Saturday, March 20, 2004

Tokyo, Japan--Day 50

Today we woke up only to find it pouring outside. Luckily we got umbrellas and were able to borrow one from the hotel and set off to find a good view of Tokyo, which probably wouldn’t be that good since it was raining so much. We took the subway over to a government building that we could have gone up, but found that it was closed since today was a national holiday (who knew!). So we walked back down to a hotel that Sonja and Valerie had stayed at when they first arrived in Tokyo and headed up to the 47th floor to find a good view. The view was good, but it was very cloudy and raining so it wasn’t the best, plus we were getting some not too happy looks from the staff up at the top so we decided to go back down.

We spent the day sort of walking around Tokyo and shopping, with Sonja buying a neat little digital camera. It was just nice to have them to talk to and walk around with, so I didn’t mind just shopping. After a good and rainy afternoon we headed back to the hotel where Valerie stayed while Sonja and I went to a traditional Kabuki theater. We bought tickets and were told that there was standing room only, which wasn’t going to be a problem since we only bought tickets to one act (which was about an hour and half) and opted not to go for the entire 5 or so hours that it was going to be playing!

We got up to our seats and were able to get English translation headsets which were quite cool and useful and then were able to get some seats. The kabuki theater was really neat, and I guess is THE place to see kabuki in Tokyo. The play was great and I was of course thoroughly impressed with it all, especially when I learned that the females were played by males. It was really a great experience to watch.

After the act was over, we went back to the hotel and met up with Valerie again and then set off to Roppongi, which is this area of Tokyo attracts a lot of Westerners. After much debate as to where to have dinner, we found a great sushi restaurant which was really fun, and Sonja and I had quite the time picking up various interesting looking things and trying them out. Raw octopus isn’t that bad! After dinner and several glasses of Japanese beer later, we headed to find some good desserts and drinks, then had some more fun at an Australian bar nearby, then a slightly more sketchy bar after that. We had quite the time with the people there and danced the night away, making it back to our hotel fashionably late.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Osaka, Japan--Tokyo, Japan--Day 49

Today on my way to Tokyo, which wasn’t a very long flight, I was able to see Mount Fuji from the plane which was really neat. I took a lot of pictures and I think the girl next to me thought I was nuts. Anyways, we landed and my bags were searched by immigration (he had to go through my dirty clothes which were on top so it was a little bit awkward.

I met my driver to the hotel and was stuck in a tunnel for an hour due to an accident or something. It was annoying because I was supposed to meet my friend Sonja (whom was my roommate while I lived in New Zealand) at the hotel and I was going to be late.

We got to the hotel and I checked in but the room wasn’t ready yet, and I had a message waiting from Sonja. So I called her up and she was at a restaurant nearby and was going to finish up things there then come meet me.

I checked in my bags to have the hotel hold them for the day and waited for Sonja. She came and it was so exciting to see her, not only to have a friend for the weekend, but to see Sonja especially since I haven’t seen her in such a long time. She is working on an English teaching scheme here in Japan for two years, so was able to come down for the weekend!

WE got some lunch and then headed to the Tokyo Ueno Zoo via subway, which a little bit less confusing than in Osaka. We had to take the monorail in the zoo to get to the hippos (realizing later that we could have walked) but I haven’t been at a zoo with a monorail before so it was kind of a neat change. The hippos were in full swing when we got there, kind of. Actually it was more like the ranting pygmy hippo next door who was apparently running all around and jumping in the water, then getting out and repeating this over and over. I wasn’t paying attention to it though and luckily this distracted a few people away from our hippos so I could get some good pictures, although it took a little bit for one of the hippos to move around and show her face.

After getting the pictures we headed off to find the names of the hippos, which was discovered at the information desk where they had a huge book with the name of each animal. Now why doesn’t every zoo have one of these? Thanks to Sonja’s stellar Japanese skills, we learned their names (Jiro and Satsuki) and stopped by the pandas on the way out of the zoo.

