Friday, February 06, 2004

Sao Paulo, Brazil--Day 7

Today I woke up to the ridiculously loud alarm clock that is in my room. I managed to sleep ok, but since I slept a lot during the day, I kept waking up in the middle of the night. I got up at 7:30 a.m. and got ready, then headed to the “Patio” for breakfast. Since I am staying in an “Executive Suite,” breakfast is included and I can either have it in the executive club room, or downstairs on the Patio. I got some breakfast and went outside to get a taxi to the Sao Paulo Zoo.

My taxi driver was nice, but it was hard to talk with him since he didn’t know any English and I don’t know any Portuguese. We ended up talking just a little bit in Spanish. He dropped me off at the zoo, after about a half hour in the car, and told me that he would be back to pick me up when I needed him to. Great! So we compromised on a time and I headed off into the Zoo to find the hippos.

I followed my map and when I got to the first group of hippos (there were 2 groups with 2 hippos in each) I was honestly delighted by what I saw. This group was of a mother and her baby (and I would find out later that the second group of hippos was the same) and they were just about to get in the water. Now I know that I mentioned that the Guatemalan hippos (ok, so they’re not actually Guatemalan, but you know what I mean) were posing, but I was wrong. These two were just great. The mama hippo saw me and started grunting and heading towards the water. The baby followed and they both sort of posed for a second, then headed down their stairs into the water.

I watched for about an hour and half (most of the time it was just me watching--other zoo-goers came by occasionally) and it was so funny because the baby hippo was obviously annoying the mama hippo. The mama hippo was trying to sleep it seems and the baby kept disappearing under water (maybe to nurse??) and the mama hippo would grunt and snort and move away, splashing lots of water in the process. It was great- the other hippos that I have seen so far were definitely not this active. Eventually the mama hippo decided to get out of the water, and went up the stairs and stood overlooking into their pond. This is when it got super cute because the mama hippo was looking into the water, and the baby hippo would come up out of the water and would give (what looked like) a kiss to its mama. It was so funny, I just couldn’t stop smiling.

Both Mom and baby would stop and look at me, and then stop again (posing I am sure) and I got the best shots that I have so far. They were just so funny these two, and I was really lucky to see them swimming about and everything. The baby hippo decided that it was also time to get out of the water when feeding time came, where both mom and baby met the zookeeper with the food.

At this point I headed to the other hippo habitat, with the second couple of mom and baby. These two were equally as cute, but a lot more suspicious of me. They both would move slightly, keeping their eyes on me practically the entire time that I was photographing them. They would grunt and snort, which would cause the first pair in the other pond to respond back with snorts and grunts. After another hour or so I again had to find out what their names are.

This posed a big problem because of my lack of Portuguese. I wandered around for a bit and finally found a woman at security gate to ask where I could find out their names. She pointed me in the direction of an education center (I think that is what she said) but I found it anyways by wandering off in the direction that she pointed to. I came to the center and there were two young adults (my age) and on the table in front of them were all sorts of animal legs (yes, animal legs) that were stuffed and that people could pick up and be like, hey cool, a cheetah leg or look, an antelope leg. It was very bizarre. Anyways, I asked them if they spoke English. Luckily, the girl did and I could ask her. She her co-worker were able to tell me three of their names, but struggled for the fourth. After much debating, the girl walked me over to find a phone where she could call for information and we ran into another co-worker of hers who gave the fourth name, pointing each hippo out to me. Phew.

Now I only had one problem: it began to POUR with rain. No sprinkle, but POUR. I had my umbrella with me and after walking the young girl back to her educational booth, I walked under some trees to find shelter from the rain near the Rhinoceros exhibit, where even the rhinos were trying to hide under their shelter. By this time my skirt was soaked and my legs were dripping wet. I stood there for probably 25 minutes, then headed over to the main entrance where a big school group was standing under the protection of the roof. I stood there for another 20 minutes, getting quite a few looks from the children (my embarrassingly pale Minnesota shade was giving me away among other things) and finally the rain turned to a slight drizzle. I made it to the gift shop and then watched the monkeys for a while before it was time for my taxi to come. The Sao Paulo Zoo is also a really nice zoo. What really impressed me was how close I could get to the hippos, and to other animals without feeling threatened or for them to feel threatened. What was really neat was that a lot of the monkeys were living on islands in the lake that was part of the zoo. So they couldn’t go anywhere because they don’t swim (at least I don’t think they do!) and so they were just happily swinging on the trees on their island with no one to bother them. I watched a few monkeys on one side make sort of cat-calls to the other monkeys on another island. It was funny, it was as if the one monkey was like hey, wanna piece of me even though I can’t get over there? If I could though, I would show you!

I was picked up by my taxi driver and headed back to the hotel. We managed to talk more this time around and I tried to tell him what my job was and why I was in Sao Paulo. I also told him that I was going to the zoo in Sorocaba, and he said that he would pick me up in the morning and take me. Great! I have been surprised at the taxi services here (in a good way). The man that dropped me off from the airport has promised to pick me up and take me to the airport when I need to go, so I don’t have to worry about that, and now this guy wants to take me and pick me up for tomorrow’s zoo. I can’t complain!

I spent the rest of the afternoon transferring photos onto my computer. Around 6:30, I was positively starving, but forced myself to wait just a few more minutes until 7:00 to eat dinner. I walked over to the restaurant next to the one that I ate at last night and had spaghetti (not very Brazilian but that’s ok) and it was fine. I definitely was the only person actually eating dinner though. It was still happy hour for everyone else. Considering that it is Friday night, I bet people aren’t’ even eating until about now anyways, at its almost 10 p.m. I sat at a table and tried to make myself look “busy” (as in checking my very busy calendar over and over again) and tried not to stare as I people watched.

Again it is time for bed, so that I can get up early for the zoo tomorrow. Afterwards I might check out the tourist center and see what sorts of things I can busy myself with later.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.