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People raised their hands and arms high in the air wanting more and more trinkets and then surrounding our pedicab and begging for more. Why are these trinkets wanted so much, I wondered.DSC_0367

It is the human exchange of value from one person to another, I was told by natives of New Orleans. And it is the thrill of catching those beads, plush toys, necklaces, plastic cups, doubloons (Krewe coins), and shells and getting a little gift during this time of celebration. It is the tradition of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.DSC_0310

And catching and throwing trinkets has been going on at Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, since 1870 when the Krewe of Twelfth Night Revelers became the first Krewe (crew) to throw Mardi Gras “throws”. And the Krewes have been throwing them ever since. And the people love it, both the throwers and the receivers, for this is celebration time in New Orleans before the fast begins for Easter.DSC_0038

Mardi Gras began in 1703 in Mobile, Alabama and soon was celebrated in New Orleans by the 1730’s where it became the premier celebration in the USA to this day. Mardi Gras is always held 47 days before Easter in the Christian religion. It begins Jan. 6 each year on the Feast of Epiphany or King’s Day. Parades are held all over New Orleans during this 47-day period by scores and scores of Krewes.DSC_0096

And it all culminates on the last day, Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras in French) when people stuff themselves, before the start of Lent on the next day, Ash Wednesday, where all begin to fast or give up something for Lent for 46 days to Easter. Mardi Gras is the time of parties, celebrations, food and drinks to the max before the fasting begins. And everyone joins in with the Krewes to party.DSC_0052

A Krewe is a group of revelers that band together to host a Mardi Gras ball, ride on a Mardi Gras parade float, and participates in social gatherings. So Sharon and I joined the Krewe of Tucks which began in 1969 by a group of students from Loyola University who came up with the name “Tuck” from a no-name pub. It started as a rag-tag group or animal house “theme” where anything goes yet keeps its sense of humor on everything.Carolyn-Sharon together-Mardi Gras 2017

We were told we would be lionesses, queens of the jungle, and each would ride in a pedicab “float”. So we arrived the day the final 5-day festivities began. Awaiting us was our costumes, designed by Mardi Gras costume designer, Alan. We laughed and laughed and took photos as we put on each costume piece. As luck would have it, that stash of large safety pins that had been riding in the checked bag for months came in handy as we pinned the lion’s furry “legs” to our black sweat clothes to keep them from falling off. More pins kept the lion’s ears in place. With all on and pinned, it was show time.DSC_0812

Arriving at out parade gathering location around 10 am, we saw some of the other funny characters in our parade. As we waited for the parade, we learned that it would be delayed for hours because a float in the parade before ours had a tire bend under the float. It was so bad; the repair man had to come to the float because it could not be moved.DSC_0734

So we had time to see other floats like the man riding in a recliner chair on wheels complete with beer and cigarettes. And a group of bicycles that became a dinosaur, an elephant, a tiger and other fun designer animals. It was hodge-podge and it was so much fun.DSC_0303

But I didn’t realize what fun was to come as the parade finally started 1 ½ hours late. As our pedicab advanced along the parade route, we were inundated by revelers, one after the other. Soon our bag full of beads and shells and necklaces was empty.Carolyn Blows Kiss to Black Lady at Mardi Gras 2017

Talking to the people, seeing them in their creative costumes and interacting with them was the ultimate fun. And we did this for 6 miles and almost 4 hours. DSC_0528

When it ended, we did walk and move our arms slowly but we were very happy to have had a one-of-a-kind experience. And the people seemed to enjoy our costumes and pedicab “floats” as they took many photos of us..

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Even the trees catch the trinkets. But after Mardi Gras, the person who owns the tree cleans all the beads off so it doesn’t harm the tree.

We thought we had seen all the Mardi Gras parades until we attended the Mardi Gras Indian parade. It began by meeting the big chief, Shaka Zulu, a Mardi Gras Indian, in Congo Square in the French Quarter where he told us about the Indians and showed his elaborate costume. Shaka Zulu explained that the Indians began doing their own celebrations and parade because the Indians felt they could not do Mardi Gras with the American Sector of New Orleans.

