On Saturday, 19-month-old granddaughter Amalia paid a visit to Florida’s Jungle Island in the heart of Miami, where she had her first chance to get up close and personal with animals she had only read about in story books.
Right inside the door, employees handed her Mommy a royal blue parrot and perched two other parrots on her Yiayia Joanie and her honorary Yiayia Eleni Nikolaides, and then they took a photo. This did not make Amalia happy, perhaps because the parrots were so much bigger than her beloved Tonia, the green parrot who lives in her complex back in Granada, Nicaragua.
Amalia brightened up when she saw giant iguanas and agile little monkeys inside the first gate. The monkeys followed us around, hoping that some food would come out of Yiayia’s purse, but it didn’t.
Amalia was amazed to see children riding “paka-paka” on top of Judy, the elephant, just like people ride on horses back in Granada, but she said decisively that she did not want to go on such a ride (nor did her grandmas.)
She was equally worried by the sight of some alligators and their big teeth, and wished that her Papou (Grandpa) was there to go “Da! Da! Da!’ to those alligators and drive them back into the swamp.
After passing waterfalls, caged tigers and lots more parrots, they came to “Dr. Wasabi’s’s Wild Adventures” which was Amalia’s first look at live theater.
They met a pot-bellied pig
And a lemur
Next they came to the petting zoo where Amalia fed grain to a little billygoat
And Yiayia Joanie fed juice to another goat from a baby's bottle.
And Amalia got to touch a furry little monkey
And watch two bigger monkeys who were showing off by swinging all over, like Tarzan.
She marveled at huge tortoises, much bigger than the tortugas in her garden in Nicaragua.
On the way to the restaurant, they passed a giant alligator that had its mouth open, and Amalia demonstrated one more time what Papou would do if he was there to beat up the alligator. She didn’t realize it was only a statue.
In the lunch room there were paintings of some of the animals they had seen and Amalia had a delicious lunch of pasta, but she fell asleep in her carriage before the Key Lime Pie.
She didn’t even see the Flamingo Lake outside the windows.
The male flamingos were flapping their wings and running around aggressively while the females glided by and pretended to ignore them.
Amalia slept all the way home to South Beach, and when she woke up that afternoon, she couldn’t stop talking about all the animals she’d seen, especially the elephant and the alligators.
In fact, she was so excited that she woke up at three a. m. that night and stayed awake until 6 a.m., driving everyone else crazy while reliving her jungle adventures and recounting what Papou would do to the scary animals if only he was there.
Her Mommy said that it had all been too much excitement for Amalia and they probably shouldn’t take her to see Disneyland until she was about five.