Friday, July 30, 2004

Calgary, Alberta, Canada—Day 181

Today I flew into Calgary from Vancouver but first had to get to Vancouver from Bellingham, where I have spent the past few days with Alicia. Alicia and I set off around 9 a.m. and stopped off at her old University (Western Washington University) to quickly go around the campus so that I could see it before I left. We then started heading north and made it to the Canadian border.

When it was our turn we pulled up to the window and handed our US passports to the border guard. He asked us where we were from, and Alicia told him that she lives and works in Bellingham, while I am from Tucson. Well then, why are we going to Canada? Alicia tells him that she is dropping me off at the Vancouver airport. Well, where are you going, he asks me. So I tell him Calgary (or Alicia does, I can’t remember) and he says well, what are you doing in Calgary?

Oh, the question I was dreading.

So I start telling him what I have been doing and what I will be doing in Calgary and he just looks at me. His voice tells me that he thinks that I am full of sh*t (pardon me) and keeps asking questions about it but really doesn’t give in or believe me at all. I tried my best to not sound like I was making it up (which I am not!) but every time I get stopped at immigration I always, always get really nervous and tongue tied which makes me look like I am doing something I shouldn’t be, but I am not!

So he makes us pull into the parking area telling us to go speak with the immigration authorities inside. Alicia says that she’s never had to do this before and we park. I am nervous because this hadn’t really happened to me either (well, the Australians weren’t too pleased when I told them that I had “no idea” about what tourists sights were around Melbourne but that I “knew that I wanted to visit them.”)

So Alicia went in and I went in the back and got out my photocopy of the article that was written about me (written proof!) and the list of zoos that I have. I went in and found Alicia talking to a man at the counter. I walked up (almost as if on cue) and they both turned to me (apparently the man had asked Alicia just what was her friend going to be doing in Calgary as I walked up.

So I started talking, more confidently this time, and sort of showed him my article and list. I told him about the project and about my boss and he just shook his head. But he shook his head more in mock disbelief rather than REAL disbelief and just laughed.

Thank god.

We were sent out on our way again and I was thankful that I didn’t have to face any sort of real interrogation or something. That would have been pretty funny though now that I think about it, but thank god I didn’t have to—I would have missed my plane!

Alicia dropped me off at the airport and I checked in, made it through customs, and was on the plane to Calgary. A few hours later we landed in Calgary. I got my bag from the baggage claim (which just so happened to be a big advertisement for the Calgary Zoo with a huge hippo head on it! Such a great coincidence!) and got a taxi to the hotel. The taxi driver was excited that this was my first trip to Calgary and responded to my “yes, this is my first time in Calgary” by exclaiming, “But you are so skinny!”

Umm, ok, what does that have to do with ANYTHING??

We made it to my hotel and he dropped me off, making sure to give me his card to call him if I needed another taxi. I thanked him and went to check in. I headed up to my room and tried to get in but it seemed that my door was locked, or stuck, or something. So a bellboy who had helped another guest into their room (and was extraordinarily attractive no less) had to help me open my door which he did with a quick swipe of the key and effortless nudge on the door.

Way to go Sarah.

I put my bags down and decided that I might just have enough time to go to the zoo this afternoon. So I got a taxi to the zoo and to my luck found that the zoo was going to be open for another three hours (it was 3 o’clock at this point) and so I had plenty of time to scout our the hippos and then take the tram system back into town.

The hippos were in an indoor enclosure that was in the Savannah African section of the zoo. And it was huge! They had this enclosure that had an area where they ate and then a HUGE swimming pool with an underwater viewing area that connected to an outdoor enclosure as well. They had it made for sure.

To my luck the hippos were out of the water in the indoor section and were just finishing eating. So I pushed people out of my way and started taking pictures and video of them eating. I then found a keeper who had turned on the water for them to drink and found that Foggy (the male) and Sparky (the female) were their names. So I kept taking pictures of them and more people kept coming and going. One woman came up and kept talking as if she was an expert on hippos

Oh, theeeese hippos are from the BLACK RIVER. They are called black river hippos.


Ohhh, and theeeese hippos they’ll totally kill you in Africa. They eat meat too.


I just stayed out of it and kept taking pictures as this clearly wrong woman kept gabbing away about hippos when Foggy sneezed. It was hilarious and I almost burst out laughing because Foggy had managed to sneeze ALL OVER the woman and her daughter (some pre-teen diva by the looks of it) which totally shut her up. The both exclaimed EWWWWW and had to wipe some, well, hippo snot off of them as they decided that they had enough of the hippos.

Thanks Foggy.

After eating, Foggy and Sparky settled into their pool and I headed back out towards the gift shop. I then headed out of the zoo and hopped on the train which took me back into Calgary, albeit into a sort of sketchy area but which was close enough for me to walk back to my hotel. Luckily there was a restaurant nearby where I grabbed dinner and a movie theater so I caught a movie before making it back to my hotel for the night.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.