Reading this week:
I remember going to the National Zoo a lot when I was but a wee child. It has the distinct advantage, like all Smithsonian-related institutions, of being free. I think my favorite time I ever had at the zoo is when I was like five or seven or thereabouts and I got separated from my parents almost immediately after arriving. The method by which I got separated is that I deliberately walked away from them because already by this point I knew my way around the zoo and had my own agenda of which animals to see. The family apparently had a day spent in increasing panic as I was nowhere to be found, while I had a lovely day admiring the elephants and whatnot. At the end of the day I merely walked up to them and announced my presence, and they were very relieved.
On this particular day I did not get separated from either my super amazing girlfriend or her mom. Upon arriving the first place we went was into the farm section of the zoo, which felt a little ironic but this section is a must-see for my super amazing girlfriend because they contain her favorite animal, the mighty alpaca. I offered that we could get an alpaca to keep at home but she turns down all of my most sensible ideas, this one being no exception.
It was a tad cold and blustery that day that we went. It wasn’t so bad in the sun, but honestly I should have worn a slightly more robust jacket. I wore my safari jacket, which is my favorite jacket for viewing animals in, but is better suited for more tropical climes. There are other ways to keep warm however, as amply demonstrated by two of the Andean bears who felt that, despite the chill, love was in the air:
They went on for quite some time and had gathered a bit of a crowd! This was perhaps to the chagrin of the many parents with small children who wandered by, and very quickly had to come up with stories about how that is just the way the bears play.
Of course, one of the most popular animals at the zoo are the pandas. They had quite a significant line that day, but we waited gamely to be able to see them. It was imperative to see them, because tiny little baby panda Xiao Qi Ji is heading to China soon, and so there was only so much time to see the cuteness. The cuteness at this point being a full-sized panda happily (I presume) munching away at bamboo like its their job, which it is. This picture came out terrible but here you go anyways:
My favorite part of this exhibit, purely for its impressive surveillance setup, was the panda control center and the lady inside earnestly marking down whatever it was she was marking down:
There were many other exciting animals as well! The elephants were fun to see as they munched away at hay, and the lions and tigers were all very vocal about the fact it was apparently very near to lunch time. The cheetahs were also pacing up a storm. It all reminded me very much of Tink. I also enjoyed the building all about the Amazon rain forest, which housed that little frog at the top and is what inspired me, in addition to the National Aquarium, to go visit Brazil a decade+ ago now. They have a poster about a dolphin that turns into a lady that I have never quite been able to process ever since I first saw it as a little kid. It was also exciting that day to see the gorillas and the orangutans, who were particularly active:
Then, finally, after a long day wandering around checking out the animals, we visited the gift shop, exited the zoo on the opposite side from whence we entered, and got on the metro to warm up back home.