Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Los Angeles, California--Tucson, Arizona--Day 110

Sitting in the LAX airport, I am just about to get on my way to Tucson, Arizona where I live for a short but sweet stopover before heading to New York tomorrow. Spending a few days in Los Angeles has been nice, particularly because this is where my brother lives so I got to spend time with him and his girlfriend Jenny. Yesterday Simon took the day off of work and we headed off to the zoo.

We had driven to the zoo two days before, on Sunday, but when we arrived it was so hot and crowded that we thought it would be best if we came back on a nicer, less crowded day. Yesterday was perfect but as we drove up into the parking lot, which was completely filled with big yellow school buses, it appeared to be more crowded than we had hoped.

We bought our tickets and made our way to the entrance, which was sort complicated by construction going on. We had our map and set off to find the hippos. I was really excited to have
Simon with me and to show him the ropes.

We got up to the hippos after a while and found two of them sleeping happily in clear water in a nice, but somewhat small, pool. I took a few pictures of them sleeping but then decided that I should call to the hippos to see if they would move around or something. So I started calling to them “Hippos! Hippo--hippos!” as I’ve seen several zookeepers do, pretending like this was something that I did all the time, no big deal, just part of the job.

What happened surprised even myself.

Not only did the hippos start stirring, but they started swimming around and got OUT of the water! My brother was impressed, and I was shocked to see that it worked, even though I played it off like it was not a big deal. They got out of the water and I clapped and shouted, and tried to get them to open their mouths with my hands as I’d seen some keepers do. While they didn’t open their mouths for me, at least they got out and I was able to get some great pictures of them. I bet they thought that they were going to be fed!

Several groups of school children came and went, some impressed by the hippos, others not so much. Each group had a zoo volunteer showing them around, and I asked one of them what the names of the hippos were. He told me that they did have names, but that the “public wasn’t encouraged to use them” so he either didn’t know them, or wouldn’t tell me. Fair enough, it seemed like these hippos would get out of the water in a flash if someone was calling their names.

After taking a few more pictures, we headed back towards the main entrance to find the zoo administration building. I’m sure that someone in there wouldn’t mind helping us! So we stopped at a few other exhibits along the way and found the zoo administration building. Walking in, I realized that this was probably not the place we were looking for. There was a fancy waiting room and a proper receptionist sitting at a desk. I walked up and told her that I was interested in the hippos and wanted to know what there names were---was this the place I should be looking? She smiled and re-directed us to another building around the corner that could help us with that as she was in charge of the fundraising.

So Simon and I walked out and before we could get to far the receptionist came running out after us. We turned around and she asked, did you just want to know their names? And I said yes, and she said Otis and Maggie.

What great names! Otis and Maggie. I wrote this down and we hit the gift shop before heading back to our car. We spent the rest of the day hanging out in Los Angeles before meeting up with Simon’s girlfriend Jenny for a swank L.A. dinner celebrating Simon’s 25th birthday (which was in February but its never too late to celebrate!)

This morning I woke up still feeling it from last night (not in a good way!) and Simon drove me to the airport to catch my short flight over to Tucson!

Monday, May 17, 2004

Los Angeles, California--Day 108

The past few weeks have been great- I have traveled to one of my favorite countries, New Zealand, and have been able to catch up with my friends from there, and then spent a good amount of time on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. Now I am in Los Angeles where my brother lives, and have been able to catch up with him and will be heading to the Los Angeles Zoo tomorrow.

New Zealand was great. I spent a few days with a friend from Macalester, Ryan, who is living up on Waiheke Island that is off Auckland. I then traveled down to Wellington, which is at the bottom of the North Island and spent a few days on the coast. Then it was down to Dunedin where I met up with the parents of my old roommate Emma, and spent a weekend in Invercargill which is at the very bottom of the South Island, where I spent a wonderful weekend with another old roommate Megan learning how to duck shoot of all things. Do not worry, I did not shoot any ducks myself.

I then spent a few days in Nelson, which is at the top of the South Island-- a gorgeous place. The few days that I spent there I made a few friends at the place that I was staying and we spent a couple of days walking outside taking in the gorgeous weather.

