It’s been a while that I want to take Mark to the zoo, given the chance. We went to the Parque Zoologico in Merida when he was just over a year old but he probably doesn’t remember anything about it. The Beijing zoo was way too crowded and we don’t have a zoo in Ottawa. Last year, we considered the one in Buenos Aires but it was expensive. The Zoológico Nacional de Chile in Santiago is cheaper (just under US$5 per person for adult) and since we had time, we headed back to the Santiago Metropolitan Park to check it out.
Mark wanted to climb the hill again, Feng sighed. He was still tired from our day-long hike the day before.
“No Mark,” I explain. “We are going to… the zoo!”
“The zoo! Do you know what a zoo is? This is where animals live. You can go and say ‘hi’ to them.”
This is a rhetoric question. Mark asks “why” every minute now.
We bought the tickets, stepped in and found ourselves face to face with the elephants.
“Look Mark! Elephants!”
I smiled. That perfect moment, a child discovering an animal he has seen pictured a thousand of times.
“Oooh… Mommy, look at the BIRD!”
Unfortunately, Mark was staring at the pigeon close to the fence, not at the elephant.
“Mark… the elephant. Look how big it is!”
Pigeon: 1. Elephant: 0.
“Okay, what animal do you want to see?”
“I want to see… I want to see…”
Mark is a bit obsessed with the movie Kung Fu Panda, where, I think, the tiger is the bad guy. Inconveniently, I wasn’t sure the zoo even had a tiger.
“How about birds?”
We stepped into the giant bird enclosure offering an amazing view of the city below us—the zoo is located on the hill. Mark finally started to get good at the “spot the animals” game.
“Red bird! Red bird! What’s that?”
“That’s a… white bird?”
Eh, at least it wasn’t a pigeon this time.
Then we saw the giraffe eating, the snakes, the penguins…
“I want to see a tiger!”
There were tigers, but predictably, they were hiding in their cage, sleeping. Two o’clock on a very hot day, tigers aren’t very active.
“Look! LOOK! He moved!”
The tiger yawned and turned his head before going back to sleep, dreaming of the great comida por kilo buffet he could have if only the kids weren’t outside the cage.
“The tiger said ‘hi’!”
“That’s right, Mark. He saw you and he moved a bit to say ‘hi’.”
“I wanna see pandas!”
The zoo had one panda specie, the red panda, unfortunately dwarfed by the black-and-white giant panda everyone pictures. He just wasn’t panda enough but it was active so Mark enjoyed it anyway.
“I wanna see the dragons now!”
Damn movies. Damn Chinese heritage.
“Mark… dragons are only in movies. They don’t exist.”
“They are only in your head.”
Fortunately, a giraffe started peeing and it was suddenly the most interesting thing to look at.
Zoo? Done. I liked it, even without dragons.