The Orphans’ Field Trip

Dr Alex

Dr Alex Davidovic is the founder of Gifted Child Magazine, and the creative force behind Interactive Dinosaurs Encyclopedia and Data Dig, Creative Kids, Computer Programming for Kids and scores of other educational software packages that help children unleash their creativity, and excel both academically and in their chosen field of interest.

 

Meet Viviana and Bianca. Viviana has big, dark, inquisitive eyes and a cheeky smile. Bianca is one year younger. Her eyes are always a tiny bit sad, and she gives quick glances of a child who is a little unsure of her surroundings.

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Viviana and Bianca live in the Orphanage in San Jose in Costa Rica. Once every year the children from the orphanage get a field trip – and well, this is it. Today, they’re visiting the San Jose Zoo, and this is the first time they’ve ever been in a zoo.

The Orphanage is funded by the government, but the funds are in short supply. Isn’t this always the case? Alas, many great plans never come to fruition simply because of the lack of money…

…but not today – the visit to the zoo is organized and sponsored by the volunteers of Maximo Nivel. For Viviana and Bianca everything is new – so many animals to see, and so many things to do.

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They certainly do not want to miss a thing, and you can feel the excitement in the air. Viviana is squeezing my hand tightly, ready to go. The enclosure nearest to the Zoo entrance is the crocodile pond. Viviana and Bianca are watching wide-eyed, in silent fascination. There are four crocodiles sunbathing, all perfectly still as if they were made out of stone.

All of a sudden, the nearest crocodile turns its head towards us, and opens its jaws in one swift motion. Bianka doesn’t like this one bit, she’s scared out of her wits. I laugh, but she is not reassured, and I should not laugh, really. The jaws of the crocodile are huge, who knows whether he’s already had his breakfast or not, and who’s to stop him if he decides to swallow a kid or two? For Bianka, the danger is real!

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After the close call with the crocodile, Bianca still wants to see everything, but her hand is no longer leaving mine. Better safe than sorry!

Enclosure after enclosure, we see than all. The monkeys with their curly tails, effortlessly gliding from branch to branch; the peacock spreading its magnificent feathers to impress the ladies; the dreamy sloth giving us a lazy eye…

Around the corner is a bunch of green-tailed parrots, perched on a low branch and looking majestic. Someone yells “Hola!” and one of the parrots flawlessly repeats it. Well, almost flawlessly – he adds a little parrot twang to it. Viviana looks with her mouth open, and then bursts out laughing. “Hola,” she says, and laughs with glee when the parrot comes with a “Hola” of his own. Bianka is amazed. “He can talk,” she says.

Nothing makes you hungry as all the excitement in combination with hours of walking, not to mention seeing the monkeys munching the bananas, and we settle down for a tasty lunch.

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A big walk, good food… time for a well-deserved snooze! At least that’s something I’d normally do, but Viviana and Bianca are already revved up and ready to go. This is their day, and not one second is to be wasted. The San Jose Zoo is small, not even a tenth of the Sydney Taronga Zoo in size, but they don’t want to miss out on any of the details, so we tour it for the second time, then third.

Tortugas (turtles) are definitely Bianca’s favorite, we spend almost an hour watching them congregate before descending on lettuce and carrots.

The Zoo is closing and it is time to wave bye-bye to all of the animals and head back to the Orphanage. It’s just as well… I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the animals conspire to hide in all the high-above-ground places, which a child can see only when you lift her – and after hours of lifting my back is hurting badly and going into open revolt.
Viviana’s and Bianca’s eyes are bright. My aching back doesn’t matter. For they’ve won my heart.

 

 

The full version of this article with hi-res images has been published in the Issue #5 of Gifted Child Magazine. Get Issue #5 · Subscribe for 12 Months

Author’s note: The Orphans’ Field Trip took place during my 2-month stay in Costa Rica in 2013, as a volunteer working with the underprivileged children. Viviana and Bianca are not the girls’ real names – I changed them to protect their privacy.

The orphanages and the centers for the underprivileged children in the third world countries are invariably short of resources. When traveling, visit the local orphanage and bring children’s vitamins (they love them), coloring books (you can never go wrong with these), jigsaw puzzles, and any educational materials that you can think of. At the very least, bring a packet of erasers – they come in different shapes and colors, don’t take much luggage space, and they’re always handy.

Spending your holiday as a volunteer is another great way to help, while meeting people, and learning the language and about the culture. You’ll see and experience things that your typical tourists never do, and give the new meaning to your holiday.

 

 

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