Back in Auckland, I had to get everything ready to leave for Hawaii, which also meant scheduling a shuttle to the airport. Much to my shock and horror, I realized that my flight left Auckland at 6:15am. This meant that I would need to get a shuttle at the awful hour of 3:25am. Therefore, I ended up going to bed rather early with hopes of getting a decent amount of sleep before having to wake up at 3 am.

I woke up and made it out to my shuttle where the driver greeted me with that “yeah, I know its 3 in the morning” type of greeting and several sleepy passengers, including a family that from what I caught on were from Israel. The driver and the father were in a heated debate about something, I could not hear much being at the back of the shuttle and being half asleep, but apparently 3 am is not too early to have a heated, political debate.

I tried to get a little bit more sleep while we drove to the airport but had an overly enthusiastic guy sitting next to me, with is girlfriend I presumed on the other side, and was really eager to make comments (“dang its early”) and to make conversation with me, which was nice, but c’mon, its like 3am here.

We made it to the airport with what seemed like a billion hours to spare and it was so early that not even the shops were open, not even the “stay open late, opens early” McDonalds. I sat down to wait until it was closer to my departure time before going to the gate and busied myself flipping through magazines at one of the shops (when it finally opened) and buying myself an overpriced muffin.

Finally it was time to board the plane. We got on and I was ready to fall asleep again. I was sitting next to the window and a couple sat down next to me. I always wonder why, when the plane is half empty, why airlines feel that it is necessary to sit everyone together. Never mind that there are lots of open rows, lets sit everyone in just one area of the plane all next to each other. Anyways, my hopes of stretching out and lying down were crushed, at least until take off when the stewardess said we could me.

Now we just had one problem. We weren’t taking off. We taxied down the runway and were sitting at the end waiting to go, when the captain came on to make an announcement. Turns out we have a huge blanket of fog and he goes on about us being on a temporary runway that doesn’t have the necessary lighting to take off in foggy conditions. So we just have to wait for the fog to clear. Now there wasn’t fog anywhere else in Auckland, just over the airport and the control tower, and since it was fog, it was so low to the ground. Basically we would take off and then about two minutes later be clear of the fog. Whenever that was going to be.

So we wait. And wait. And wait. I grew increasing annoyed at the situation and started to get the feeling that I was going to miss my connection from Sydney to Honolulu.

The captain comes back on the speakers to make an announcement. Apparently there is a woman on the plane who was having “medical problems” and that we would have to taxi back to the terminal and get the paramedics on board to assess her to determine whether or not she is able to fly.


So we mosey on over to the terminal and by the time the paramedics have come and gone (deciding that the woman was in fact unfit to travel, which also meant getting her off the plane AND her luggage) the sun had not only come out, but broken the fog so that several planes had taxied out and taken off in front of us. Now all we had to do was to get down to the runway and take off!

If only it was that easy.

By the time this had all happened and we got back to the end of the runway to take off, the fog rolled itself back in again and we had to wait. Again. Oh man, I definitely was going to miss my connection as it was only about an hour until the flight in Sydney was supposed to board, and it takes like 3 hours for us to get to Sydney from Auckland and even with the time difference I wasn’t going to come out ahead.

Three and a half hours later, I am just about to lose it when we finally, finally take off. Everyone on board is clapping and cheering as we pass through the layer of fog and up into the clear blue skies just above Auckland.

The flight itself was fine and I felt much better when we finally took off. I managed to squirt my entire thing of milk for my tea all over the flight attendant’s pants without him even noticing (as he was passing by with the cart). He didn’t notice so I didn’t tell him since I was really embarrassed. Hopefully he has washed his pants since then! Anyways, we landed in Sydney about a half and hour too late. I missed my connection so had to be re-routed. Luckily for me I didn’t have to actually stay over night in Sydney (although I wouldn’t have minded) and I was able to get on my way to Honolulu that day via Fiji!

Whoohoo! I have never been to Fiji! Even though it was just a stopover, that’s better than nothing, right?

