Pairi Daiza

I once read a silly notion, that is spread on the internet.  It claimed that the surest sign of a happy relationship is no sign of it on Facebook.  I suppose that could easily be spread out to include most forms of social media, and for me, it might be re-written to state the surest sign of a happy life, is no position on the blog.

Yes, I have been gone for a while, but for the most part, it has been because I was happy.  I have been writing, volunteering at my local library, writing, taking pottery classes, writing, traveling, and writing.  This session of Camp NaNoWriMo, I feel as though I fully embraced the idea of working hard not only to complete a novel in a month, but to do work I am proud of.

Of course that hasn’t been all I have done, and isn’t even why I am writing today.  No, with the return of sunshine and warmer weather, I have been struck hard with wanderlust.  It is an almost uncontrollable need to get out and do something, and in truth, I’m not sure I want to control it.  While we have only had time for day trips on the weekend, I think we are making the most of them.  One of the first we took recently, was a trip to Pairi Daiza, a zoo near Brussels.

We first heard about this zoo almost a year ago, as we returned from a trip to Edinburgh.  I may have mentioned before, my family loves to go to the zoo, so we make trips frequently, including one to the Edinburgh zoo.  It was a spur of the moment thing as we were traveling, so we were not aware of the Panda bears who live there.  Unfortunately we were also unaware that seeing the Panda’s required a special ticket, and they had already sold out for the day.  I was desperately disappointed, as I love pandas.  So, when we were walking through the airport in Belgium, waiting to go through immigration (or customs, I don’t remember which) we were excited to see an advertisement for a zoo.  Not only was it right here in Belgium, but the poster had a prominently featured Panda bear.  A little research, and we had it confirmed; there were pandas here in Belgie, and we were going to have to go see them.

Unfortunately, life happened and we simply didn’t get around to it for a long time.  Until last week.  The zoo had just recently reopened for the season, and we were not going to miss it this time.  Let me tell you, I am very glad we didn’t.

First off, the drive from our house wasn’t too bad, until we were about 15 minutes away.  At that point, we turned away from main roads and were driving through small towns on tiny roads that for some reason Europe thinks should be two lane, even if they barely fit one car.  However, as with many of the best things we have found in Europe, the search was well worth it.  Eventually we popped out by the parking lot of a large and very beautiful zoo.  I mean seriously.  It was huge.  The parking lot was at least the size of a football field. However, as it wasn’t very pretty, I didn’t waste my pictures there.

Once inside, we took a few minutes to wander through the petting zoo.

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Goats, sheep, chickens, deer, and one turkey.

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I have no idea what that deer was doing to the turkey, but it almost looked like grooming.  He followed him around for a little while, nibbling at his feathers.

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Big One had no desire to be a part of the feeding, but Little One loved every minute of it.

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We moved on from there where we found miniature mongooses (with the pop up bubble for Little One).

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The otters were enjoying a little breakfast.

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This random peacock, just chilling by the bird show arena.

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All on our way to find the pandas.  Now, this building was actually a noodle house and sushi restaurant.  Not surprising, the sushi was only okay, but still very cool.  The entire area where the pandas lived was beautiful.

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For my family, this place felt like home.  I know, some people are instantly clicking over to look at pictures of me, and yes, I am a pale blonde who grew up in California, but not too long ago, I lived in Okinawa, Japan for eight years.  While Japan and China are in fact very different from each other, the island of Okinawa was actually a part of a trade route, and much of their traditional architecture was more influenced by China than Japan.

Eventually, we passed through this section, and found what I wanted.  Meet Xinghui, the panda.

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This was a very chill panda.  The way he moved, he almost looked like a person in a panda suit. It was very strange.  However, as he lay back going to town on his bamboo, I could completely relate to him.

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I mean, seriously.  This is me watching Netflix.

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If I thought he would remain gentle and cuddly, I would completely invite him over and introduce him to the magic that is in the box.  If he agreed to be the pillow, I would hand him all the bamboo he could eat.

A little ways away was the other panda, Haohao.

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She was a little more active, and wouldn’t stop moving the entire time.  It made it more difficult to get a good picture, but we still had fun telling many, many, many ‘How how does she do that?’ jokes.

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I’m not even embarrassed by that.  I maintain that I am hilarious.

There were a lot of animals, too many for a full breakdown on everything.

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Awww.  Love birds.

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These are just the best pictures, and only a little bit of what they had.  The habitats were huge, and I do mean habitats.  The only places that came close to being ‘cages’ were the carnivores who were simply separated from the humans very well.  Not only did the animals have plenty of space, but several of the animals were out where humans could actually interact with them.  There was a viewing area where a large group was feeding and petting a giraffe. (It was too crowded for us to bother fighting our way in, but still cool.)

Along one path we found this guy just chilling.

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There was a warning that he might bite, so we didn’t try to get too close.  Only a few feet away, his friend was taking a nap in the sunshine.

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They jumped around on rooftops, and basically hung around.

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There was an area with adorable little monkeys, but there were so many people, taking a good picture was difficult.

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One of this guys friends was on top of a roof, and tried to climb into the hand of a passing tourist.  Unfortunately, the tourist got a little nervous and dropped the little guy.  I guess this is the big downside to having non-zookeeper interaction with the animals.

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We even saw baby ducks and baby geese following their moms around the park.  Of course, Little One’s picture was better than mine here.

Big One’s favorite animal interaction exhibit was inside this large building.