After leaving the zoo and surrounding park areas, we took the subway back to the hotel and was able to check into the room, which is where we went to Denny’s to get a snack and wait for Sonja’s friend Valerie from her school (who is Canadian) who was also going to be joining us for the weekend. We went to Denny’s because it was right across the road from our hotel (a good waiting point) and thankfully the food was nothing like Denny’s in the States, so I was able to get some surprisingly good noodles.

We went back to the hotel and met Valerie, then the three of us went up to the room and planned our evening. We headed out to have dinner in Ginza (the area of Tokyo that I was staying in) and got dinner at a fun little restaurant which was again on the 6th floor of a business looking building. Dinner was great, and I was really impressed with Sonja and Valerie’s Japanese speaking skills, although they, like the Japanese, won’t admit that they are good at speaking it. After dinner we walked around some and then went back to the hotel to watch a movie and go to bed!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Kyoto, Japan--Day 48

Today I woke up and decided to take the train to Kyoto to go to the zoo, which I found out was one of the zoos nearby with hippos. We decided that trying to tackle all of the hippos in Japan at this moment would be too costly so to do what I could. The girl at the business center, where I went to mail some photo cds back to the States, was really nice and offered to look up all of the zoos in Japan for me since most of the websites were in Japanese. I thought this was so nice and thought it also couldn’t hurt to have someone helping, so I agreed and said that I would be back later to get the list she was going to compile.

The train to Kyoto was really an amazing experience considering that I managed to get there and back all on my own (more about the getting back part later). I basically went up to the ticket counter and said “Kyoto?” and the man said all sorts of things back to me and finally gave me a ticket. I had directions from the hotel about what platform to stand on which basically saved me and made me look like I knew what I was doing.

So I stood on the 8th Platform with everyone else and soon a train came and I got on it, hoping that I was in fact on the right train. The train was supposed to be an express train, which is was, but it made a few unexpected stops (unexpected for me, not everyone else) so I was almost convinced that I was on the wrong train, but then we arrived in Kyoto so I was ok.

Outside it was raining and absolutely freezing. I hailed a taxi cab to the zoo and he dropped me off. I bought my ticket and headed in, and sadly the zoo was not as animal friendly as others that I have seen and many were in small concrete cages, not looking at all happy. I found the hippos and there were two of them, one outside in a small pool and gated area and the other inside in a concrete pen.

I took pictures of the outside hippo but unfortunately there were bars in my way. If I said that I then hopped the little fence between me and the hippo (who was behind these big bars) after looking out for zoo keepers first, I wouldn’t be lying, but I hate to admit it. If I went even further and said that I even tried to open the door to the other hippo’s pen, then I would not be lying either. Unfortunately the door to the second hippo was locked (of course, why would they leave it open for people like me?) but was able to get good pictures of the first hippo, although he was definitely suspicious of what I was doing.

So I went and tried to track down someone to help me. I went back to the front desk and asked if they spoke English. Nope, but one of the women went and found another woman who spoke a little bit of English. I wanted to know if I could perhaps open the windows of the second hippos’ pen (the elephant’s had their windows open, why not the hippos?) so that I could get pictures without the glass reflection.


I sort of begged and pleaded for a little bit until finally the woman went and got one of the keepers who was spartanly on his lunch break. She talked with him and then he got up and gestured for me to come with him, and led me back towards the hippos. He went and tried to open the windows (they were shut because it was too cold outside, I learned!) but they were locked. So he tried with his key to open the door to get in, but no luck. Then he told me to wait and ran off. As soon as he ran off to do whatever he was going to do, a man appeared in the hippo room, who appeared to be the keeper. I stood there holding my camera and trying to catch his attention. Hellooo? No luck, he didn’t even bat an eye at me, and I didn’t really want to bang on the glass. He left the hippo room after doing something but returned about 3 minutes later with the keeper who ran off. He saw me and smiled and gestured for me to follow him and opened the door to the hippo’s room, so I was able to get in! Yay!