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Chief of the Mardi Gras Indians is Shaka Zulu who also made his costume and personally hand beaded all accents. Then he added the feathers to make his costume an outstanding piece of art.

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So the 42 tribes started their own mask making, creating and hand sewing their beaded costume and finishing it with elaborate colored feathers. Then, each put it all together to wear and show in their “Black Parade.”DSC_0157

“We used to burn our costumes after Mardi Gras so no evidence existed of us.  And, we would make a new one anyway for the next year’s Mardi Gras, “Shaka Zulu said. But now their incredibly gorgeous costumes are placed in the Backstreet Museum for all to see.DSC_0908

Before or during parades, each day we attended a party along a parade route at a private home all decorated up with Mardi gras colors of purple signifying justice, green for faith and gold for power. At these private home parties, we also viewed a major Krewe’s night lighted parade while sitting on the front porch or balcony in perfect viewing seats.DSC_0166

At one parade, Sharon and I were sitting on the front porch of a gorgeous 1850’s home watching the parade go by. Sharon stood up one time with her hands in the air begging for a trinket. A man on a float saw her and threw her a bag of beads full of many necklaces and it landed on my foot. It was like a large rock had landed on my foot/ankle. My foot hurt so much and so long that I had to have a bag of ice applied to stop the pain. And it worked and I was fine.DSC_0912

When we watched parades, we were eating delicious New Orleans dishes like Jumbo, Jambalaya, Crawfish Etouffee, Red Beans and Rice, PoBoys, or Muffelettas, with King Cakes and Beignets for dessert. This Virtuoso trip was a dream to experience plus we had a major adventure with Mardi Gras.mardi Gras

And all I did was ask that my travel agent Maureen Paap (mpaap@departurelounge.com) book a hotel for us during Mardi Gras. And we got wonderful revelers begging us for trinkets as we rode in costume in our pedicab with the Krewe of Tucks, went to parties at private homes, watched many parades, enjoyed our own parade as we participated in Fat Tuesday in our pedicab, and other experiences of a lifetime during Mardi Gras in New Orleans.DSC_0931

Contact your travel agent for this Virtuoso experience.

Photo Copy ©  2017 carolyntravels.com 

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Sharon didn’t catch that bag of necklaces that hit my foot so she went into the shrubbery to get other trinkets that had been thrown and also missed their intended recipient.

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When I took a Deviled Egg from this beautiful plate and complemented the hostess of the party that is was so delicious, she said that deviled eggs were back in style now. I was so amazed because I didn’t know they were ever out of style. As I left the party, the plate was empty.

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Another thing that caught my eye was these 6 foot (2 meters) wooden ladders that parents brought to the parade. They had a box mounted to the top of the ladder with wheels on the box and they pushed the entire thing like a wheelbarrow. The parents put their small children in them so they could see and enjoy the parades.

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Carolyn waistup in pedicab at Mardi Gras 2017

In the 4-hour parade, I carried snacks and water to keep up my strength. My favorite quick snack is baby food in a pouch. It is so convenient and only takes a minute for a mid-day picker-upper.

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It was fun and it was different. And my feet were massaged in a way much different than any other massage. All of my thoughts were focused on just the stomping and smashing. But my feet felt more.

