Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We almost fed the lion

How hard can it be to get to the zoo?

While the above question seems like either a very easy one, if you live right next to the zoo main gate or happen to be a zoo-keeper and I'm going on about your commute, or a very difficult one, if you live in some podunk town and have never even really heard of such a thing and think that I'm referring to some sort of county fair or hair-removal treatment, or possibly a financial one, if you happen to be Scandinavian and are expected to pay the price of a small, four-wheeled vehicle to go see an elephant drop a load and the polar bear run around all stressed like.

But let me lay it out for you. Here's how my zoo-situation was yesterday morning.

I got up at 6AM (yes, I showered and even did the pretense of a "hairstyle") to be at the rendezvous point at 8AM. I was to meet a bunch of other trophy wives and trophy-wives-cum-mothers expat-women and herd a herd of 120 children between the ages of 8 and 12 around the zoo for four hours and then help feed them and send them on their way.

Nothing to it.

I figured my biggest hurdles would be telling the children apart (they would all be wearing school uniforms), remembering the names of the ones entrusted to me (6 little men) in order to be able to order them around, and not accidentally exiting the zoo with any of them.

Yeah, right.

Turns out, that it would not be that easy. And that I should never check my email when I've had more than a couple of glasses of wine. And that I should really go about getting that international driver's license in case I don't want to endure any more possible shit-in-my-pants moments while driving. And that, really, I should just get a teeny, tiny bit more organized. Just to, hmmm, pass off as remotely reliable. In some universe.

"But what does wine have to do with anything?" you might ponder with a look of wonder on your face, as the Hubby did.

No need to wonder much longer.

So I set out freakishly early on my way, because I know that early in the morning the traffic can be brutal in a country where roads are yet to fully catch on as things that traverse vast expanses spanning the shortest distance from point A to point B. And I'm attempting to go from A to Q, then continue on to F, and while skirting X and Y, move on to C, which will finally, just with a little more effort, lead me to B, which is where I seriously need to be at 8AM.

And I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. In South Africa traffic is not made by too many cars, it is caused by too few roads. Since having lived here a whole whopping year makes me an expert on all things South African (if not even African).

Having set off at 6:50AM, 7:25AM finds me almost at Q and I'm getting a little nervous. If it wasn't for some trees I could still wave at the Hubby leaving for work. I grapple with my purse, which is supposed to be hidden underneath the front seat, but doesn't fit, so it is instead 'hiding' on the passenger seat. I feel it blends in its multicolored-ness. And I look poor on account of that 'hairstyle' anyways. Or was it cheap?

I locate the iPhone.

At this point I glance at the passenger door and remember to lock the doors. I might be arriving horribly late, but at least I'm safe.

I look at my phone, while trying not to crash into the 'taxi' in front of me and while avoiding the other 'taxis' going the wrong way on the shoulder of the road, and wonder how is it that you make a call to someone who hasn't previously called you.

Nope. 'Editing' the number you wish to call is not the answer. Nor is hitting the green 'call' icon repeatedly. That just makes you call the guards at the gate a few times, and once the guy who has given you an estimate on the repairs of your antique armchair. He's still asleep.

Finally I manage to make a call to the correct number in an extremely roundabout way. But the line is busy, and there doesn't seem to be an answer service.

I will be late. But I hope everyone else will be too.

Finally, at point Q the traffic opens up. Possibly since I am flying through arable farm land on what cannot be said is a highway although it comes with the numeric of one plastered on every sign I encounter while flying.

That is, I'm flying until the police car hits on my tail.

Since I've been sitting in traffic for such a long time I already have to pee, and upon the sight of the metro police pick-up truck so close behind me I can actually see the officer in the car in my rearview mirror, I almost do so in my pants.

I hit the brakes, causing the police car to almost drive into me. I know I should have slowed down calmly and not appearing to do so, but the only thing I'm thinking about is that I'm not legally allowed to drive in South Africa. I'm also wondering how much cash I have on me.

Waiver: Especially to you who are underage. I in no way condone Extranjera's behavior. She's lazy and should really get her act together, lest she end in jail or managing a society. Believe her, she should know better.