Now the only problem that I had was that going in from such a cold climate outside to such a warm climate inside--my lens was fogging. I didn’t have much time to take the pictures since both keepers were waiting for me to hurry up but in between wiping my lens, I got some great shots, especially when the hippo got mad at me. I think she was annoyed that she didn’t know what I was doing sticking my camera into her cage (I’ve gotten pretty brave after Taiwan I think) and she actually opened her eyes wide, grunted, and lunged at me only to be stopped by the bars and bit the scolding of the keeper. It was pretty funny, but also kind of scary having a hippo lunge at you through your camera lens! I jumped back and didn’t get the wide opened mouth shot that would have been great. Oh well.

I thanked the keeper and was on my way out of the zoo since the English speaking woman had helped me figure out their names, and I set off to find some Temples. I decided to get another taxi to the first temple since it was so cold and a long way to walk. I headed to To-ji, with the largest pagoda in Japan and really neat Shingon Buddhist sculptures, all which was really interesting of course.

Then I went to the visitors center, which took me a while to find but then was relocated (ugh!) so I instead stopped at a department store to buy some jeans since I was absolutely freezing. I then got a taxi over to Kiyomizu-dera which is a really neat temple that was also packed with other tourists, both Western and Japanese. I walked up the small road that led up to the temple and shrine which was lined with various small shops. I got to the top and saw some geishas posing for pictures with people (I didn’t get my picture with them but took some of them instead) and then walked up to the temple, with its love stones at the Jishu Shrine also on the grounds and the sacred water that you are supposed to drink to give you good luck.

It was really great to see all of the people there and the views over Kyoto were also beautiful. After a while I then headed back out and picked up a few things at the shops on my way back down the road in search of the subway. After a while I found it and hopped on, getting off at a stop near the train station. Before getting back on the train to Osaka though, I headed down this street towards the Kyoto Park which was very nice. I didn’t realize that that was where I was walking and was pleasantly surprised when I found it. I got some food from a vendor and walked around the park’s sculpture garden and before that around a temple on the grounds.

The sun was setting and I had to get back to Osaka so I walked down to the subway again and it was a different station than where I arrived so I, looking totally confused, thankfully had a few people help me along the way. When I got to the platform, it was all in Japanese so I asked a shopkeeper “Osaka?!?” pointing to the trains on both sides of the platform and she laughed and pointed eagerly at one of them.

So I got on, and thankfully it was the right train. I was able to sit down this time. When I arrived in Osaka I headed out of the train//subway station and saw Hep 5, which is this gigantic shopping center with a Ferris wheel on top. So of course I had to go on the Ferris wheel and was glad that I did because you got excellent view of the city below. It was sort of unnerving going up so high and going around however.

After that I made it back to my hotel, after getting a little lost, and had dinner at the hotel’s tempura restaurant which was so good. Then I got back into my room and transferred photos, after having quite the fiasco with the bidet in my bathroom. I won’t go into details but I basically pressed the button to see what would happen. Tomorrow its off to Tokyo!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Osaka, Japan--Day 47

Today I got some photo works done in the morning then set off for the Tennoji Zoo in Osaka. The hotel staff told me that I could easily take the subway and train system which was right near the hotel. I headed out and crossed the street into the station and was immediately overwhelmed. There were hundreds of people everywhere and I thought that I could just follow and see what other people were doing but unfortunately I could only see signs in Japanese and really had not a clue what to do. Instead of trying to brave the subway today, I thought it would be best to just take a taxi to the zoo and then the subway on the way back.

I got to the Zoo and easily found their habitat and found both hippos underwater. Luckily there was an underwater viewing area and I was able to get some good shots of one of the hippos but the second hippo was totally out of view as it was separated by metal bars from the other. I waited for a long time for the second hippo to show itself on top of the water, but with no luck. I decided that I should go in search of someone who could help me figure out their names. I found two zookeepers and asked them if they spoke English, but they said no, but gestured for me to come with them towards the administration building.

Whoohoo! I was introduced to an administrator who was more than happy to give me the names of the hippos, Natsuko (the female) and Tetsuo (the male, Natsuko‘s son). Phew, with names in hand I headed back over to the hippos to watch them and see if Natsuko was going to come out of the water.

