A Trip to the Zoo for a Good Cause

It was supposed to be a normal day at work, except that it wasn’t… well, at least for the latter half of that day: we were to bring out some elderlies from St. John’s Home For Elderly Persons to the zoo! The date was set and the snacks were bought (and brought) when the day arrived. We made our way to the home in anticipation, not knowing exactly what to expect. But it turned out to be an interesting and fulfilling day out with the colorful characters we brought out that day, amongst them was even an ex-Olympian!

When we arrived, we learnt that as there were too many of them (versus us who were to bring them out), the residents had to draw lots to see who could go on the trip to the zoo. Since we had to tend to them (basically wheel them around the zoo in their wheelchairs and keep them company) we had to be paired up with an elderly whom we could communicate with else it would defeat the purpose wouldn’t it?

About twenty residents were chosen and we were “assigned” to them based on the language they (and we could) speak. It was a hilarious process with the administrator bartering the elderlies language abilities, trying to pair us up with them as he scanned across the dining area, “This uncle here speaks Hokkien. Hokkien anyone? Who wants one who can speak Hakka or Hainanise? Oh and the auntie other there can speak English. Mandarin? Hold on ah…”.

At this juncture, it was awkward for me because it was a battle between my somewhat limited Mandarin and sporadic dialect skills. Now, I can understand dialects like Hokkien, Hainanese, and Teochew and some Cantonese, but thanks to my multi-linguist Peranakan grandma, I cannot differentiate them when speaking. When she was still around, even A1 laughed at my oddly constructed dialect with her. It was like some sort of secret code that only the both of us could decipher: a mix-and-mash of Hainanese, Hokkien, peppered with English (it was fun teaching my grandma how to say pizza and MacDonald’s for my benefit heh) and a tinge of Malay.

Fortunately I had an elderly who could manage himself and spoke Manadrin (though some things got lost in translation... it wasn’t too bad). So with each of the elderly paired up, we set off towards the chartered bus. There was even an elderly who did not get to go but tried to ‘smuggle’ his way on board the bus. The administrator had to tell him that since he did not draw the lot he could not go. It was a little sad seeing his disappointed face.

As soon as the elderlies (administrator and about 4-5 helpers from the home) were on board the bus, it was happy chatter throughout the trip to the zoo. It has been a long time since I went to the zoo and this trip to the zoo has reminded me that the Singapore Zoo is not as conveniently located as the Taipei Zoo (which is just a 5-10 minute walk from the train station). However, if you are keen on seeing the animals in the Singapore Zoo, you should not let a little distance and inconvenience deter you if are taking public transportation to get to the Singapore Zoo. Of course, the most convenient means of getting there would be to drive or take a taxi.

Anyways within half an hour we arrived at the zoo, unloaded the wheelchairs and the elderlies, and made our way into the zoo towards the zoo’s latest addition nestled between the Singapore Zoo and Night Safari - the River Safari, where you take a leisurely stroll meandering through the park on an exploratory river adventure of the Mississippi, Congo, Nile, Ganges, Murray, Mekong and Yangtze rivers.

The River Safari is also the place where the only pandas in Singapore, Kia Kia and Jia Jia, are housed along with another 42 endangered speices. With over 5,000 animals in the park, it took about half a day pushing those wheelchairs (good exercise) and viewing those animals. There were fishes of all kinds, turtles, crocodiles, otters, manatees, pandas (of course), squirrel monkeys, a rooster (or was it a pheasant?) and even a cat-like creature (forgot its name) who really knew how to pose.

Singapore Zoo
It only came out when the crowd was growing just to catch a glimpse of it. Satisfied it sauntered out and.. posed.
Singapore Zoo
Fishes galore.. along with turtles and crocodiles

The highlights of the day were the:
  • Squirrel Monkey Forest
Singapore Zoo
So adorable!
Squirrel Monkey Forest, a place where the adorable tiny monkeys roam “freely” and you can take photos of them (if you can spot them). You are not supposed to feed them (they have their own diet requirements and why would you want to feed them food they cannot digest, that and them getting ‘bold’, start ‘stealing’ things from you and you push the blame to the tiny creatures) and touch them (we don’t want them getting stressed, scared and injured by those strong human hands do we?). 
One of the monkeys actually came out and approached and elderly before scampering off when the non-native helpers (from the home) started finding it cute and wanted to catch it to take a photo of/with it. Thankfully it escaped from the ‘hands’ unscathed. 

  • Panda Forest
Singapore Zoo
Red pandas, pandas and a pheasant (I think)
Panda Forest, where Kai Kai and Jia Jia are housed along with their cousins, the red pandas. This place is a cool reprieve from the scorching sun and humidity as it is one of the two places that are air-conditioned. I guess it was nap time when we visited them. Kai Kai and his red cousin was snoozing away, while Jia Jia sought refuge in her private quarters (which had a CCTV).

Singapore Zoo
If you haven't gotten enough of you panda fix, than MaMa Panda Kitchen is the place to be!

  • Amazon Flooded Forest
Singapore Zoo
Manatees, Otters, and fishes
The last stop is the Amazon Flooded Forest, a re-creation of the Amazonian rainforest, which gets submerged in up to 15 meters of water every year during the rainy season. This also another place that has air-conditioning and showcases fishes and animals in the Amazon rainforest. The manatees are huge and there was one which was happily posing for people eagerly snapping away. It was a little dim and in some corners dark, which some elderlies did not like and they wanted to get out as fast as they could from the dark.

With the tour of the River Safari concluded, we made our way towards the exit and while we were in the midst of taking a couple of commemorative photo(s) as a group, we spotted the panda mascots! Excited, we requested for them to take a photo with us, but they were too busy for us (life must be good as a panda lol). They did eventually come over to take a photo with us and with the photo(s) taken it was back to the bus to head back to the home.

Overall, it was a good trip to the zoo and pushing those wheelchairs through the parks up some slopes was really good exercise (lol). This might not be what we do normally, but I believe that the elderlies who went out that day regarded this trip as a sort of liberation from their cooped up boring days at the home; it can get lonely with no family around you and you are not as mobile as you used to be, having to rely on others what you could previously do yourself.

The elderlies were well behaved and it went as smoothly as it could. Sans the ‘’grumpy’” auntie whom J was paired with (constantly scolding J for not letting her see people and that she did not want to see any animals) and the poor uncle(s) who were paired with the helpers (from the home) who were left aside multiple times throughout the trip just so that they could just a good shot… of themselves and themselves alone. There was one uncle who was left alone in the dark Amazon Flooded Forest, no one tending to him at all or even informing him: it’s like you are being driven in a car seated backways and it stops half-way suddenly without warning and you feel a sense of ‘abandonment’.

Being cooped up with elderlies all the time and caring after them is a challenging job, but when the day is meant for them, it should be just that – an outing for the elderlies and not the helpers day out at the elderlies expense. Like I mentioned, fortunately I had an uncle who was mobile (enough) and could handle himself. He was nice too, reminding me to take lots of photos, which animals I should take photos of and which angle would be better or have a better view. That said, it was a tiring half-day, but a fulfilling one.
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When travel collides with a byte, a unit of information made up of bits, TravelBytez is formed: snippets of ramblings on travel, food, shopping, living and anything else that comes to mind.


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