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When I went to Grgich Hills Estate in Napa Valley, California, to stomp grapes like Lucy did on the “I Love Lucy” TV show, an iconic episode of all time, I saw a 3-foot diameter wooden barrel that was about 18 inches tall.dsc_0938

In the barrel were grapes ready to crush. But to my amazement, the grapes were on the stems just like they had been cut off the vines. “What?” I said to Sean Hubbard, the handsome young man who helped me with the grape stomping. “Why are the grapes still on the stems?”dsc_0958

Come to find out, that was the way the grapes have always been smashed since the Romans began stomping grapes in 300 A.D. But I had never heard or considered that. So after my shock, and with Sharon Mason Davis taking photos with my camera, I lifted my bare feet into the barrel and stepped onto the cold grapes. My feet did not sink far into the grapes because there were just a few layers of grapes, but there were enough to get the feeling of stomping grapes.dsc_0896

My feet noticed a soft and hard feeling because those soft squishy grapes instantly smashed flat but the stems didn’t. It was like stepping on lots of twigs with mush in between and around them. I then wondered how the stomping was done many years ago if many layers of grapes were to be stomped in the barrel. How did they stand up, and did they have to hold on to the side of the barrel, I wondered.dsc_0847

Finally, after my eye-opening and foot massaging experience of smashing those grapes, it was time to end the experience by stepping out of the barrel onto a white t-shirt with my grape-colored feet. So one foot at a time I landed on the t-shirt and then I had a priceless souvenir.dsc_0090dsc_0062

The next stop was stepping into a #3 washtub full of cold water to rinse the grape juice off of my feet, dry them and put my shoes on. The end of my grape stomping experience was over at Grgich Hills Estate but another visit was just beginning.

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After the stomping, we were given a glass of award winning chardonnay and the glass as a souvenir of the stomp. Plus Linda gave me a tour of the vineyard.

Sharon and I met Linda Whitted, with Grgich Hills Estate, for our wine tasting appointment by introducing us to the grapes in the vineyard where the grape stomping was being held. And we sampled Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc grapes that were hanging on the vines in the vineyard nearby. Each one tasted and looked different from each other.

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Linda Whitted, Sharon Mason-Davis and me loving the wine samples. And so was the cheese.

Then we all entered the winery headquarters sales room, cellar and tasting room. And there, Linda had samples for us to try, complete with cheese and crackers.

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Award winning Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s bottle of Chardonnay revolutionized the world of wine. And he continues producing the wine today.

She began by telling us the five “S” of wine tasting – See, Swirl, Sniff, Sip and Savor. And we enjoyed doing them very much. The first sampling was 2014 Chardonnay Miljenko’s Selection, which was like the wine at Miljenko “Mike” Grgich’s first victory in Paris May 24, 1976 when the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay that he crafted outscored the best wines of France in the 1976 historic Paris wine tasting that revolutionized the world of wine.

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This is the bottle of wine on display at Grgich Hills Estate that changed the wine world in 1975. Shortly thereafter, Mike Grgich started his own winery.

It was delicious and wonderful to know I was sampling the best Chardonnay in the world. Then Linda told us to take a bite of the first sample of cheese and crackers and then taste the Chardonnay again. It totally changed the taste of the wine and was even more delicious.yountville

Then we tasted 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley and then the second sample of cheese and crackers. Next was 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley followed by the third delicious cheese, and finally 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Yountville Selection, followed by an awesome cheese. All were outstanding and we wanted to continue sipping and sampling and each time cheese and crackers changed the taste of the wine. As a result, the cheese and crackers were all gone. And, we had to buy several bottles to take home for sampling with family and friends and get back to San Francisco.dsc_0901

Grgich Hills Estate was founded in 1977 by Vintners Hall of Fame inductee Miljenko “Mike” Grgich and Austin Hills, formerly of Hills Bros. Coffee Co. The winery farms 366 acres of vineyards naturally without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides in the Napa Valley, and uses its passion and art to handcraft food-friendly, balanced, and elegant wines. His daughter, Violet Grgich, Vice President of Operations and Operations, and his nephew, Ivo Jeremaz, Vice President of Vineyards and Production, assist Mike.violet_vineyard_2016

Ivo met with us and told us a story of his Uncle Miljenko and the times when he had to stomp grapes in a barrel while everyone worked in his native Croatia. “That way, everyone knew where he was and that he was safe while they worked in the vineyards. Grapes and wine were always in his life,” Ivo said.