I waited, and waited, and waited. In the mean time I got some food to eat but mostly just stood watching the other people at the zoo watching the hippos not moving. Eventually, after about three hours, a zookeeper came up to me and told me that I sure must love hippos. I smiled and said yes. He told me that there were plenty of hippos for me to see in Japan, with many more zoos having hippos since they are such a popular animal here.

Really? I said. Hmm. Now the plan this time around is to only go to two zoos in Japan, and I was completely unaware that there could be the possibility of more hippos in other zoos that are unaccounted for. Was he sure? Of course, he says, and off he went.

What does this mean? Does this mean that there are potentially HUNDREDS of other hippos in Japan?!?! What was I going to do?? I got a little bit nervous but decided to first worry about these hippos before others.

Finally Natsuko started to move and swam around the pond a little bit then came out of the water just enough for me to get some pictures of her head. Finally!

I left the zoo and walked towards the subway and train station. It was about 4 o’clock at this point and I actually was able to figure out without too much trouble how to get back to the station near my hotel. However once I got back to the station I had a little bit of trouble finding my hotel and instead found the biggest electronics store that I have ever seen in my entire life. It was this huge mega mall type thing with over 8 floors selling all sorts of goods, with three completely devoted to electronic goods. I picked up some more data cds for the hippo pictures and then managed my way back to the hotel.

Since it was Saint Patrick’s Day, which I realized as I got back into the hotel, I found an Irish bar in my guidebook and headed back out on the subway in search of it. About forty-five minutes later I found myself in another huge shopping area, this time more of a huge street filled with shops and since it was still a little bit early I perused the shops of a while before heading down a smaller street towards the Irish pub, which was located on the 6th floor of what appeared to be a business complex!

I went in and was immediately taken aback, as it was almost the most culture shock that I have experienced on this trip. I was surrounded by English speaking people all drinking away and having a good and very loud time. I was starving and ordered chicken and chips (I know, not really the thing to be eating in Japan but at that point I just needed something to eat) and stood there eating my food while trying to talk to a girl who worked as an English teacher. She told me what she did (by saying where she worked) and I looked at her totally confused, in which she looked back at me like I was totally nuts since I had no clue what she was talking about. Umm, hellooo, why didn’t I know what she was talking about and why wasn‘t I 100% Irish?? Turns out that like 90 percent of all Europeans in Japan are English teachers and she obviously assumed that I was one. When she realized that I wasn’t she sort of apologized but I still felt out of place.

So soon afterwards I decided to leave and headed back to the subway and made it back to my hotel. My attempt at meeting some new people sort of failed but I had a good day anyway.

Now, what to do about those other hippos roaming around Japan...

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Taipei, Taiwan--Osaka, Japan--Day 46

Today I woke up and headed out to the post office to mail things back home. The hotel staff wasn’t confident in my ability to navigate the Post Office by myself and insisted that I mail things back at the hotel, but I assured them that I could handle it on my own.

And I did. The post office was no problem, probably because I found a postal worker who spoke English and could help me out. Unfortunately I did not have enough cash on me and since they only took cash, I was left to run around the block trying to find a cash machine that would accept my card. No luck. So I had to go back to the hotel and get cash there. I had already checked out earlier, so I picked up my bags and got a taxi to the airport, stopping off back at the post office first so that I could pay for my postage!

My flight to Osaka was just fine- I watched TV the entire time which made it go by really fast. However the lights kept flickering on and off the ENTIRE time (kind of like strobe lighting really) and it was super annoying and furthermore convinced me that the power of the plane was just going to turn off any minute. Luckily it didn’t and we landed in Osaka.

After an hours’ drive to the hotel, I checked in and inquired about getting a guide to Japan. I was told that I had only about 10 minutes until the bookstore closed, so I rushed down a couple of blocks to the bookstore only to find tons of books all in Japanese. I went up to the counter and said “Guidebook” to the bookseller and she just smiled and gestured to me towards the back of the store where after a little bit more confusion I found the English travel guides. Thank goodness!

