July Visit, Part 18 - Refreshment Break

July Visit, Part 18 - Refreshment Break

It was nearly 2pm when we exited the aquarium. I was grateful to Marcela for not taking Rosa's desire to be home early too seriously. Rosa had no way of telling the time, so Marcela must have decided that it would be good enough to let her know when it was actually 2:00, rather than have us leave at 1:15 so we could make it back to the home by that time. I wasn't about to complain!

Fortunately, Rosa had succumbed to the zoo's lure, and she agreed that we could stay long enough to see an hourly "show" that we had missed earlier in the day. We had 15 minutes before the next show time, so I asked if anybody wanted a fruity ice drink from a nearby refreshment stand. I bought drinks for Paola's family, but the CI staff all declined the offer - I'm not sure why, since sponsors are (naturally) expected to feed the reps who assist them with their visit. Maybe Marcela, Fernando, and Elsa knew that the beverages would be sickeningly sweet. I sure couldn't drink mine!

Here is something interesting to note about Paola and Tomasa: They never asked for ANYTHING. Many of the zoo attractions forced us to exit through a gift shop, and I always expected the girls to be drawn to the toys and stuffed animals ... but they didn't touch, beg for, or even LOOK at the merchandise. I don't know how long it had been since they'd last had a meal, but the kids showed no interest in the food or ice cream stands that we passed - until I offered, that is. The family definitely enjoyed their super-sweet fruit drinks.

Later, on the way out of the zoo - and past more gift shops - I asked Marcela if we shouldn't buy something for each of the girls. She told me it wasn't necessary, as we had already done so much for them. Since the kids weren't asking for anything (unlike every other child I've ever known), I took Marcela's advice and saved my money. Tomasa and Paola need to learn that the squeaky wheel gets the grease!

Zoo Video #3 - Stingrays and Fishies

July Visit, Part 17 - The Aquarium

July Visit, Part 17 - The Aquarium

After checking out the kangaroos, our group stumbled upon the entrance to the "Aquario". We had the appropriate tickets, so we were granted admission.

I wasn't particularly excited about the aquarium myself, but after seeing how delighted Paola seemed while watching the fish, I was glad we were able to go in. First, we spent some time at the stingray petting tanks outside, then we saw all the fish housed in the building. The family was particularly impressed by the diver feeding the fish from inside the tank. I asked Marcela to explain to them that I am also a diver, and that I once dove in the shark tank at the Singapore aquarium. Judging by her fascination level, I think that Paola liked the sharks better than the smaller, more colorful fish.

Seeing the stingrays

A Letter from Mexico!

I still haven't finished the report from my trip, but today I received our first letter from Paola's camp (+ many, many photos!!!), so I thought I'd share it immediately.

The translation reads:

Dear Mckenzie and Michael,

The little girl Paola and her mother Rosa want to tell you that they were very happy for your visit and they thank you very much for the attention for Paola and for visiting her. Rosa says that Paola loved how you took them to the zoo and they loved it. They also thank you for your kindness and courtesy for them on your visit. They say God bless you and may He pay you for everything you have done for Paola. Thank you for everything.

I wrote this letter on behalf of the family. Sincerely, Araceli (field officer)

Mack's note: I wish the letter would have included thanks for all the sponsors - not just me and my husband. I don't think the family quite understands the 13 sponsors concept, but they will figure it out with time!

Zoo Video #2 - Watching the Monkeys

Zoo Video #1 - Entering the Zoo

July Visit, Part 16 - Seeing the Animals

July Visit, Part 16 - Seeing the Animals

Although I loved zoos as a kid, I'm not so fond of them now that I'm involved with animal activism. Still, I can't resist the lure of taking a wide-eyed child to see the animals live and up close. Zoos like the one in Guadalajara (which was no way near as bad as the one I used to visit in Pakistan) are especially bittersweet, because they have less money for good habitats, but that must be weighed against the fact that the kids of that country have so much less opportunity than others to view and learn about wildlife. Ideally, children ought to be taken on safari to see live, wild animals in their natural environment ... but kids like Paola will probably NEVER have such an opportunity. She may not even get to watch Animal Planet on Mexican TV.

Rosa confirmed that Paola had never seen live animals before (other than the domestic ones at her house). She seemed as excited as any 4-year-old would be, but I couldn't tell if she was MORE excited than normal since kids her age maintain a fairly high level of enthusiasm just as a general rule.

After entering the zoo, the first thing we saw was a hippopotamus ... a plastic, ride-able one, perfect for a photo op. The hippo was hotter than Hades, so I stretched my legs out for the girls to straddle so they wouldn't get burned.

Next, we saw flamingos, the REAL hippos, the restroom, a monkey island, and the kangaroo pen. That's it, animal-wise, which leaves plenty of the zoo left for Paola to see when the next sponsor visits her!

Miguel and Barbara - same hippo, different location

Real, live hippos

Watching the monkeys

July Visit, Part 14 - Off to the Zoo!

July Visit, Part 14 - Off to the Zoo!

As we were wrapping up our home visit and preparing to head for the zoo, Mike and I received some startling news: Rosa told Marcela that she needed to be back home by 2pm! It was already 11am, and it would take nearly an hour to get to Zoologica Guadalahara, so we hurried everyone into the truck.

Since the three English-speaking CI reps were riding in the bed of the truck, Mike and I were on our own when it came to communication during the long drive. Mike sat in the front next to Fernando, and I was in the short back seat next to Rosa, Maria, Tomasa, and their 14-year-old cousin, who was also coming along with us. Paola sat on my lap.

We dropped Alfredo back at the community center, then sped off to the zoo. On the way in, I had asked Marcela if she wasn't getting tired of seeing the zoo, as that was probably where most sponsors wanted to take their kids. She told me that she had only been on two zoo trips before ours - one accompanied by Paola's 13th sponsor, Barbara, who she remembered well and spoke highly of.

When we arrived at the park, I read the signs and learned that there were several different attraction packages available. The tickets we had purchased at the previous day's expo were for a combination of the zoo + the aquarium - but did not include the safari ride, which disappointed me. However, considering we would have only slightly over an hour to tour the place, not going on the safari was okay.

At the gate, I was three adult tickets short, as I had not been expecting Elsa, Fernando, or Akela. I didn't mind paying for everyone, except it was a shame that we would be inside the zoo for such a short time on our full-price tickets!

Crammed into the back seat of the truck

Entering the Zoo

Paola gives her entrance ticket

July Visit, Part 13 - Delivering the Gifts

July Visit, Part 13 - Delivering the Gifts

After meeting Paola's family and touring the home, I needed to change the batteries in my camera. I told Mike it would probably be a good time to unload the gifts from the truck while I was busy, so he summoned the staff and they started carrying bags of stuff up to the house. Soon, Marcela found me inside the truck rummaging through my pack for fresh batteries and urged me to come with her. She said that the family wanted me to give a speech along with the presentation of the gifts. Yikes!

Put on the spot, I stood there before the assembly and babbled in horrific, broken Spanish, trying my best to give credit to our entire sponsor group for the purchase of the items, and to stress the idea that if there was anything else the family needed, I was ready to take requests. I don't know if anyone understood a word of my speech (next time I will have one prepared, just in case. No, I will take Heather along with me!), but they all applauded politely at the end ... and then they all looked to Mike. My husband performed eloquently, having the good sense to express his feelings in English and allow the CI staff to translate afterward!

The family seemed grateful and delighted over the gifts. The kids were eager to help carry everything into the house, and they came back out munching on the onion ring chips I'd bought for them.

I love Paola's gigantic smile in this photo!