Today we are off on a big adventure; to the largest safari park in Asia! Located only about an hour from our hotel, this safari park has a parking lot like Disney (well, probably not quite) which is fortunately quite empty.
Qiao Qiao is chirping with excitement. We know from her pre-adoption referral video that she has visited the zoo once, thanks to the generosity of a helping organization, and LOVED it. Todaypromises to be even more fun!
The tour begins with a “train ride” around the property – we’re actually on a cart pulled by a truck, but it does look and feel like a train! We drive right past lions and white tigers, where park workers are throwing pieces of meat to them so that we can watch them run and catch the meat. Staged? Yes. Awesome for Qiao? Yes. We see many more animals up close and personal on our safari tram. It’s an African experience, and perhaps my older two have been a little spoiled by having done the real thing in Africa, but overall we are all pleasantly surprised!
Now off into the park itself and we encounter the very first exhibit, dinosaurs!! I know Qiao Qiao likes dinosaurs from some pictures we have looked at and “talked” about. This exhibit does not disappoint!! Large and fairly lifelike dinosaurs are everywhere, hopping out of bushes, appearing over our heads, and spraying water at us from around corners!! The sounds of their roars are everywhere!! It’s my first time to see Qiao scared and it’s a total delight because she is just scared to cling on to me with big eyes and look excited!! She grabs me tight and makes sure I have her with both arms around her and we walk slowly through the exhibit. At several times she shakes her head that she doesn’t want to go farther, but we build trust, as we experience that it’s okay. I love it! Quinn gets video footage of the whole experience which is somehow both completely cheesy and authentically scary.
We see so many incredible animals. Koala mamas and their babies, including a rare set of koala twins; white tigers and more white tigers (we are told that this zoo is a white tiger “factory”), beautiful pandas. Qiao Qiao picks up a new word, “baby” because we repeat it so many times as we see all the amazingly cute little furry things.
The elephant show is darling, with tiny Asian elephants (they look so small compared to African ones!) dancing, playing ball and hula hoop, and generally seeming to have a lot of fun while entertaining us all. Qiao Qiao is on the edge of her seat through it all, laughing uproariously, eating ice cream. When the clown looks for an audience helper she waves both hands with all of her might, but when it looks like he might choose her she sits on those hands!! 🙂
The tiger show is more sad. About fifteen tigers are performing in a small metal dome, with two tiger masters. The tigers have deep marks from their “training” on their hindquarters on each side. They look angry, and tired. I feel so emotional watching them, and remember the card my friend Karen sent to me via text just this morning.
The one in which she called me fierce and a tigress. It’s like somehow, the sight of these caged, beaten, and performing tigers has stirred my heart deeply for the plight of the women of China. I sit, watching the show, Qiao Qiao on my lap, and cry. I cry for the prostitutes, for the mothers, for so many caged tigresses in this country. I can’t stop crying and I don’t want to, but the pain I feel for them is too deep to experience right now, right here, with the audience getting up around me and leaving. I fold Grace up around the burning wound in my heart. I will not forget the tigresses. Freedom, freedom, freedom.
Now our day is almost done – it’s been hours and hours of walking and pointing and looking and picture taking. We visit the snake exhibit and I am wary because Qiao’s paperwork has mentioned that she is scared of snakes (who isn’t, really.) Once again, it is a surprisingly scary exhibit with huge snakes with moving bodies and long forking tongues hissing at us from the bushes. This time Qiao Qiao needs extra reinforcements and grabs both me and David, putting herself securely between us as we walk through the exhibit. Naomi is quite scared as well and attaches herself to our little group! Towards the end we reach an impasse; huge yellow pythons beneath our feet as we walk on a glass floor. Qiao Qiao has had it – time for daddy to pick her up and carry her past her fears. And the sight makes me smile-cry, our little girl, so brave and strong, who still wants her daddy to be her safe place. Little girl, I’m so glad we’re here.
Back to the bus where another little adopted boy has gotten far too tired and is losing it in screaming Mandarin while he whacks his mother with his shoe. Chinese look on, curiously. Qiao Qiao watches, quietly, then climbs aboard the bus and to the four connected seats in the back where she sits, then pats the seat next to me, looks up at where I am walking toward her and clearly calls for the very first time, “Mama”.
And everything around me grows still, it’s just her eyes and mine and that seat next to her. And I can’t get in it fast enough.
I am her Mama.
And it is good.