Anglo Adventure

Travel with a sense of humor


3 Comments

Kangaroo Kisses & Ethical Dilemmas

Seattle-travel-petting-zoo

Arthur. He reminds me of Splinter from TMNT.

I did something wrong. But cute. But wrong. No matter how I try to justify it.

I went to a kangaroo petting zoo. I’m a huge animal lover (meaning, I love animals, not that I love huge animals). I didn’t know it before I got there, but this kangaroo farm breeds and sells kangaroos. A mere $1,200-$3,000 gets you one of these babies (do.not.buy one). They sell about 6 a year to zoos and “other places” and were intentionally vague when I asked them what other places.

Only $9 gets you a whole day of kangaroo handling. I didn’t link to them because I don’t want to give them publicity, bad or good. I went. I didn’t see any signs of outward animal cruelty. But as the saying goes, “If you don’t love something enough to leave it alone, you don’t love it at all.”

Maybe I’m not an animal lover.

A kangaroo in a little baby sack was placed in my arms and the kangaroo keeper, a burly man with a bloody bandage on his forearm said, “his name is Forselly.” I didn’t get it then because I was holding a baby kangaroo and wondering to myself why I like holding animal babies more than human babies.

Then we walked around the property in groups, with sticky-handed children and their parents. One lady had the audacity of asking whether she could take a baby kangaroo out of a SEALED pouch, basically like asking to hold a baby while it’s in a woman’s stomach.

The first kangaroo I fed was Arthur, he had a muzzle of gray whiskers and squinty eyes. They all had squinty eyes.

He moved slowly and methodically, crouched like he had a walker. I fed him a piece of bread then touched his head, almost tempted to scratch behind his ears.

What the hell am I doing? It dawned on me that maybe this is wrong. Animals don’t belong to us, they belong to the world and this place didn’t seem to be doing much for conservation or education. I guess meeting Arthur and “Forselly” makes me feel closer to kangaroos, but really, it makes me more certain that animals aren’t amusement parks.

Lemur sun themselves

So cute. But are they “happy?”

Do kangaroos like being handled? Can they really eat bread?

Other than kangaroos, the farm has lemurs (not for petting, not for kissing), wallabies, peacocks, mini donkeys, pheasants, ostriches, emus and Alpacas. Fun fact: lemurs sit like old men. The animals seemed well taken care of and the lemurs even had their own red rocking chair. And they were purportedly acquired second-hand before owning a primate became illegal.

In light of the recent TBEX controversy, I’ve been reading a lot about mistreatment of wildlife as a tourist attraction. Sometimes the animals are treated cruelly, sedated so we can get that I’m-holding-a-tiger-selfie or F*ck yeah, I’m on an elephant.

I don’t think that’s the case with this place. I think it was a simple case of people who love exotics.

The whole point of this post is know before you go. I don’t remember the one time I went to SeaWorld (before Blackfish) and I barely remember those dolphin shows at the aquarium as a kid. But I’ll always remember the two times I saw orcas whales from the beach near my house. Or the time a bottlenose dolphin swam next to my raft tour off the Napali coast, so close I could have reached down and touched its back. Or the baby bison, on the prairie in South Dakota just kind of hanging out.

That’s the way to see animals. It’s unexpected, it’s magical, and when they leave, you feel like you’ve been kissed.

In October, I’m off to photograph wild horses in New Mexico. I’m excited to be an observer, to watch them thunder across the desert and to know without a doubt, it’s where they belong.

Ever see wildlife in the wild? Where, when, what? Comment below!

Advertisements
travel-friendship-voluntourism


2 Comments

The smiling language of butterflies

Last week, I took Rasmi* to the library for the second time. It was an unusually warm spring day, the kind where everyone stuck inside working asks if you’re out enjoying the weather.

She hands me a bar of coconut ice cream and a Red Bull. Something about that bar zips me back to the porch of my grandma’s bungalow on Chicago’s South Side. Whenever the ice cream man pushed his cart by her house, excitement erupted. Flavors were called out. Crumpled dollar bills were unrolled and counted. One of us would bolt from the porch to catch up to the guy, who would be down the block by then.

