entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

To the Zoo!

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This weekend I received the opportunity assist in chaperoning a trip to the zoo for 70 Indian children! I was so excited to be able to interact with kids. The trip was through a NGO called Kriti. This place provides aims “To make a sustainable improvement to quality of life of the urban poor by providing them with required services in the areas of livelihoods, health care and education.” As far as I know, the trip to the zoo was mostly kids whose parents (mostly single mothers) are involved in the program. (For more info check out the website: http://www.kriti.org.in/index.aspx)  Therefore, we had ages 5 to 14 and they came from various schools in the city. After getting them all tagged we loaded the bus and headed to the zoo!

We were each assigned a group of kids to keep track of. I had a group of 6 girls who became attached to me instantly!

IMG_1330Here they are in line: Anusha in front, then Sneha, Uzma Saba, Neha Jabeen, Seema Nazeem, and Arshiya Fatima. I struggled with their names a lot and felt terrible about it! All of the children were so curious about our names and knew all five of us by the end of the day. They were fascinated by Emily’s

name but once they figured out how to say it they repeated it over and over- ‘eem-ly, eem-ly, eem-ly!’

Anusha was attached to me the entire day- always holding my hand 🙂 What a sweetheart!

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There was a bit of a language barrier as well. While all of the children were learning English they didn’t understand everything I said. I was able to practice a bit of my Hindi with “Apka nam kya hai? / What is your name?” and “Mera nam Maria hu / My name is Maria.” But many of the girls only spoke Telegu and didn’t understand other Hindi words or verbs I tried to use. Fortunately we still understood each other enough to enjoy ourselves!

The Nehu Zoological Center is a beautiful place and we had a perfect cloudy day to experience it. There is a wide array of animals to see. The girls would shout out the name of the animal when it was in view and repeat it over and over to me as if I didn’t know what it was! Hippo, Giraffe, Rhino, Peacock, Monkeys, Cheetah…The favorites were the Siberian Tigers, sleeping on some rocks and a gorgeous White Tiger. I was amazing by how many different types of deer they had- beautiful creatures with perfect white spots and fuzzy antlers. There was also a large array of birds. From storks to parrots, flamingos to heron. My favorite was the Snow Pheasant! It looked exactly like those native to South Dakota except that it’s feathers were pure white with a long, black tale feather.

After walking around for almost 3 hours we were all hitting the wall. We found a shady spot and lunch was served. Here is our picnic style lunch: roti, rice, garbanzo bean curry, and a sweet. Even though I had authority over my girls in leading them around the zoo, I felt like their guest when we ate. They were like a mob of moms- “Eat!” They told me when I would put my spoon down. “Do you like?” They asked. Without me asking they brought me extra bread and more sweets and insisted that I eat even if I rejected it. I found it so sweet and very intriguing. This attitude is so a part of their culture- they will make good moms someday. 🙂

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With lunch in our bellies all of us chaperones were ready to be done for the day, it being 3:00pm already! But alas, we still had to take a train ride! We hopped on the small train, painted like a tiger, and rode around the zoo. Every time the kids saw and animal they would make noise and yell like Native American warriors. Needless to say, I was ready to get them to the buses.

We finally made it back to Tagore at 5:30pm. I honestly did not think it was possible to doze off in a rickshaw but I was close.  All five of us where physically exhausted and so dehydrated. Though I brought a large bottle of water with me, my girls drank it all within the first hour at the zoo. I knew from that moment that it was going to be a thirsty day. The girls refilled the bottle over and over- but us Westerns can’t drink the tap. No fair!  With a cramped head and a cramped stomach I slowly rehydrated myself, took a shower, and caught a quick nap, for I had more evening plans…

Here are some great photos of the kids!

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Here are my girls 🙂

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Playing Ring-Around-the-Rosie

 

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One thought on “To the Zoo!

  1. Jean Eidsness on said:

    What a wonderful experience, Maria. You are really drinking it all in with many different experiences of the Indian culture. Priceless. Jeanie

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