I'm starting to gear up for some tears. I deem them my best 'defense'.

But as I slow down the police car picks up speed and passes me. The officer smiles at me and waves as I look on in complete dismay.

Soon, I'm flying again. And the Daihatsu that sounds like the metallic parts are held together (or not) by duct tape purrs happily (is straining to keep up the speed) and swerves gladly (swerving is not helping the speed) when I think I spot a hole or something that I think might be alive on the road.

There are a lot of alive plastic bags and bottles out there in the sticks, and they all like to travel on the roads.

Until I came to point C. Which is a stop sign. Supervised by the same exact officer from earlier. I smile and wave at him as I make Mexican and ram my tiny Daihatsu into the line of cars snaking at a snail's pace up the hill to where the rendezvous point is. I can see the point.

The officer waves back and the 'taxis' steer clear of me. It is now 8AM.

I attempt to call my contact once more. The line is busy and I discard my efforts after having slid back, almost into the 'taxi' behind me, as I'm trying to go forward uphill.

It is at this point I realize that the number I'm calling seems familiar.

And then it dawns on me that I am, in fact, trying to reach myself. And I'm apparently busy.

This is the reason why important emails should not be read while intoxicated.

At 8:16AM I arrive at the meeting point and everyone has left. I swear, and then I cry, and then I call the Hubby and cry at him a little bit. At the parking lot of a fancy schmancy restaurant.

And like the superhero the Hubster is, he makes the group that is already halfway off to the zoo come back and fetch the distraught me from a second rendezvous point, or point H, and I'm finally on my way to the Zoo.

And I'm so glad they came back.

Me: Boys, did you know the hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa?

Boys: Nooh? Really? Lemme see!

Me: Why yes, and they are very nervous too when they are out of water.

Boys: (yelling and spitting at the hippo) Oh yeah?

Me: And that's a... let me go read the board.

The best part of the visit to the zoo? A little hand in mine. And the joy a cupcake can bring.

I think I'm in love.


Sarah Lulu said...

I think I'm in love too.

Violet Dear said...

Look at his lashes! :)

Judearoo said...

:) Tres sweet, missus. Love it!

M.J. said...

120 children?!? You are a brave woman...I don't care how cute they are!

Eidothia said...

Sounds like my kindred spirit! ;), Only that Hubs isnt as nice with me and I wouldnt dream of calling him in such a situation ;)
@Violet Dear - I thot it was a girl :P. Possibly Extranjera can tell us?

Fidgeting Gidget said...

Well, minus the trials and tribulations of getting there, it looked like a really fun day. And little school-aged children always make me get a little mushy too. :) They're just so cute!

TJ Lubrano said...

Haha I loved this post! Nicely written and I love the photo's. A trip to the Zoo is always interesting and you never know what will happen ^_^.

Middle Aged Woman Blogging said...

Love this post! Love what it's filed under!! Zoos turn us all into little kids again, don't they? All that wonder! You are a brave woman to go with all those children.

Steven Anthony said...


Polly said...

you getting up at 6am??? to show kids around the zoo? well done...

Ekanthapadhikan said...

To the zoo with kids? Ah! That sounds very much fun!

Loved the pics. Especially the last one with the cup cake.

caroldiane said...

I am sure those boys will never know the sacrifices you made to shepherd them through the zoo that day - have I told you lately that I LOVE your writing? And the photo in silhouette with the cupcake and the eyelashes - priceless!!

Being Me said...

it's certainly an interesting life


Two Flights Down said...

Yeah...my international license is no longer valid. Granted, I'm not in Africa, but I was still freaked to the point of tears when a police car was following me with his lights and pulled up behind me. Luckily, he passed me by.

Sure got my adrenaline going.

Erin P said...

They are gorgeous! I love trips like that, used to go when my son was little.

Adam Dabrowski said...

it's a lot of fun for kids to go to the zoo :) when I was a child my uncle took me on every holiday to the zoo and the stories about animals we saw. We had great fun and could think out new life of our animals :)

Linda said...

I am a first time reader and I love your stuff! I also have done a couple of those zootrips but it is slightly different here in Sydney, Australia! I look forwrd to reading more and getting to know you.