I can’t tell Rasmi that she found the ice cream of my childhood.

Rasmi is Nepali, a refugee from Bhutan. I volunteer to help her and her family through their first few months in the US. I read their mail and take them to the doctor’s and try to help find english classes and jobs.

There are a lot of people like Rasmi in Seattle. Newcomers shakily trying to navigate our complicated and expensive way of life while maintaining their traditions, holding on to things that remind them of home, a place they probably won’t see for years. And they encounter so much impatience, ignorance, apathy day-to-day.

Rasmi lived in a camp before she came here. Rasmi doesn’t have a computer, or an email address. Before here, I don’t think she had electricity, or a stove, or a washing machine.

It’s easy to dwell on what she doesn’t have, what she’s never had and how it’s unfair. (And it is. It disgusts me how unfair it all is).

It’s better to focus on the task for the day. Go to the library. Get that email address.

It’s better to focus on her family, her brothers and sisters and the revolving door of neighbors, cousins, and friends, all there to help each other through their transitions. Rasmi  will be ok without me. I don’t want to fool myself into thinking I am her savoir. I don’t want to pity her because pity diminishes pride.

I’m there just to be her friend.

travel-friendship-voluntourism

Rhododendrons. Nepal’s national flower.

Rasmi wears a short sleeve shirt with a floral print and gray straight-leg jeans. She has a butterfly tattoo on her arm. I also have a tattoo, on my back—a monarch butterfly I had done when I was nineteen and because I wanted a tattoo, any tattoo. I won’t show her that though. I want to ask about her tattoo and what it means to her. Is it a regrettable symbol of teenage rebellion like mine? Or something else?

Instead, I eat the coconut ice cream bar, piloting the car one-handed. The windows are down and a cacophony of birds, dogs, kids, and bass rushes in.

“I like this.” I remind myself to annunciate and speak slowly.

She smiles. I am not talking just the ice cream. I want to tell her I like this whole experience. That it makes me nostalgic for driving around in summer with my best friend. Rasmi is only a few years younger than me. That means we were growing up at almost the same time. That’s something. I want to know about her home, her friends.

At the library, a man openly checks her out. Rasmi is cute. Her hair is twisted into pigtail braids, fastened with bright-red bands. He asks about her tattoo and she starts to respond. I usher her forward.

All of the rows are packed with people clicking or typing away. She pulls up a chair and gestures for me to sit. “We’re going to set you up with Gmail,” I declare. I type in Google then pull up the account page. Her name is already taken. There’s another Rasmi. “It’s not working, someone has your name.”

She doesn’t understand. I say it again, shaking my head no. “It won’t work.” After she plucks each letter, she looks at me expectedly. I click enter, knowing it won’t be accepted, that she needs to pick another name. Her brow furrows in frustration. I tell her we have to add numbers to her name. I add the required numbers and write the address down on a piece of scratch paper.

Then there’s the password, the verification code, the pop ups. I take over to get us through all the prompts and legalese I wouldn’t have glanced at twice before. “Yes, Yes, Accept, Yes…” Too many times in Quebec, when they didn’t have a translated version of a form available, I would sign it in French, not knowing if I just agreed to sell my kidney or if I was getting a phone contract.

I was lucky because many people speak English in Quebec. I don’t know what it is like to make a home in a place where no one but your family members and a few neighbors speak your language.

Only later, when driving home will I realize that maybe I could have had Chrome translate the page to Nepali.

She writes her first email to me as she doesn’t have her friends’ email addresses. I watch over her shoulder as she types a message to me and shakily clicks send.

You are good. You help me therefore thank you very much. 

I sort it into my “Emails You’ll Cry At Later” box.