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Ivo Jeremaz, Mike Grgich’s nephew, examines the soil in the vineyard to make sure it is top shape for the grapes to grow. There are 300 kinds of soils in the world and Napa Valley has 100 of them.

Stomping grapes like Lucy did was something I always wanted to do and it wasn’t exactly as I imagined it to be. But sampling the Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignons was truly a fun and favorable adventure that we will continue to enjoy with each glass of their wine.

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Rudy was our tour guide with Napa Valley Tours which specializes in taking guests to the wineries in the Napa Valley.

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This beautiful lady from Trinadad followed me in the grape stomping at Grgich Hills and she enjoyed it also.

Photo Copy ©  2016 carolyntravels.com 

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Kim-Kay Randt of Houston, Texas Executive Director of Travelers Century Club, an International travel club, presented Carolyn with a certificate certifying  she has visited 251 countries and territories in this wonderful world. And it only took Carolyn 45 years to accomplish that goal.

“It has been unbelievable experiencing and enjoying the different customs and peoples on this planet. And following on my international travel blog are many stories and photos of the encounters I have enjoyed,” Carolyn said. “I hope you enjoy the world with me as I show and tell you of my many adventures.”

Travelers Century Club, an international travel club, lists 325 countries and territories for its members to visit. Carolyn has 74 more to visit. So keep following her to see how many more countries she will visit.

 

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It was magic, unbelievable and magnificent. At times, it looked like lighting and at other times Comet tails gliding in the Heavens and other times a dance. All were bright vibrant green and they were doing acrobats of all kinds, going forwards and backwards and sideways. Stretched from East to West to North for four continuous hours, they truly boggled the mind.DSC_0387

This mind boggler was the Aurora Borealis in Fairbanks, Alaska, better known as the Northern Lights, which some believe give them special fertility powers. Fairbanks is right in the middle of the Arctic Oval that circles the far northern portion of the world where Northern Lights can be seen. The chance to see the lights gets better the farther north in this oval. And we saw them perfectly.DSC_0438.JPG

But it didn’t start out that way. The first night we sat and watched and waited for 4 hours for the lights to appear and nothing happened. No northern lights and we were so hyped up for them. But the next morning, we learned they did appear around 4 a.m., about an hour after we had left.DSC_0837

Through research, I learned that the best time to view the northern lights is March and the second best time is October. We were there the first week of March and learned the best time to see them is in a dark sky with no moon around 12-3 a.m.

Ben Boyd, our guide, told us that even though the weather might be bad in Fairbanks, it usually is good and clear at Chandalar Ranch. We had followed all recommendations and still no lights.

Ben Boyd picked us up at out Fairbanks Hotel at 10:30pm at night. He is a native Alaskan mountain man that we found on Trip Advisor after asking for a good Northern Lights native guide. His name popped right up. He took us to see the lights the first night not knowing if we would see the lights because the Northern Lights are natural phenomena of nature created by the heavens.DSC_0780

Ben Boyd took Sharon and me and 9 other people in his van to Chandalar Ranch, about 25 miles outside of Fairbanks. The viewing of the lights here was excellent. The Ranch has a large hostel with a main assembly room with one side glassed in so we could see what the heavens were doing. Attached to this hostel was a large deck which also provided a great area for viewing and photographing the awesome show. And the deck is easy for handicapped and wheelchair customers.

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Ben Boyd showed us the magical Northern Lights and Fairbanks,Alaska.

Below the deck and beyond is a wide open area where dog sledding is available and it was the most perfect place for those with a tripod and camera. Available at all times for visitors was coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cookies and restroom facilities in the assembly room. And if we were too cold from being outside in the minus degree weather, we could go inside, warm up and visit with others. DSC_0870

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Sharon and me on the deck where we took the photos of the northern lights. And it was way below freezing.

