When I arrived at the zoo on the day of the field trip, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the zoo was prepared. (They had done this before, apparently....) There was a huge tent set up with a sign in front indicating that this was the meeting area for chaperones. I asked the woman in charge how I would find The Child's school, and she said that they announced each incoming school. Wow!
I noticed a huge board listing the schools which were sending students that day. There were around 200 schools on the list. No buses had arrived yet (I showed up early to increase my odds of finding The Child) so I took a seat and watched the goings-on. The woman in charge told an impatient parent that the buses were usually late- very late, and we might have to sit there for an hour and a half waiting for them. I had brought a book, so I started reading.
Glancing up from the book, I saw 2 yellow buses approaching. The woman in charge shouted, "Here we go!" as she started walking toward the buses, which were allowed to pull up to the zoo entrance. She checked with the first adult off the first bus, and walked back to the tent, yelling the name of The Child's middle school. I couldn't believe his was the first school to arrive.
Within moments I was being told by The Child that he and his friends "didn't need to be chaperoned" and he'd see me later. This zoo is the size of a small city, so I wasn't counting on seeing him anytime soon. The school allowed the 6th graders to roam unattended, with the only rule being that they had to be with an adult to enter the gift shops.
I had anticipated this brush-off, so I wasn't terribly devastated as I took off on my own. I had never been to the zoo alone before, and I enjoyed the freedom of deciding how to spend my time there. Had I been with a group of kids, I may not have entered into the conversations with zoo workers that I ended up having.
I spent a couple of hours in the Australia exhibit. The birds were amazing, and their keeper filled me in on some fascinating details. This is the largest pigeon in the world (which doesn't look like any pigeon I've seen before):
Most of my time was spent at the koala exhibit. They were actually awake, which only happens for a couple of hours total per day. They were also being fed eucalyptus, but they couldn't have cared less.
I stayed until the koalas were asleep.
This koala encounter made my day. I had never seen koalas with open eyes before!
I recovered from all of this excitement in the food court with my book. The food court was filled with people, many of whom seemed to be screaming for no obvious reason. Suddenly in the midst of the chaos I spied The Child holding court at a table about a tenth of a mile from mine. I waved. I think he was actually glad to see me because his group wanted to enter a gift shop, so I was for once a welcome sight.
We shopped, and most of the kids bought a souvenir. The Child picked a panda mask to match the shirt he was wearing:
It wasn't quite time to leave yet, and I wanted to rush to the polar bear exhibit which was rather far away. The child and his buddies had already been there, but one volunteered to show me the way. We jogged through the North American exhibit, past the rides, and beyond the petting zoo. After a glance at the Arctic foxes, we found a polar bear posing as if he knew we had little time:
Rushing back to the zoo entrance, I stopped to photograph a wayward flamingo strutting his stuff: ( I don't know how he escaped from the flamingo exhibit!)
When we arrived back at the zoo entrance, the 6th graders were gathering to walk to the buses:
I really didn't do any chaperoning to speak of, but I did have a memorable day at the zoo.