I picked up my book just in time before the store closed and walked back to the hotel, eating dinner at the restaurant at the hotel since it was pretty late at this point and many things were closing. After dinner I headed to bed and will be off to the Osaka zoo in the morning.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Taipei, Taiwan--Day 45

Today I headed back to the zoo to check out the hippos in better lighting. Instead of taking a cab like yesterday, I was advised to take the MRT which is Taipei’s Mass Rapid Transit (same name as in Singapore) because it was cheaper. Both the woman at the front desk and the man at the taxi cab desk insisted that I try out the MRT system because it could take me right to the zoo. I looked at the map and the roundabout way of me getting there on the MRT but saw that indeed, it would drop me off right in front of the zoo. So I decided to take it and had to first take a cab over to the Station and then got on the MRT which was, as they said, very efficient and I was there in more or less the same amount of time that it would have taken me to take a cab.

It’s a good thing that I did because there was absolutely NO ONE at the zoo today, unlike yesterday where I literally had to fight my way through the crowds of people standing around the hippos. Today I basically had the place to myself, with the occasional couple showing up to check out what the hippos were up to then heading on their way. Luckily I showed up just in time for their morning feeding time so I was able to get similar pictures to yesterday of them getting out of the water, but from more of an overhead angle. I snapped away and was thanking my lucky stars that Ellen was going to help sort out who was who.

I spent the morning at the zoo and when all of my memory cards were full, I headed back to my hotel to transfer the photos. Then I got back onto the MRT and headed out to the National Palace Museum which hosts one of the largest (if not the largest) collection of Chinese artifacts and historical pieces. Although I am feeling a bit impassionate about museums at the moment, I was really impressed by the collection of prints and porcelain. I spent about an hour at the zoo, tagging along on a private English speaking tour for a little bit, and then walked around the grounds taking some pictures. I then got a cab back over to the MRT station and headed down to the main Taipei train station area which is sort of like downtown Taipei (I think---anyways its where a lot of shopping is) and walked through the 2-28 Peace Park which was fabulous since the sun was just starting to set. I stayed in the park for a little while then walked over to where all the hustle and bustle was and found an underground mall which was mostly under construction then walked around the shopping area outside and got a bite to eat at a local take away place. After catching the MRT back to the closest station to my hotel, I then walked the rest of the way back to start working on organizing the pictures. Since there are so many pictures, its taken me quite a long time to get them all arranged, ready to be sent off back to the States as well as to Ellen at the Taipei Zoo.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Taipei, Taiwan--Day 44

Today started off in the usual way, getting up and going to the zoo. I feel back to normal heath wise so that is much better. I headed downstairs to get a taxi and asked for one that could speak a little bit of English so that s/he could come in with me and help me out in the zoo. No luck--I was told by the concierge that “no taxi drivers speak English” (hmmm, I wasn’t so sure about that) and unfortunately the one that took me to the zoo didn’t. Never mind, I could handle this on my own.

What’s hippo in Mandarin Chinese again?

Anyways I get dropped off at the zoo and head inside, buying my ticket and refusing to buy binoculars and other various things that were being sold outside, including cobs of corn. Everywhere I looked there were people eating corn. I had my temperature taken on my forehead as I entered the zoo (for SARS) and was allowed to enter and headed over to the Information desk to find a map in English. The girls working at the desk hardly had to even glance at me before handing me an English language map. I got my map and stopped at the restroom and to get a drink and managed to lose my map in the process so I had to go back and get another. Finally I was on my way to see the hippos.

I walked uphill to the hippo habitat which was in the African Animals section. The Taipei Zoo was a full-on zoo, with a huge tram system (luckily I could get to the hippos without using the tram!) and was jam packed with people since it is Sunday today. I guess I haven’t really thought about the fact that most of my trips to the zoos have been during the week, when less people visit, and I was pleasantly surprised to see all of the people since it added more to the zoo’s character so to speak.

