Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Now we know where we live! (Pictures 1 of 3)

Snake Park: The hooded cobra striking at the red handkerchief. This was the only snake that was placed into the glass cage during the snake demonstration. (The other snakes were allowed to slither off this rock into small nooks within the walls of this large rock after their demonstrations were complete.) Doesn't the cobra look menacing with its hood up? We saw that it can take its hood down and up in a moment's notice, and when the keeper wasn't waving the red kerchief, the cobra would calm down pretty fast and take its hood down.

How many zoo-keepers does it take to scrub a crocodile? See those bright red walls? They're freshly painted, and I guess no one bargained on what would happen if a croc scooted up against that wet paint. The keeper at the crocodile's head would intermittently sit on its head depending on how much the crocodile struggled. After awhile, I think the crocodile thought it was soothing to be scrubbed, because it just sat quietly after a few minutes and let them scrub all they wanted to. The keepers were doing a lot of yelling and jumping around, though, as though they expected the crocodile to became impatient at any minute.

At the zoo. Although this wasn't a part of the formal exhibitions in the zoo, I thought this ant-hill (or possibly termite hill?) was rather remarkable. Mani (our driver) is holding Heidi. Lily was not too eager to get that close to a huge ant-hill, but Erin fearlessly posed close by. It's pretty common to see huge ant/termite hills around Chennai wherever you can find dirt (we're in the middle of a city, so we're among paved streets and sidewalks and most the dirt we see is constantly being moved within a construction site). But whenever we go to a park or zoo area, we see lots of these ant/termite hills. Not all are as big as this one, but all are quite a bit larger than the anthills I've seen in Kansas.

Isn't this albino peacock pretty? I've never seen one with its tail all up and shimmery. I thought it looked like an angel.

The girls are standing beside a baby banana tree (to Erin's left, near her ear, between Erin and Lily). The girls are showing how tall they are compared to the baby tree that was about Lily's height just a couple of days ago. Here's some banana tree information for you: Indians use every part of the banana tree (much like the American Indians used all parts of the buffalo). Banana trees also grow extremely quickly--we've been measuring the daily growth of this baby tree in our apartment's courtyard, and it's grown between 3 and 5 inches per day! Within about 10 months of being planted, the banana tree can produce bananas. But we were shocked to find the banana tree (that had bananas growing on it when we first arrived) cut down the other morning! Just a stump remained. I asked Mr. Jacob, the landlord, why they cut it down, and he explained that once a banana tree produces ripe bananas, that the tree will never again produce bananas (it's a one-time happening) and so they cut it down and plant a new tree in its place. Also, did you know what a banana seed is? I've always wondered. Well, you don't plant a banana to grow a banana tree. You dig down a few inches under the soil at the base of an adult tree, and find a bulb (much like a tulip bulb, if I understand correctly). You dig up that bulb, plant it where you want a banana tree, and wa-la--in a few days you'll have something as tall as a human toddler.
Banana tree uses:
Leaves = disposable plates (Although Byron said he saw banana leaf-shaped paper plates at the wedding reception!)
Banana flower bud = edible, and used for medicine
Banana = food
Trunk = grind up and use as medicine for stomach problems
Long white tube inside the trunk = edible--tastes vaguely like asparagus

Incidentally, Mani reports that all parts of the palm tree are also useful:
Palm tree uses:
Leaves = weave for baskets, roofs, walls, etc (we've seen whole houses constructed of woven palm branches. These are the fisherman's houses by Marina beach--they don't look like very permanent, nor strong structures, but they protect from sun and rain.)
Trunk = burn for fuel
Coconut = food and drink
Coconut husks = make rope
(Doesn't this information just make you want to run out and grow a palm tree?)

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