When the session is over, we go to the reference section to check out English Learning DVDs. Rasmi wants a movie and writes it down, but the librarian and I have trouble figuring out what she means. The librarian tells us they have a call line for interpreters. Rasmi brightens at this. In three minutes, she’s speaking to an interpreter in Nepali. On the phone, her expression changes from tense to open and friendly.

“She wants a horror movie,” the Librarian tells me and pulls up some titles. This new fact fills me with delight and surprise. She informs us that the library doesn’t have many horror movies. Instead, Rasmi selects a classic black-and-white, a movie about a farmer and his wife.

Inside the car, away from the public, she becomes brazen with English. She says many people are afraid of horror movies. Not her. I notice she’s smiling more these days, almost making sentences. I met her four months ago. The first few times she came to the door and said “hi,” shyly or went into the kitchen. The first time we drove somewhere together, she barely said a word.

I want to thank her English teacher, even though I don’t know who s/he is.

I want to thank the Librarian for finding out that Rasmi likes horror movies.

I want to tell her she’s brave and strong and smart, but I just turn to her and smile.  There’s so much that can be said this way.

*Name changed


Leave a comment

Caturday: What a $4,000 Cat Looks Like

I should mention here, on this lovely, rainy Caturday that I am personally opposed to buying animals, even ones with rare patterns (or whatever makes him expensive).

Caturday in Japan

Image

Yeah, that’s right. I’m $4,000.

But look at this luxury feline. Isn’t he (or she) cute? Thank you to my sister who found this kitty in an upscale pet store called Kitty Diamond on her recent trip to Japan.

Photo copyright Nicole H.


Leave a comment

Confession: I’m Strangely Attracted to the Roaming Gnome

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-Humor Blog

Hot. He’s not giving the finger, he only has three.

When I was about nine, I had a crush on Michelangelo. Not the artist, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Words like “rad” and “cowabunga” rolled off his tongue. He carried nunchucks, arguably the best weapon. And he could ollie on a skateboard even with that cumbersome turtle shell. Total bad boy.

But love is fickle. And judging by his lack of response to my frequent letters, ours remained unrequited. Faster than the time it takes to say, Cowabunga! I moved on to fellas who were more loquacious, less green. Rider Strong. Devon Sawa. Mr. T.

In my preteen years, all it took was a deep middle-part or a Mohawk to make my heart flutter.

After a few years putting myself out there only to be crushed by zero responses to my proclamations of deep, unfaltering love, I had given up on celebrity crushes. That is, until I fell for Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome.

And he travelled right into my heart

Roaming Gnome, Travel, Vegas

Son of a… Well, good for him I guess. | Photo from: VegasChatter.com

I loved the Travelocity Gnome before he started doing commercials, when he was just a small town garden gnome, hanging out with Amelie’s Dad. Of course he’s been around a lot longer than that. A little Wikipedia work tells me that the roaming gnome prank started in the 1980’s in Australia.

He’s adorable. Sure, he’s probably at least 100 years older than me. But there’s a worldly twinkle in his wide-set eyes. And then there’s the remarkable achievement, the staggering genius* of his beard.

He broods. He’s really quiet, which leads me to believe he’s pontificating on life, love, the pursuit of happiness. When he speaks, his voice has a charming, indistinguishable accent, a subtle lilt reminiscent of the English countryside. Where are you from, Gnome?! My guess is that his accent is a delightful melange of countries from years spent travelling. Continue reading


6 Comments

Translation Thursday: What the Heck is This?

From Japan

My sister is in Japan, lucky duck. Her hotel has been leaving the above on her pillow every night.

Without being too egregious, please translate the text on the package and tell me what this thing is.

Some ideas:

a). A wasabi-scented item for use in the bedroom (wink). Now x5!

b). A magic robe that gives nerds chest hair.

c). They’re obviously chips. Musk-scented, of course.

d). A diet pill that gives people a hollowed-out chest cavity.

Add yours. I’ll reveal what the product actually is in the comments later.


6 Comments

Maybe Your Bliss is Following You

I believe in following dreams. It’s what will keep you moving, getting up day after day. I believe in traveling the globe, in adventure, in opening your mind to new experiences.