Anyways, I finally found the hippos and walked up to their habitat to peer down onto them in the water. I counted one, two, three…..six, seven, eight….oh god, ten, eleven…THIRTEEN HIPPOS! Oh my god! THIRTEEN! There were eleven of them on one side of the bars closest to the people watching pond that they were in and two on the other side (I assumed one side was for the females and one was for the males, but I wasn’t sure). I couldn’t believe it. Boy, I was sure in for it today! How on earth was I going to tell thirteen different hippos apart??!!?

I took a load of pictures but then realized how useless it was going to be to have the pictures but not have anyone to help me tell them apart then and there since there were so many. Plus they were all moving about so fast (as fast as hippos move really) and going around in the water so it made it even more problematic. So I walked back towards the entrance, which was a fair amount of walking, and found the “Administration Building” halfway back to the Entrance. There I ran into three zoo employees sporting bright orange and green vests and I thought for sure that they could help me.

No luck, they simply told me that there were thirteen hippos and that they didn’t have names, just numbers. One through Thirteen, and no, they couldn’t help me tell them apart, and no I couldn’t speak with the hippo keeper, and maybe I could look it up on the internet.

Great. That was no help, what do you mean they don’t have names? I decided to head back to the Information desk at the front of the zoo to see if they could help me there. I got back to the desk and tried my best to explain my situation to the three girls working there, all of which could speak just a little bit of English. I told them that I needed to take pictures (gesturing with my hands) and got out the pictures of the hippos on my camera that I had already taken to show them what I meant. One girl got on the phone while the others told me that sorry, I had to book a private tour 10 days in advance for 30 people if I wanted to have someone tell me the names of the hippos. Hmm…

The girl gets off the phone and hands it to me. Hello? I start talking to the woman on the other line and try to explain to her what I am doing, and why I am here. I tell her that I am from the States and doing a project for a friend and I need the hippo pictures along with their names. She seems wary of my intentions but only do I realize later that it was because it was almost time for their lunch break so she couldn’t help me until after 1:30. Fine, we agreed to meet up at the hippo habitat at 1:30 and she could help me figure out which hippo was which. Perfect! I hung up and thanked the girls at the information desk, not being able to believe my luck that they actually understood me and that someone was going to help me!

So the next hour and a half I spent getting a corn dog from a vendor and walking around the nocturnal animals exhibit trying to make the time pass. I sat outside for a while reading my guidebook and waiting for Ellen (my new guide) to show up. At 1:20 I headed over to the hippos and stood by them waiting for Ellen but realized that I had absolutely no idea what she would look like. I waited and waited, and fifteen minutes later she still hadn’t shown up. I looked and looked for the green vests that I thought she would be wearing until a woman came up to me and held out her hand.

Oh, I said and shook her hand excitedly. She could tell it was me just from they way I was looking around, and I was probably sticking out more than I realized amongst all of the Taiwanese. We walked over to look over into the hippo enclosure and she said that I should wait right there for the hippo keeper to come. Hurray! The hippo keeper was coming! This could only mean good things. I asked her about the thirteen hippos, but she looked at me all confused. Thirteen? She says, there are SIXTEEN! What?!?! I looked and counted fourteen outside (I must have missed one) and apparently there were two being kept inside away from the others. SIXTEEN!! Goodness gracious. Ellen said that she would be right back and went to go check where the hippo keeper was in his office. She walked back off in the direction that she came from and I stood there waiting for fifteen more minutes until she eventually came back. She said that she would meet me back near the hippos at 3:15 because at 3:30 they were to be fed, according to the hippo keeper. She also assured me that each of them had their own specific Chinese name and that no, they weren’t just numbered one through thirteen (or rather sixteen!).

So she left, and I at down and waited some more. I was sitting outside and it was absolutely freezing and with the 50 percent chance of rain predicted in the forecast, the weather wasn’t looking too great. I was convinced that it was going to start raining and I would have the same luck as I did in Malaysia where they wouldn’t feed the hippos because of the rain. I got some meat ball soup and read my book while I waited. Three-fifteen finally rolled around and Ellen showed up and told me that we had to ride “there” on her scooter.

Where is there?