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Once you were inside, you couldn’t really get any pictures.  It was pitch black, and using a flash would have disturbed the bats flying around.  Yeah.  I never wanted a bat flying at my face, but apparently Mama freaking out was fun for the kids.  Next time I am sending them in with a flash and seeing how much they laugh then.  (Okay.  Not really.)

This zoo was amazing.  In addition to having lots of animals, the habitats were beautiful.  I mean, seriously.  Their habitats looked better than my house does.  It kind of made me sad.  Near the elephants was a temple dedicated to Ganesh.

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This place was everything they advertised and more.  Not only was it my favorite zoo in Belgium, it might be my favorite zoo we have ever visited.  Even with an almost 2 hour drive, we are going back again soon.  Woo-hoo for season passes!

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Silence

Today is April 1st.  In many places this is known as April Fools Day, but not in my house.  I have an absolute hatred of pranks as 99% of them are mean spirited at best and absolutely cruel at worst (if not criminal) and designed to have amusement with someone else’s pain.  Even the things that are considered harmless involve laughing at someone and then forcing them to clean up the mess of what you did.  Luckily for me, my husband was born on April 1st.  He spent years hearing the ever so witty joke, ‘Oh, so you ARE the April Fool,’ and agrees with me that this day sucks (except as his birthday.)

This year, in addition to celebrating his birthday, I am celebrating another day.  April 1st marks the first day of the first session of Camp NaNoWriMo.  (Don’t forget to sign up!)  November was exhausting for me, but it was also effective, which naturally means I can’t wait to start again.  I have my story picked out, my outline done, my opening line. In fact, as soon as I am done writing this, I’m onto my next novel!

I thought that I should take a moment this morning and explain why I might not be writing as much this month.  You know, since I am pushing hard to write elsewhere.  Then I realized, I haven’t been writing much anyway, so you might not even notice.

When I first started this blog, I wrote much more frequently.  I actually had a schedule for myself, telling myself when I was going to write about what, and I often pre-wrote and scheduled my posts.  What it really came down to was an excess of ideas.  There were so many things I wanted to say, I felt like I needed to say them all, right away.  Sometimes I would have a random thought and start writing with it, other times it was a weird observation.  None of the things I wrote about at the beginning seemed like they were a big deal until I started writing.

I think with my fingers.  It’s something I’ve noticed about myself.  Something might be just a thought for a long time, and then when I sit in front of my keyboard and start writing a lot more can come out of it.  Sometimes it is good, sometimes it is bad, but either way, I don’t know until my fingers do their little dance.  Many of these random thoughts I had felt like they were something that might just be funny, and then I would start typing and everything would change.

Go ahead.  Go back to a year or so ago and read some of my earlier posts.  Somehow, no matter what I started with, typing it out seemed to give me some bigger or deeper meaning into who I am.  It wasn’t what I set out to do, but there it is.  Good for me, right?  Sigh.

It’s not like I don’t like learning more about myself, or realizing why I do the things I do.  It’s nice to occasionally realize that I was not just insane, some of these thoughts made sense, in some world, somewhere.  But the constant making something small into something huge felt incredibly pretentious.  I mean really, who wants to spend all of their time listening to someone drone on narcissistically about how the way they eat breakfast in the morning actually points to the greater issue of how to feed the world?  (Don’t bother looking, that isn’t one of the early posts.)  I didn’t want to be that person even more than I didn’t want to read about that person.

So, I started writing less.  If I wrote less, and concentrated, fewer of my posts would end on a pretentious note.  I started trying not to ‘wrap up’ my posts, leaving out anything that could be misconstrued as a larger purpose or thought.  Basically, I was writing worse, and feeling like less of myself was really here.

This was where I started to hit my biggest fear.  Was I writing pretentious posts because I am in fact a pretentious person?  First of all, to be pretentious is to, in essence, pretend.  A person who is pretentious is one who pretends to have knowledge or status when they really do not.  You pretend that everything you have is greater and better than it really is.  At least this is the technical definition.  Generally speaking, a person is considered pretentious when those around them feel like less, rather then when a person acts like they are more.  So, yes, sometimes my posts were pretentious, not because I was faking finding insight into who I am, but because I was attributing this knowledge of myself to the tiny moments which were not really that significant.

I stopped writing as many posts that could accidentally lead me to something bigger because I didn’t want to be that person.  Then I realized, that maybe I am that person.  Maybe I am just someone who will find deeper meaning in little things.  I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

So, yeah.  Writing for this blog has changed the way I write.  I don’t want to be the person who is the person who I am, but the more I get to know the person who I am the more I see the person I don’t think I am.  Is this a midlife crisis, or a middle school flashback now?  Either way, it is very confusing.

Now is when I would normally try to give this post a neat wrap up, almost like what you would find in a  sitcom.  Everything has changed, yet nothing has changed at the same time.  I give insight into why things are how they are for me, and realize that maybe I am smarter than I often give myself credit for being.  Then, I read through and realize I kind of like what I realized, but worry about how the post sounds.  Do I sound like a real person, the person who wrote this post while drinking their morning coffee wondering if they can skip washing their hair that day, or do I sound like a person who wears real clothing on a regular basis and leaves the house daily?  If someone who only knew me from this blog met me, would they think I was the person who wrote it, or would they be instantly disappointed?

And see, I am doing it again.  Maybe it isn’t the deeper insights I should worry about, but the fact that I care so much about what people think.  Ugh.

So, yes.  I am going to Camp, and yes I will post occasionally throughout.  Maybe it will have deeper meaning into my life, and maybe I will write a poem describing the way my toe nail clipping fly, because honestly, both posts would be very me.  But today, I have other things to worry about.