And…

I believe know there’s no glamour in financially struggling.

Following is an honest look at “following your bliss” into dark corners. A recent experience led me to believe that sometimes, your dreams have to be put aside for awhile, at least until the ship rights itself, ’til the storm is over.

You’ve seen the Pinterest boards of the blue car on the wide open road with a nice Kerouac quote: “Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.” These Pinterest boards all have us wanting to sell our stuff and take to the open road.

  • You’ll serve rude people pie and work on your writing. Looked good in that movie, right?
  • You’ll tootle around the country in a jeep for a year
  • You’ll publish a novel about your life on the road. Because no one’s done that yet.
  • You’ll become a famous blogger. There aren’t many travel bloggers right?

All of these things sound great.

Read no further if you’re currently sitting on a stack of dollar bills. Or if your name is Richard Branson. If you are either of those two people, please by all means, follow your bliss.

For the rest of us, consider this:

Land first. Then leave.

Maybe your bliss is just where you are.

Continue reading

Copenhagen


7 Comments

Before You Apply to the Amtrak Writer’s Residency, Let’s Talk

As a travel writer/literary scribe/nonsense poet, I know what happened when you read Amtrak’s description of their new writer’s residency. Oh you haven’t heard? Amtrak is offering writers the opportunity to ride the rails for a few days. Must have mad writing skills and a substantial social media following.

Sound like you? Great. But there were also some questions about the rights of submitted writing samples that might have you rethinking jumping aboard. Last I heard, Amtrak is working out the legalese.

I’ll let you decide whether it’s a good idea to apply or not. I am here to talk truth about train travel.

The Truth About Train Travel

Me on a train. Don't laugh. No one looks good on a train.

Me on a train in NYC. Don’t laugh. No one looks good on a train.

You visualized yourself sitting in a plush, reclined seat, scenery zipping by your window, glass of wine in hand as you type the next great American novel. You picture telling the other oh-so interesting passengers you’re there to write a novel, a play, a…blog post.

Don’t lie. Some of the fun of being a writer on a residency is saying you’re a writer on a residency. “I wrote it all…on a train!” Cue applause at the well-attended reading of your new train mystery series, Snakes On A Train.

The passengers you picture come straight out of the golden age of train travel. Everyone carries a boxy suitcase and has a charming old-timey accent. The gals wear mink shrugs and derby hats; the gents don fedoras and skinny ties. Except for the ting of silver spoons and platters, it’s quiet as the train chugs along, breathtaking scenery zipping by out the window.

You have more than enough space for your laptop or even (guh) your typewriter. You put your feet up and type away to a special playlist you created for the occasion.

Runaway train, never goin’ back
Wrong way on a one-way track…

That is what I envisioned before I took a four-day train cross country from Chicago to San Francisco. That’s not quite what happened. I am not saying train travel is awful, not at all. I am simply saying it may not be what you think it is.

No stranger on a train.

Strangers-on-a-Train-still-good

What I envisioned.

At age 21, I rode the rails from Chicago to San Francisco and back, paying for it using my paltry tax return.  It was a family trip; my mom, younger sister, uncle and I headed out to California to watch my oldest sister graduate from law school.

My mom refuses to fly and so she takes Amtrak everywhere. None of the following experiences have anything to do with Amtrak or Amtrak service. From what I remember, the service is pretty darn good, the people are nice, and it is a unique experience that everyone should do once.

This is about my romanticized view of train travel, what I thought it was (the Orient Express) and what it actually is (not the Orient Express).

The Deluxe “Sleeper” Car.

Train-Travel-Amtrak-Writer's-Residency

THIS is exactly what happened to us.

When my mom said she booked a deluxe car (for the three of us), I envisioned a hotel-sized room with a big window. I pictured plush beds and chocolates on pillows, gourmet food on silver platters, a little table set up next to the window with a vase and a single rose. Along with little luxuries like a ceiling high enough so that I could stand completely upright. Continue reading