One of the guards asked if we had any food. I said no.
Well it turns out I did have granola bars. The second security guard spotted them and asked me to take them out. Absolutely no food allowed in the zoo. Even if you promise not to eat it. Water bottles seem to be okay. I think. We did not bring water bottles – so don’t quote me on that. But I highly recommend water bottles. There are several watering holes with free water – but if you are not used to the local water – well, let’s just say there are better souvenirs than montazuma’s revenge.
Oh yes, back to the snacks. Enter language barriers and cultural differences.
We are now holding up the line. This does not make the 100 plus people behind us fans of Americans.
The guard tried to get me to open the granola bars so my children can eat them really fast. Or, I can take them back over to the line of 200 plus people and put them in a cubbie for one rupee. Yes, that is two cents. Well here is my two cents worth. This is where Americans should be embarrassed because we can be (very) wasteful. But seriously, it is just not worth the hassle. My kids don’t happen to be hungry right now. I don’t want to get in the super long line, just to get back in this super long line – just so I don’t have to lose 4 granola bars.
Please just take the granola bars to your family and enjoy them. I will buy more. Can we please just be done here?
Apparently not. Please ma’am, open them and eat them now. Sigh. No thank you. You keep them. Do with them what you will. But ma’am, I might have to throw them away. Yeah, I am good with that. Can we go in now?
Now Angel decided to bring a purse with her also. They did not look inside her purse. But she heard the rule. No food. So, bless her heart, she pulls out a granola bar and gives it to the guard. Yes, I am proud of her for being honest. But seriously, where are the animals – can we just go now? Do we have to be the main attraction? Then she remembered she actually had two granola bars. You’re killing me sweetie – enough already. Are you sure there isn’t a piece of gum stuck to the bottom of your shoe that you want to turn in?
We finally get in the gate. The zoo is lovely – lots of space – plenty of room for all the people who are there. It does not feel as smooshed inside.
Bear gets out the map. Now, this is interesting. Normally the hubby is in charge of navigation. But here is a chance for Bear to direct traffic. I have failed him in all things Boy Scout, so bring it Bear. Get us where we want to go.
He did a great job.
We saw the giraffes and the sloth bear.
He did a great job, that is, until he took us behind the exhibit for the sloth bear. It was a path. But it was an empty path. No one else was on it. I did say that I was concerned that no one else was there. Well, except for the two men walking out of the woods. (Yeah. That’s what I thought too. Maybe we should not be here.)
So, I am balancing encouraging Bear to navigate our way through the zoo with the fact that my scare-dar is flashing “danger, will roger, danger”. I decided to let him guide us.
Until the two men approached another man and started to harass him. I told the kids we needed to turn around and go. NOW.
I realized that we were in the proverbial wrong place at the wrong time. The two men started to slap the other man. There was a woman standing by with her hands cupped over her mouth.
We exited stage left. Immediately.
Angel said, I don’t think I want to go back there.
Don’t worry, Angel. You won’t be. going. back. there.
So I let Bear keep the map. And I fought every instinct I had to just go home. But I don’t want my kids to be afraid of being in India. There is safety in numbers. We’ll just stay with the crowds.
We continued on to see more animals. Lots and lots of people were watching us. I felt it more today than I ever have.
We saw this rhino trying to get out of the enclosure. I could honestly feel his pain.
We also saw three white tigers. (Yes, you can still count – there are only two in the picture.)
And if you know how to use your camera, you can get a great picture of the leopards.
If you don’t know how to use your camera so well, you might get a great picture of the fence, with some cool (very blurry) leopards in the background. Isn’t this the coolest fence you have ever seen?
Along the way, many people asked to take pictures of my girls. This is not a new thing. It happens at every tourist spot we go to. Usually they walk away disappointed when I say no. But they seem to understand.
Well today was different. A lot of people clicked pictures with cell phones. There was even one woman who seemed to follow us. It was bizarre. She would bump in to me and laugh. I did not join her in laughing. It got old quick.
Bear was still navigating and we were looking for the hippos. Bear looked at the map and looked at the path. It seemed somewhat empty. He said maybe we can see the hippos next time. Lesson learned.
We head on to see the elephants. They are amazing.
I did not know this….
As Flower and Angel are looking at the elephants, Bear notices that a man on the bench is taking a picture with his cell phone of my girls. Bear takes his map and blocks the phone. Honestly, I cannot believe he did it. Two things – one, great job Bear – this is exactly why I wanted any girls I had to have a big brother. Two – holy sh*t, Bear. Be careful here.
Bear and I had a chat about how extremely proud I was that he was observant and protective of his sisters. And how he is to never. do. that. again. Unless they are in danger,we’ll let some things go.
We all agreed it was time to go home. This is what everyone said as we were leaving.
Bear: I guess we won’t come back here.
(I told him we would – at 9am when the zoo opens and it is less crowded and when Dad can come with us.)
Flower: I like the zoo in the U.S. better because you can drink the water there and nobody stares at us.
(Next time we will bring water bottles and when we are home in the U.S. we will visit the zoo. Maybe we’ll wear crazy clothes so we get stared at there too. Maybe not. We’ll just have to see.)
Angel: I like the zoo in the U.S. better. When can we go home.
(Sweetie, we are home – at least for now.)
So all in all, it turned out to be a good day. Bear got a chance to be in charge. I remembered that instincts kick arse. We got to see some cool animals.
But it was also overwhelming. Frankly, it was very overwhelming. I have not really felt that since I have been here. I was disappointed but it was a reality check that we are not in the U.S. and we have to remember that.