So I had to wait in the Sydney airport for a good while and finally was able to board my flight to Fiji. We made it to Fiji and was greeted by a guitar and ukulele playing group as we got off the plane which was really neat. I wanted to stay in Fiji and was sort of hoping that there wouldn’t have been room on the Honolulu flight so that I could stay for an extra day. Plus it was getting to be so late and I just wanted to get a good dinner and some proper sleep, since I had been up for who knows how long already.

There was room on the plane for us to go to Honolulu, but it didn’t take off for a long while so I had about 3 hours to wait in the terminal, along with a couple and a woman with her father. The five of us waited and as time went on the terminal got more and more crowded. Other planes boarded and left while we waiting for ours to leave a 10:30pm. That’s when I found out that this new flight was going to also stop on Samoa to re-fuel on our way to Honolulu! Now I was going to be in Auckland, Sydney, Fiji, Samoa AND Honolulu all in the same day, which I thought would be pretty cool but considering the missed flight and late connections, I wasn’t as excited as I normally would have been.

To make matters worse, while I was waiting one of the airline reps from Air Pacific (the airline that I was re-routed through) came over to me to hand me back my luggage tags, saying that my luggage didn’t make it to Fiji and they had no record of it whatsoever. So I would not be expecting my luggage upon arrival in Honolulu and would have to find a ticket agent instead.


Finally its our turn to board and we take off. I manage to fall asleep and have foggy memories of landing in Samoa, taking off again, and eating in between dosing off. I finally wake up in time for breakfast and to watch the sun rising over the ocean which was really cool.

We FINALLY make it to Honolulu and I am just so excited to have actually made it, despite being almost 10 hours late. I am ready to get checked into my hotel and catch a quick nap. I sorted my missing luggage situation out with the guy at the baggage claim, although I couldn’t quite explain to him all that had happened with how and why I missed my connection from Sydney because I was so flustered and tired, but he finally handed me a slip of paper saying that they would look for my luggage and told me to call a certain number to inquire about my luggage tonight.

Tonight? Well what was I supposed to do until then? Not only was I wearing jeans, but I had my glasses on which doesn’t coincide with swimming in the ocean OR snorkeling. Passing through immigration and a taxi ride later, I was at my hotel and checked into my room.

First things first, I would go to the Zoo and get my hippo pictures. So I got my camera stuff together (at least I had all of that with me!) and set off towards the zoo, which turned out to be just down the road from my hotel along the beach.

I got to the Zoo and tried to ask about the hippos to the woman working at the ticket counter but she sort of looked at me like I was nuts (I have to say though that I am used to it) and so I thought that I should just go scout someone out to help me around the hippo enclosure. After a while of walking around the Zoo trying not to get lost I made it to the hippos, both of which were sitting in the water sleeping.

Of course, why would they be out of the water? Its really hot and if I were them I would be in the pool sleeping!

So I take a few pictures but am worried by how similar they look. They’re not even that much different in size! I definitely would need some help. So I set off and find a zookeeper who is showing off a rather large snake to a group and ask her about the hippos, but she doesn’t seem to know too much about them. She knows that one’s name is Cleo, but not sure about the other. She suggests that I walk back over to the hippos and try to find a keeper around that area.

So I do but don’t find anyone so decide that it might be best for me to call the Zoo and arrange a meeting with a keeper. I was so tired and hot at this point that calling it a day sounded like a good idea to me, which is not something that I have done so far!

I spend the rest of the day picking up a few odds and ends like a pair of shorts and a hat (saving me from the scorching heat) and sit and watch people in the water, not being able to go in myself. It was good day, but I felt that the next would be even better if my luggage showed up. Thankfully when I got back to the hotel I found that my luggage was on its way on another flight and would be arriving in the morning!

The net morning I contacted several people at the zoo that I thought could be of help to me and decided to go back to the zoo when I heard back from them, since I had four more days to get the pictures. I spent the day snorkeling, trying to figure out the Honolulu bus system which was confusing, and overcoming my shock of being asked to accompany a random man to a nudie beach.