It was so much fun sharing photos and seeing how other photos turned out. Since this was my first time for taking time exposures, I was particularly interested in how other photographer’s photos looked. Come to find out, I passed because I captured them. And every time I took a photo of the lights, I immediately looked at my photo to make sure it looked just like the one I  had just seen with my eyes. And it did.

The second night, we were picked up at our hotel by Hugh, Ben Boyd’s helper, and taken to Chandalar Ranch again. And while we were going there, the northern lights were dancing and popping in and out and doing somersaults all around us. There was much joy going on in that van as we saw the lights. And I was just screaming with joy because my dream had come true of seeing what I have wanted to see all of my life.DSC_0770

When we arrived at Chandalar Ranch, we all jumped out of that van and ran as fast as we could to see those lights with our own eyes in perfect conditions and below zero weather. And we watched them non-stop for four hours before it was time to leave around 3 a.m. for our hotel and sleep.

All 9 of us were so ecstatic after seeing the unbelievable show of lights that Ben Boyd told us, ”Don’t count on seeing these lights like this every time. But the northern lights have been very active the last 2 weeks, so I am happy you got a good show tonight.” And so were we.DSC_0074.JPG

Every day at 1 p.m., Boyd offered snow activities for us and we did almost all of them. The first was our favorite, walking with reindeer. Hugh took us to the little ranch where 6 reindeer live with Jane and Doug, owners. And we learned everything one needs to know about reindeer. The first was Ruby, not Rudolph, and she was their pet. She ruled the roost.

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Jane on the left and Hugh on the right helped me feed Ruby a snack but she was more interested in having her photo made.

We were thrilled to pet her and watch her eat, check out her horns and watch her walk in the snow with the other reindeer. When we were finished playing with the reindeer in the snow in the little boreal forest around Jane and Doug’s farm, we were invited into their home for hot drinks and awesome oatmeal cookies. They were so good each lady had to have the recipe. It was our favorite adventure and it is ranked the best thing to do in Fairbanks. But nothing could beat those Northern Lights.DSC_0082

Another afternoon at 1 p.m., we were picked up at our hotel for our tour of Chena Hot Springs, located several hours outside of Fairbanks. The most fun was touring an Ice Museum where we could have an Appletini to drink at a bar made of ice, in a glass made of ice, while sitting at a table and chair made of ice or at the bar with a stool made of ice. DSC_0647

There were 4 bedrooms made of ice and an igloo, a sculpture of a man on a horse, a castle and more. It was so much fun to explore and to see what it would be like to stay at an ice hotel. After viewing the cold museum, we could warm up in the natural hot springs or have dinner at the restaurant.DSC_0396

Touring the Fairbanks area was another afternoon treat at 1 p.m. Going to North Pole, Alaska to see Santa Claus and his house full of gifts was a highlight for us both. Hot chocolate and cookies were waiting for us if we wanted them and we did.DSC_0412

Many of the business around the city had ice sculptures outside their buildings that were outstanding. At first, it shocked me that an ice sculpture would be outside. And then I remembered that I was around the Arctic Circle where it is freezing or below and those sculptures were doing just fine outside.DSC_0219

We also visited an Ice park where more outstanding and award-winning ice sculptures were displayed. In one area, an ice sculpture contest was held. One feature of the park was a huge tall ice slide for children to enjoy. And it was made totally of ice.DSC_0357

Our final afternoon activity in between seeing the northern lights was ice fishing. Sharon and I went with Keith Koontz, an ice fishing pro for many years. With a BIG 3-feet long fishing drill (1 meter), he dug 12 holes 8 feet apart. Each participant was given a plastic bucket for sitting and fishing with a 2-foot fishing pole, complete with hook and string, to drop in the hole and catch a fish. Sharon was the first one to score a little 4-inch fish.DSC_1008

The fishing experience lasted for about 4 hours on a frozen lake about 2 hours from Fairbanks. All of the men and women participants caught about 10-12 fish each, making for a great meal which was had afterwards at Chandalar Ranch. It was a great time had by all and an experience like no other.Sharon  sitting

We chose to not do the dog sledding because being bounced around was not safe for our medical issues.DSC_0986

The third night we had to view the lights, we chose to stay in the hotel and get a good night’s sleep. And it turned out to be the correct decision because no lights appeared that night.DSC_0814

But the fourth night, we arrived at Chandalar Ranch at 11 am, and there were the brightest and biggest lights of all. They lasted about 30 minutes, just long enough time for us to get our last photos and have the final experience of seeing the northern lights before it was time to leave.

