So one day, I was probably in 4th grade(ish) a bunch of us kids were invited by a certain adult in the mission compound to go on a field trip to the zoo, located on the banks of the Rio Rocha. So now I must explain the Rio Rocha, and the Zoo.
The Rio Rocha is kind of like the Platte River in Denver…at one time it must have been something, but too often in places now it is stinky and not a fun place to be. The Rio Rocha was like that. Only worse. Wonderful folk songs include the Rio Rocha in it’s glory days, but sadly it’s current state (or at least when I lived in Cochabamba) was pretty gross. Many people did their laundry upstream, children bathed in it, and, yep, some used it as their public restroom…..ew! By the time it wound around to the zoo location it was definitely a murky green, icky, “what’s in the water anyway” looking kind of river.
The Zoo – well, it was not your typical american zoo. You’d wander through the caged animals: tapirs, condors, birds, monkeys, racoons, fish, ostriches, …and more. Then there was the lion cage that drew much attention because it would sleep almost all the time, but, on that rare occasion roar (probably from boredom) once in a blue moon…so load you could hear it for blocks and blocks. You could smell the zoo before you saw it. You could also buy great cotton candy at this zoo. [Warning: the cotton candy is put on bamboo sticks and the bamboo sticks can have little splinters that just may get lodged across your throat and cause you to stop breathing so that your mom has to rush you to a doctor and they have to reach their fist into your throat and yank the bamboo splinter out with tweezers. Yes, that happened to me.] And…you could buy this wonderful popcorn like stuff we called “Poof”. Yes, I said, “Poof”.
Well, on the day that we were invited to go, I decided to wear my fabulous newspaper print pantsuit that my mom had made me. What goes best with that? Black slippery patent leather shoes of course!
So, looking very amazing in this bell bottomed hideous ensemble, we set off for the zoo. I must remind you that I was the youngest kid going. Somewhere along the line everyone got a big inspiration, instead of crossing the river via the bridge on the sidewalk like most normal people do as they make their way to the zoo, we should climb down the bank of the river and cross along the cement dam thingy that went across near the zoo. What fun, plus it would cut off a bunch of distance for everyone. “I don’t want to do this.” I pitifully told everyone, but, being the “baby” of the bunch, I was drug along without any other choice.
One by one everyone walked across the cement dam thingy (kind of like walking on a balance beam). In the middle there was a trickly section of swampy green, mossy, creepy looking water slithering down into a murky cess poolish looking place below. The closer I got to the middle, the more afraid I became. The “Adult Missionary” who was heading up this little expidition, was becoming increasingly impatient with me. So…remember the fabulous outfit I was wearing, down to the slippery patent leather shoes? Well, imagine (in slow motion if you will because it’s more dramatic) I stepped on one side of the stinky water and leaped into the air to try and pass across the watery mossy part…..(dramatic pause). Voices were yelling encouragement in hollow tunnel-like sounds….YOU CAN DO IT, CAROL ANN (to be read with hollow tunnel voice sounds). I landed right in the middle of the water…slipped and plunged into the disgusting creepy pool below. I remember going under water and clenching my lips so tight and plugging my nose so that nothing would get in….I came spurting out of the water and was horrified! I dog paddled, splashing and screaming. Mr. “adult missionary” had a similar horrified look on his face. “Just swim over to the edge and I’ll pull you out.” No way – I wasn’t moving – I was too afraid some murky creature would overtake me.
So, now’s the sweet poetic justice – Mr. “Adult missionary” had to jump in to save me. The zoo expedition came abruptly to a halt and we headed home. We tried to catch a bus, but they took one look at the two swamp creatures and closed the door on us.
Ten blocks later, we turned into the mission compound. My parents were NOT PLEASED! I smelled as bad as I looked…the newspaper print pantsuit now sported mossy flecks of muckness all over along with mud and who knows what smashed in between. I wasn’t allowed in the house. My dad took me out to the yard and powerhosed me off until I was drenched, but no longer foul smelling.
Actually, looking back it was quite hilarious….I can’t believe some of the adventures I get myself into!