Antwerp - Day 4 small dramas, human and animal

Moving backwards in time, I just got back from the supermarket a short time ago. Nothing will make an American feel quite as privileged as going to a supermarket pretty much anywhere else in the world. Do you want a cup of soup you can microwave? Good luck. How about baby carrots? BABY CARROTS? Laughable. We have salami and head cheese. No, we do not have granola bars. Do you mean a bag of muesli? There is pink lemonade-flavored soda, but no real fruit juice. Here is a tower of the toilet paper they carry. And here, a bin of the bar soap. Do you want a bag with two full-size microwavable hamburgers, each with condiments, cheese and a bun? You will not find Lunchables (though why on Earth were you looking?) or anything even closely resembling them. However, there are 356 kinds of breakfast-cookie-biscuit things with or without chocolate, and an entire shelf devoted to jarred shellfish.

My hotel (and the zoo) are on the edge of a large Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. I got many long stares and dismissive side-eyes at the market. But I was at the market because the bartender at the restaurant across the street/alley from my hotel would not serve me any food. There are half a dozen wooden sandwich boards out front with "Soep mit Brood" and "Koffie en Gebak" and "Bief en Kip" and "ontbijt, lunch en diner"... but when I go in, Do you have any soup? No. Dinner? No. Coffee? No, she says, drying a coffee cup with a bar towel. Everyone in the place staring at me. Okay, I understand, no soup for me. Okay. There was not a single facial expression in the place: they were all as impassive as stones.

K and I spent some time walking around today. I think the coolest thing I saw was 1) Argus pheasant feathers (how are any of these left, anywhere?!); and 2) Cut-throat finches (Amadina fasciata).

We left the zoo to track me down some stamps and sock yarn (not at the same place). We watched many animals for awhile, including an antisocial penguin, standing exactly in a crack in the fabricated rock wall; the heron, back to watch the tigers; a poor female duck being chased by two males in the hippo enclosure; and a bloodthirsty gull trying to snatch a fluffy ball of moorhen chick out of the moat around the lions--but the parents chased it off. They can't fly well, but they still threw themselves at the gull, twice their size. First one, then the other, leaped at the stones on which the gull perched. Three times, the gull swooped down over the water and was beat back by the little brown-black wings and red bills. And in the end, all seven little nerf balls of baby down made it back to their nest box.

Before that, first thing in the morning, I got to see mother and father Eurasian black vulture go into full defensive display when two keepers had to rake up their leftover bones and scrub out their wading/drinking pool. Such flapping of wings and erect shoulder, ear, and tail feathers! Sir and Snowflake turned into hopping bull-headed turkeys with 10 foot wingspans for a moment, and then Snowflake settled down in the nest alongside the chick, as though nothing were wrong at all. K calls this "pretending there is no chick." She flattened down low in the bowl of the nest, her puffed up feathers relaxed down, and turned her head almost away from the keepers. Meanwhile, Sir continued to spread his wings and hop from stump to stump.

It wasn't until the keepers were not only out of the enclosure, but back to the front of it with the rest of us, that the birds both calmed down. Even little Orion had made like a rug and had to shake out a bit after.

For a full set of Day 4 pictures, click here: zoo-tastic

hippo

hippo