The entire 6-day experience turned out to be a fantastic time for both of us and an experience and adventure of a lifetime. We loved it so much we are planning to do it again because it was and is the greatest display of celestial lights in Fairbanks, Alaska.

If you wish to contact Ben Boyd, he can be reached at info@alaskanorthernlights.com

Photo Copy © 2016 carolyntravels.com

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It was the gentleness and patience plus coddling, cuddling and non-stop attention that we noticed first of the Mothers with their babies. And it was totally amazing to see them showing such compassion and love for their little infants when they are such huge and powerful animals.

Aisha carefully moves a few inches on the climbing apparatus from Mom Indah.

Aisha carefully moves a few inches on the climbing apparatus from Mom Indah.

But Indah and Imani have almost the same DNA as humans explaining their Mother human-like behavior because Indah is an orangutan and Imani is a gorilla who live at the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Imani lets her little infant Joanne on the ground for a little free time to play.

Imani lets her little infant Joanne on the ground for a little free time to play.

When we saw Aisha, the 9-month-old daughter of Indah and Satu in the San Diego Zoo, she was hanging on tightly to her Mom, Indah, on the climbing apparatus in their exhibit as they sat in the shade.

Indah with her baby Aisha patiently watches her.

Indah with her baby Aisha patiently watches her.

Carefully and slowly, Indah let Aisha move several inches from her on the ropes, and then several more inches, but always making sure her large Mother orangutan hand was close by in case anything happened to her.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha close to Mom.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha close to Mom.

Indah swings Aisha on her stomach while hanging on to the climbing apparatus.

Indah swings Aisha on her stomach while hanging on to the climbing apparatus.

And Joanne, the 4 1/2-month-old daughter of Imani and Winston at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, was sitting next to her gorilla Mother when we arrived. And Imani was allowing her to play on the ground right beside her leg.

Joanne gets a ride on Momma back because she can't walk at almost 5 months of age. The ape infants develop like human infants since they have almost the same DNA as humans.

Joanne gets a ride on Momma back because she can’t walk at almost 5 months of age. The ape infants develop like human infants since they have almost the same DNA as humans.

But then, it was time to move to another position in the exhibit because 3-year-old Monroe and 5-year -old Frank were play fighting, and pounding their chests to show each other who is dominant.  Imani did not want her baby Joanne to get hurt by their rustling and tussling game.

And thanks to the expert Vets, University of California San Diego medical team and keepers at the San Diego Zoo, Joanne and Aisha are alive and well.

Like Mom like baby.

Like Mom like baby.

Baby Joanne, named for Joanne Warren, first chairwoman of the San Diego Zoo Global Foundation, was delivered by a rare emergency C-section on March 12, 2014 by the Zoo’s Vets and the UCSD medical doctors and nurses. The C-section was performed after Imani made no progress after showing signs of labor earlier in the day.

Weighing just 4.6 lbs., Joanne was born with a collapsed lung and pneumonia.  So she was placed in the Zoo’s Intensive Care unit where she received 24/7 care until she was ok.

Joanne's dad, Winston, checks on his baby regularly.

Joanne’s dad, Winston, checks on his baby regularly.

Meanwhile, in her Safari Park bedroom, Imani was healing from her emergency Caesarian section surgery. And to keep her company, zoo officials allowed Frank to be with her because she had raised him and they had bonded.

