After breakfast, Kim and I met up with a couple of guys from work, Sirini (the short version of his name) and one of the Koptiks (there are at least three) and we went out to a place called Guindi Park. We took Sirini's father's car, which is an ambassadorial car. (Not sure if this means that Sirini's father is an ambassador. I'll have to enquire.) Very plush interior, covered in beautiful fabric. On the hood is mounted a flag stand that we kept covered with a leather sheath. It looked a bit like we were some kind of entry in Death Race 3000 with a sword sticking from the hood, but it was quite a comfortable ride.
Guindi Park is a bit like Como Park back in St. Paul. It has a small zoo that is part of it, but it mostly is a place for dating couples and school excursions. The zoo charges 2 rupees for an adult entry and 10 rupees for a camera. About as close as you can get to free without actually being so. The zoo is a bit sad as, like Como's zoo, the animals don't really have enough room in their pens. It is also in need of some upkeep; some of the water in the pens of some of the animals looked pretty gross and many signs were faded and worn. Still some interesting sights, including a pair of white peacocks and a pair of otters (who looked like they would have liked some more water to play in, but I bet they have more than enough during the monsoons). Just down the street from the zoo is a separate reptile park. Entry there was also something dirt cheap with a surcharge for camera. I took many pictures around both and kept the dozen or so that turned out pretty well.
This first shot is of lobby of the hotel that I'm staying at. That big row of bamboo separates the lounge area that is spill over for the lobby bar (The Leather Bar) from the front desk. It looked a bit like I was behind the bars just before going off to see the animals.
One of the first things we encountered in the zoo was an emu that looked very cross. We soon found out why (apart from the whole not flying thing): it was feeding time. Once they guy showed up with its food, it dug in.
The peacocks next door were all, "I'm a national bird of India, how come that foreigner gets fed first?"
And this is the white peacock in the pen next in line.
There were trees with enormous ficus on them (those are their roots hanging down in the backgrond). This is a photo of Kim and the guys climbing on a part of a trunk. Why? Because it was there.
There was a big aviary enclosure that held many parrots like the following pair. They are, according to the informational sign near them, common through southern India in fields and forests.
Even though there was a reptile park down the way, there were a few crocs in the zoo as well. Here's a big one getting ready for a lounge in his own little pond.
This jackal was pacing along the fenceline of its small enclosure while its smarter partner snoozed in the heat of the day. It stopped long enough for me to snap a photo.
The melancholy feeling of the zoo came out in this photo:
Outside the park, there were little stands selling refreshments, toys for the kids and the like. This guy had a stand of coconuts that he would trim the top off of with a big, curved knife by hacking on it to whittle off pieces until the inner chamber could be pierced. Then he would stuff a straw in it and you could drink the enclosed liquid. Refreshing, even if warm, but coconut is not one of favorite flavors so I just had a few sips of someone else's. Once you finish with the liquid, you hand the coconut back to him and he splits it, scoops the flesh out and piles it in one half. When you finish with that, the shell gets tossed in the big pile nearby.
My favorite part of the reptile park was the baby crocodiles. They were more like juveniles, but were still so very cute.
I call this photo: "Same thing we do every day, Pinky...."
We ended the trip to the reptile park with an exhibition of various snakes native to India. Most were non-venomous and the presentation (recorded in three languages, Hindi, English and Tamil, the offical language of the region) included such helpful information as "the idea that the vine snake leaps at the eyes of men is completely false." Of course, any such demonstration would be incomplete without a cobra. I expect this one was milked of its venom (a sign outside the park advertised a demonstration of that every Sunday at 3:00 and 4:30 p.m.) but the handler still treated it carefully. He got it to spread its hood by threatening it with a handkerchief, which you can see here.
In an oddity no one could properly explain, a spotted deer was hanging out in the parking lot. It seemed quite comfortable lounging under a tree when we arrived, but we took its spot to park the car so when we returned, it was wandering around, perhaps waiting for us to vacate its spot.
After the park we returned to the hotel. I pulled the photos on to my laptop and took a quick nap. We were expecting our friend Jeanne to send a car for us at about 6:00 p.m. in order to take us to her place for dinner.
I must explain about Jeanne. Jeanne just turned 52 this week and is about the sweetest woman you'd ever want to meet. When all the young guys were sent over to St. Paul for training last year, she was sent along and served as surrogate mother for them. They were all bachelors, you see and, in India, the women do all the cooking, the laundry and like that. So Jeanne would make meals for all the boys (even though they worked on all three shifts). She would do their laundry and basically be a mom to them. She treats the Americans here much the same way, making sure we are well taken care of. Her husband, John, is also very sweet and friendly.
They live in a flat in what looks like a lively little neighborhood. They have two dogs: Blackie, a little terrier and then another dog that is their "landing dog," a dog that simply stays on the landing on the stairs outside their flat. They feed all the neighborhood strays and keep up on their affairs when Blackie goes out for his evening walk. It's all very charming.
John actually did a lot of the cooking for our meal which featured tandoori chicken, a beef dish and a lamb dish. All just lovely and delicious. After dinner was a spiced fruit cake (but not like Christmas fruit cake, like spice cake with fruit) and we also tried a bit of the wine that John had made. He said it came out tasting sweeter than he wanted, but to us it tasted almost exactly like sherry. Just right for after dinner.
This is Blackie, who knows that he's the cutest dog in the room.
After dinner, Jeanne helped Kim put on the saree she had purchased. The result was good, as you can see, but Kim decided to leave the saree behind to have it stiched (that is, sewn together so you don't have to wrap it each time you wear it) and I'll bring it back in one of my bags. (The thin fabric shouldn't take up too much room.
This is Jeanne.
And her husband.
Tom and Mika on the couch
and looking at family photos.
They have a lovely little garden on the roof of their building but, sadly, my pictures of that didn't turn out. I'll have to go back sometime when it's light out.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel and helped Kim finish up the last of her packing and then sent her off to the airport with Jeanne. Her flight leaves at 1:50 a.m. or some other ungodly hour of the morning. (Digs for his itinerary.) Oh, crap, so does mine! Well, I supposed that's when the flight is and I always sleep decently on planes anyway.
I don't know what I'm going to do with my Sunday, but I hope I don't sleep it all away.