The next morning I went to Pearl Harbor which was really interesting, but left me to wonder where the next war memorial will be considering everything going on at the moment. That evening I went to a performance by a guy called Don Ho. Now everyone who has been to Waikiki will know of Don Ho and his crazy cocktail show, and for those who don’t you just have to see it to believe it. He’s been running the same show for 44 years now and I had seen him once before when my family came over to Hawaii when I was very little. So I thought that I just had to go to rekindle old memories and turned out to be one of the few that were under the age of fifty. I met some great people in line, whom I would spend the rest of my trip with, which made the show in itself all the more entertaining

By Wednesday I figured that if I didn‘t hear from the zoo that day that I would go back Thursday and re-attempt to find someone to help me. Thankfully I did hear from them, and was told that I was able to join up with a school group on Thursday night who were given a special tour of the zoo. Perfect! I was so excited and looking forward to getting the photos.

Thursday morning Hannah and I (Hannah is one of the people that I met at Don Ho’s) went and hiked Diamond Head Crater near Waikiki and that night I set off for the zoo and made it to the front gates by 5:45. I stood outside waiting and then all of a sudden I couldn’t remember which entrance I had been told to stand and wait at. So I raced around the zoo to the other side entrance that I knew of and found a group of kids and a zookeeper talking with them. They were filming something and so I waited patiently (but also impatiently) for them to finish. When they did, they all started walking away and so I started jumping up and down yelling to the zookeeper to wait.

She looked at me very questionably and I beckoned her over to where I was standing behind the gates. Hi! I’m supposed to take the hippo pictures!! Blank look. Umm, I’m Sarah, I talked to Barb about taking pictures of the hippos? I say. Barb? When did you talk to her? She asks. Oh yesterday, I say. She tells me that she has no idea what I am talking about.

So I start to panic, no idea what I am talking about? But aren’t you Donna? Donna, she says. There is no Donna that works here.

Now I start thinking that I am losing it--wasn’t I told about someone named Donna? My mind starts searching…

We have someone named Dolly who is giving a tour at 6pm, she says.

Yes! Yes! DOLLY. That’s it! I thank her and race around back to the front of the zoo where I find Dolly waiting along with the security guard and another zookeeper at the front of the entrance. I am so excited that I didn’t miss the tour but also embarrassed at what just happened.

Dolly is just wonderful and we chat while waiting for the school group to come, who ends up being a little bit late. I learn that hippos don’t grow new teeth when they lose them, which is another factoid I can add to my growing knowledge of hippos. Dolly is excited that I get to see Cleopatra, one of the oldest living hippos in captivity and I am thrilled that I get to meet her as well and find out that there are in fact three hippos at the Honolulu Zoo. The younger two, Louise and Rosie, come out during the day and then Cleopatra comes out at night since she is older and needs time to herself.
We set off on the tour which was really interesting (its not often that I get a special tour of the other animals at the zoo) and we finally end up at the hippo enclosure where Cleo does a great job of swimming around for the apples that are being fed to her. I get some great night shots of her and am really pleased that I was allowed to get the pictures of her.

I arrange with Dolly to come back the next day to hopefully have someone help me get some good pictures of the younger two and set off to find some dinner to eat.

The next morning I head back to the zoo and find that Dolly did her best to find someone to help me out with the hippos, but to no avail. So we head over to the hippos and she points out that one of them has bigger bulging eyes than the other, and the other has a white spot on her lip. So we do our best of figuring out which one is which and I am left to watch Rosie and Louise for a good while. At first they were sleeping but after a long while they got restless and started swimming around and chomping on things, which made for some great pictures.

After getting all of the shots I headed back to my hotel to drop off my stuff for a few more hours on the beach. The next morning I am up and packing my things and catch a shuttle over to the airport, excited about getting to see my brother Simon in just a few hours.

The flight to Los Angeles was fine, if not a little too bumpy, and I got a taxi to Simon’s apartment. Its great to be here in LA, if not a little bit shocking to be back in the United States again! Tomorrow we are heading to the Los Angeles Zoo and will be updating more after that!

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.