Two weeks later, Joanne was well and ready to join her Mom Imani who took her in her arms immediately and 3 hours later Joanne was nursing and Mother and Baby were inseparable. Shortly thereafter, Imani let Frank hold Joanne for a few minutes.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha hanging on the ropes a few inches from Momma Indah.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha hanging on the ropes a few inches from Momma Indah.

Aisha was born Oct. 25, 2013 when her Mom, Indah, delivered her by natural childbirth in her San Diego Zoo bedroom. Aisha was Indah’s second baby, having had son Cinta a few years earlier.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha holding on the rope real tight.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha holding on the rope real tight.

When a keeper came into her bedroom, Indah held up Aisha for the keeper to see her. The keeper was so pleased to know Aisha was doing fine and trusted here by showing her baby. And then she saw baby Aisha was a female. DSC_0173

From the ropes on the climbing apparatus in their public exhibit, Indah and Aisha then leave the exhibit for the bedroom to spend the rest of the day in private. There, Indah lets Aisha play on the floor and enjoy more time to explore on her own.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha gnawing on a soft branch.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Aisha gnawing on a soft branch.

Because both babies have DNA close to humans, they develop like humans. Both are beginning to chew at leaves, branches and the same food Momma eats. And when Mamma eats food, the babies sometimes reach for it. Both have a few teeth and are still nursing.

Imani lifted baby Joanne up to her back so they could move away from the  sparing boys.

Imani lifted baby Joanne up to her back so they could move away from the sparing boys.

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Photo by Denise Carlson of Imani playing with baby Joanne.

Photo by Denise Carlson of Imani playing with baby Joanne.

Boys will be boys and chest pounding was being practiced many times.

Boys will be boys and chest pounding was being practiced many times.

And gorillas, Frank and Monroe, continue their play fighting and chest pounding so Imani takes Joanne back to the bedroom until they calm down. Daddy Winston comes into the exhibit to see what is going on and then he leaves for his bedroom.

Satu, Aisha's Daddy, eats a piece of fruit for a snack and regularly checks on his little girl.

Satu, Aisha’s Daddy, eats a piece of fruit for a snack and regularly checks on his little girl.

Watching the orangutans and gorillas living their lives in the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park is a wonderful adventure. And watching each gorilla and orangutan Mom taking excellent care of their baby in a loving and compassionate manner is a priceless joy.

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Carolyn received the 200 countries-Territories GOLD certificate from Kim-Kay Randt of the Travelers Century Club July 2014. She had already received the TCC Silver Award for 154 countries in Jan.2012.DSC_0057The countries she visited for this award were:

Nicaragua, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, North Korea, Mongolia, Greenland, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tasmania, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, Vanuatu, Western Samoa, American Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, New Caledonia, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Dominica, Bequia, Curacao, Bonaire, Surinam, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Eustatius, Anguilla, Grenada, Angola, Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Benin, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Western Sahara, Canary Islands, Sinai Peninsula, Chilean Peninsula Antarctica, Argentine Peninsula Antarctica, and Bismark Archipelago.

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Fernando serves Maka his first spoonful of banana baby food.

Fernando serves Maka his first spoonful of banana baby food.

 

 He ate sitting up just like a baby as Fernando fed him a snack of banana baby food from the jar with a metal spoon. And he ate it fast because he LOVES human baby food. But, instead of being a baby, he is an 18-year old silverback adult male Western Lowland Gorilla named Maka living at the San Diego Zoo, California, United States of America.

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He opened his big pink mouth full of big white teeth and ate each spoonful in an instant. Fernando Covarrubias, a gorilla keeper for 30 years at the San Diego Zoo, cannot feed Maka fast enough. And if he stops, Maka knocks on his bedroom door or wall for more. Maka has 98% DNA of a human yet he is a gorilla with 2 chromosomes from being human.

 All gorillas have access to the open air yard, and are rotated on exhibit and off exhibit throughout the day. When they are off-exhibit in their bedrooms, it gives keepers a chance to check their health and work on training.

