A Day At the Zoo in Myanmar
Posted on Jul 01, 2013 by
The day of our trip to the zoo finally dawned, we had all been looking forward to it. Excitement had mounted for weeks as we planned our lessons and games with animal connotations. Uniforms were made for those who did not have them and teacher Sparrow gave the dirtiest little tykes a good scrub in the school kitchen the day before.
I hardly recognized Tote Tote and her 6 yr old brother RJ when I saw them clean and shining in their new uniforms their, hair parted and slicked down by their mother, they were so pleased with themselves. I will treasure the before and after photos as I am sure I will never see them quite like this again.
Some of the girls were wearing make-up which took me back a little, but then this was the big social event of the season.
Everyone arrived on time, which in itself is a minor miracle in Myanmar. My insisting on everyone being ready to leave at 8.00am or be left behind may have had something to do with it but most likely it was down to Sparrow telling the parents we were leaving at 7.30 with or without their offspring which did the trick.
Many of the parents and grandparents came to see us off and we left in grand style in our rented pick-up truck. The children broke out into a rousing chorus of “The Wheels on the Bus” and we were off.
I am used to it now but Tony still gets a real kick out of all these little thanaka faced children singing English nursery songs. They sang their little hearts out and just about exhausted their repertoire by the time we reached the zoo gates. I thought we might have overdone the hype as they were beside themselves with anticipation but the ‘sick’ bags I put in the picnic baskets at the last minute were not required.
The monkeys were first up; they are always good value, especially if you come armed with bananas, which we did. Sadly there was no gorilla but they didn’t even notice with so much else to see.
We bought baskets of watercress to feed the hippo’s and ostrich and more bananas for the camel who was so grateful he kissed anyone bold enough to get close enough, The keeper of the camels and ostrich was quite a character and soon stripped off his uniform shirt to reveal a torso covered in tattoos. He invited everyone over the fence (so much for safety barriers) picked up the nervous girls and excitable boys and soon had the animals eating out of their hands. No mean feat with pecking ostrich clamoring for breakfast.
The tigers were a bit of an anti-climax, they wouldn’t wake up no matter how loudly we requested but the other big cats made up for their cousins lack of energy.
The elephants were begging for sugar cane and we had 15 children slinging it at them as fast as I could buy and distribute it. Only one could be persuaded to stand on the low wall and lean over the trench to place the cane directly in the elephants trunk, Sparrow and I clinging on to “the brave little lad” to quote Stanley Holloway. The crocodile obliged by opening his carnivorous mouth and was a great hit, as were the zebra, giraffes, deer and even the lowly rabbits and guinea pigs. The snakes failed to enchant, we were all ok with them sleeping on branches in their glass tanks but when their keeper fished them out on a stick and headed in our direction there was a mass exodus, led by teacher T Tar with everyone else close on her heels.
Several of the girls took a strong dislike to the large collection of porcupine and one little boy suggested they were mice. If Myanmar mice are that large, I am glad I am yet to encounter one.
We had set our very early, before the heat could get to us and put the rest of the animals to sleep along with the tigers. As we were leaving other school groups were arriving, large classes of 40 or more children with only two teachers. It took four of us to keep tabs on only 15 children but the other teachers were having no trouble ushering their groups of very subdued pre and primary schoolers around. We like to think ours were having more fun.
Back on the bus we drove around the top of Kandawghi Park Lake and towards the playground. A great cheer went up when they realized where we were headed for our picnic. Ten minutes earlier everyone was starving hungry and anxious to dive into the baskets of goodies we had packed. When they saw the climbing frames and slides we had trouble getting them to sit still long enough to eat.
As they ripped into packages and discarded the wrappers I thought it time they had their first lesson on saving the environment. They though collecting rubbish a great game, bringing scraps no bigger than their finger nails to dispose of later. My it’s nice to be able to say rubbish and dustbins and trousers etc without everyone falling about laughing.
They had 1 1/2 hours to play in the park and get themselves good and dusty before we had to take them home and deliver them into the hands of waiting parents. None of whom by the way had signed a permission form for us to take off with their children for the day or a release form absolving us of responsibility for their safety.
It was a lovely lovely day, with no tantrums, no squabbles, or injuries and not a single one swallowed by lions in spite of the woefully inadequate safety measures.
Without a doubt the best bang we have ever had for surprisingly few bucks.