So she leads me over to her scooter and reverses it and gestures for me to hop on. We zoom off and I am led through several back roads and underneath an old bride and over to a building complex which turned out to be right next to the hippos! We were at the hippo keeper’s office! He greeted us with a big hello and grabbed his wheelbarrow full of hay and gestured for us to follow him INTO the hippo enclosure!!

So we follow and before I know it I am standing INSIDE the hippo area. He opened up several gates and led me to where I could get a really good picture of the hippos, with the only thing separating us being a big gate across the middle of the enclosure. People were standing all about up on top looking down on us and I couldn’t stop laughing because it was so funny that there I was in the pen with the hippos! So the keeper starts banging on the gate and all of the hippos in the closer side of the pen (twelve of them) start making their way out of the water and walk towards me. I couldn’t believe it and snapped away on my camera. They all came right up to the gate but were really weary of me with my camera and backed off a bit. I snapped away while Ellen tried to hold me back (literally) and the keeper got out his book and tried to figure out which hippo was which. I wrote down names and snapped pictures while Ellen translated for me. It was great. I didn’t however get to get individual shots of each and every hippo since we weren’t able to stay in the pen all afternoon, but I did get some really good group ones I think.

Then we headed over to see the males which were on the other side of the pen (the two that were separated from the females). Ellen started climbing on top of a grassy area over to the pen, but then we headed back down and walked through a few gates over to the males, who looked at me with as much apprehension as the females, one of which opened their jaws wide to show me who was boss! I got a few pictures of them and their names, and headed back inside where there were two other males being kept and attempted to get pictures of them. Apparently the adult males are separated from the females to prevent them from breeding, and every day the four males rotate which ones are out in the pen area and which ones are kept inside (there are two baby males on the female side with their mothers). It also turns out that each hippo has a computer chip in their back to keep track of which is which since even the keepers have a hard time telling them apart!

To make matters worse, here are the actual names of the hippos, and you can see why it would make things even more confusing: Bambam, Feichang, Feichung (not to be confused with Feichang), Meihsiou, Feifei, Nanamei, Nalichung, Nalan, Nai, Nanachung, Nali, Nahsiao, Natziu, Naichung, Natzuchung and Nana. See a pattern?

How on earth was I going to be able to tell which hippo was which when looking at the group pictures? Ellen assured me that if I could send her a copy of the pictures she could identify them for me and then email me which hippo was which, which seemed to be my only option of setting things straight at this point since I couldn’t go back into the pen with them!

After thanking the keeper, whose name I learned to be Isaac, and getting all of the names straight with the hippos Ellen and I zoomed back on the road and she dropped me off near the elephant staff entrance to the zoo. I thanked Ellen and walked back through the zoo over to the hippos to get some more pictures of the females in the water. I would have to go back tomorrow to get pictures of the other males outside, as well as more pictures of the females since the weather had turned the sky very dark gray and it started to sprinkle with rain.

I headed back towards the entrance and was surprised to hear Brahms‘ lullaby being played over the loudspeaker. I made my way through the crowds and to a taxi which I got back to the hotel. I got back and did some picture transferring, and was interrupted by a phone call. The ring on the phone here sounds like a laser stun gun or something so I was startled to hear it ring. I picked it up and it was the Center for Disease Control. Hello, Sarah? Yes, I say. This is the Center for Disease and Control….and they go into how they saw that I had marked down on my SARS sheet yesterday about my tummy trouble and asked me a bunch of questions about when and where I got sick. I explained to them that I didn’t think that I had SARS and that instead it was just a bad orange juice that did me in, and the woman I was speaking to seemed ok with my answer and warned me to take medical action if I felt any worse.

Well at least they checked up on things! I finished with the pictures and headed out to a local mega mall to find a movie theater to spend the evening watching but didn’t find any good movies on. So I had some dinner which was made right in front of me and was just great (your ordered it up and then they fried it right in front of you then left it on grill sizzling right in front of where you ate and you ate it off of the grill) and then it was back to the hotel! I’m heading back to the zoo tomorrow to get a few more pictures (hopefully the weather will be good) then I’m heading to Japan the next day!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.