Thursday, August 26, 2004

Amsterdam, NL—Emmen, NL—Amsterdam, NL—Day 208

In terms of hippos and zoos, today might as well be a landmark. In fact, I would go so far as to say that today was probably the best zoo that I’ve been to so far.

Why? Well, I’ll start from the beginning—you want to know all of it, right?

So I got up at the crack of dawn and headed out to the tram which thankfully is not far from my hotel. I boarded, along with several other people who just so happened to be up and needing to go somewhere at 6:30am. The girl standing next to me at the tram stop was smoking like a chimney and all I could think, isn’t TOO early to be smoking?

I got the tram to the central train station in Amsterdam where I wanted to get a train up to Emmen, where the zoo is. So I had to get my nifty euro-rail pass out and get it validated, since I hadn’t used it yet. So I got in line at a ticket counter in the train station and was told to head upstairs to get it validated. Fair enough. So I head upstairs to the international ticket counter, get a number (I’m the only person in the place and I needed a number?) and went to the desk. I handed over my ticket for her to validate and the woman just looked at me.

I can’t validate THIS, she says. Uhhh, why not? Well, she says, you’ve written on it. Now this was true, I did. I filled out my name, passport number and my travel dates. So what? I can prove that it is in fact me based on my name and passport number, so why couldn’t she validate it?

Well, she says, not only are you NOT supposed to fill it out (as she points to me in the miniscule type where it says that I am not supposed to write on it) but you filled it our WRONG.

I didn’t know what to do—cry? Would that help? I just looked at her as the panic started to rise in me.

So after a while she says to me, well, I can either NOT validate this, or you can pay a 30 Euro fine to get a new one to validate.

Hmm, let me think…gee.

So 30 Euros later, and a lot of huffing on her part, I am set with a new Eurorail pass and on my way to Emmen to see the hippos. I think she just wanted to scare me and she definitely did for sure, but telling me in the first place that I had made a mistake and that she could fix it would have been nicer.

So I got on my train to Emmen and two hours later I was almost there but thought that I had missed my stop. Ok, so I didn’t really find out if there was possibly more than one stop in Emmen. As I looked up from my book and at my watch, I knew that I shouldn’t quite be at Emmen, but then I saw an Emmen station sign pass us by so I thought great, I missed it.

But luckily that was just the sort of suburbs of Emmen. We pulled into downtown Emmen shortly thereafter and I had just enough spare time to walk over to the zoo right as it opened. Lucky for me the zoo was just within walking distance of the train station and in the downtown area (Emmen is actually quite small of a town) so I got my ticket and went in felling pretty sure that I would have a long day ahead of me, being 10 hippos on my list for this zoo.

I found the hippos with not too much trouble and sure enough, there were plenty of hippos in there. I watched for just a few minutes and everywhere I looked there would be another hippo swimming around, or popping his head up. It was almost like in 101 Dalmatians where they’re counting and it just seems like there are more, and more, and more of them.

So I started on the search for someone to help me and stopped a girl with a bicycle who seemed to work at the zoo. She did, but didn’t know anything about the hippos.

I then stopped another guy shortly thereafter and to my surprise, he did work with the hippos! And yes, there were TWELVE hippos (not ten) and in fact, he knew all of their names by heart. He just had to go drop something off and then he would come back and help me.

Are you serious? Could this be happening?!? He’s going to willingly HELP me?

So I waited for him to come back (I assured him that I wouldn’t leave) and several of the hippos actually came over to me and opened their mouths for me in anticipation for food. How fantastic!

The keeper came back and I learned that his name was Hank. Once the hippos saw Hank, they too came back and we were in the company of probably six different hippos all looking up at us with eager, hungry eyes. Hank first wrote down all of their names for me but realized was missing one of them. So we walked inside to the indoor enclosure where all of their names were written down and Hank showed me their indoor pens and pool (where they do their business so to speak in the mornings before they are let out into the open outside enclosure) and finally he was able to think up the last of their names: Balenga. So we had Suze, Liza, Saar (which means Sarah in Dutch by the way!) Loeuje, Rikke, Jetje, Louise, Kabura, Lukulu, Dhony, Bulaula and lastly, Balenga. Thankfully their names all didn’t start with the same letter, as in Taiwan.

Anyways, Hank started to point them out as I snapped away on my camera and wrote down who was who. It was awesome and I couldn’t believe my luck. In just under an hour I had pictures of all of the hippos, several in the water and some out of the water. When some of the hippos didn’t make their presence known for us in the water, we threw out a huge watermelon for them to chase (which brought most of them over to us) and then went back behind the enclosure and threw grass out for the hippos (which I excitedly watched and took pictures of) and then back around the front to get the smallest of the little hippos Lukulu. I was thrilled and told Hank all about the project. His reaction to the idea that his hippos were going to be on a porcelain service was sort of a disbelieved shake of the head but I assured him that they would turn out great and gave him the website to check out all things hippo.

So twelve hippos in under an hour. I was stoked and headed out of the zoo not even knowing what train to catch back since I anticipated getting out of the zoo really late. I walked back to the station in the rain (a theme it appears in The Netherlands right now!) and figured out my train. Soon I was on my way back to Amsterdam.
I made it back and spent the rest of the afternoon much like the previous two—taking in the Rijksmuseum and generally walking around and eating a lot.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.