 

Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.

Maka waiting for another bite of baby food.

Many times, Fernando explained, vitamins and needed medicines are mixed in the baby food to keep Maka healthy. And Maka always takes his meds because he loves his baby food so much and he doesn’t even wear a bib or get one drop of food on his beautiful black hair or his body.

 

Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.


Fernando, keeper of gorillas for 30 years, at the San Diego Zoo.

For their main nutrition, Fernando gives each gorilla daily biscuits full of plant matter and vital nutrients because gorillas are leaf eaters. These biscuits are formulated to be like the nutrients gorillas eat in the wild. As the gorillas eat their biscuits each morning, they are kept separate so Fernando will know each one is getting complete nutrition.

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Now it was time for different vegetables and fruits like bananas, apples, figs and plant-based foods they feed the gorillas. Between the bite-size fruit treats, Maka showed how he communicates with Fernando.  “Show me your left ear,” Fernando said, and Maka showed his left ear through the bars in his bedroom. “Show you right foot,” and Maka lifted his huge right foot into Fernando’s hand so he could check it out.

Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.

Maka shows his ear for examination by Fernando.

 

Next, Maka stuck his left hand out and Fernando held his hand and examined it. It was the cutest big plastic-looking hand with huge fingers twice the size of a male human adult’s. “Turn around and show your back,” and Maka showed his beautiful silverback so Fernando could look at it. “You are good to go for today,” Fernando told Maka, as he had just completed his daily medical exam.DSC_0428

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“We train the gorillas and all the animals here in the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park to respond to our requests so we can keep them healthy just like a Mother would do her child.”We are their keeper, primary nurse, chef, behavior specialist, maid and cleaner, friend, and teacher,” Fernando said admiringly. “We would like to teach Maka how to work a touch screen computer.”

 

20-month-old Monroe in constant motion

20-month-old Monroe in constant motion

While all of this was going on at the San Diego Zoo, 20-month old Monroe was romping, tumbling, rumbling, running and eating carrots for all the visitors to see at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park where he was born June 17, 2011. In a second, he would be riding the back of his 55-year-old surrogate great-great-grandmother, Vila, for a few feet and then she would put him off. DSC_1003

Vila holds the record as the third oldest gorilla in the world living in captivity. As he was nearing his terrible two’s, most of the adults in the gorilla troop don’t want to run and play full time with Monroe.

Monroe eating s snack on the run.

Monroe eating s snack on the run.

Enter Frank, a 4-year-old gorilla from another gorilla family troop at the San Diego Zoo, as a potential playmate for Monroe”, Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Dept. at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park explained.

Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

Peggy Sexton, lead keeper in the Mammal Department at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“We’re bringing Frank and Monroe together so they can be together throughout their lives in a bachelor troop, if necessary, and it is best to introduce them as youngsters.

 

Watching Monroe!

Watching Monroe!

Monroe and Frank, being from different troops, however, are getting to know one another as they visit through bars in their adjoining bedrooms. Smelling, watching, touching, running back and forth, and playing is helping to bond these cute little gorilla children together so they can eventually grow up together in the same troop. After a careful introduction period, they were brought together in the same exhibit to run, play and have disagreements just like real brothers while the older adults continue to sit and watch. Vila,the great-great grandmother and Monroe continue to be best friends.

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Another one who doesn’t run and play much is Winston, the dominant 41-year-old silverback male, born in the wild in West Africa. “This huge gorilla with a beautiful silverback, loves to eat raisins that the keeper throws around the free roaming exhibit for him and his troop members to pick off the ground one at a time with those huge fingers,” Rex Little, volunteer docent at the gorilla exhibit, pointed out. Then 420-pound Winston walked around and collected 15-inch long lettuce leaves then sat on a log to eat them. He was a picture of contentment, happiness and joy as he sat on the log eating lettuce and watching Monroe.

 

Monroe’s Mother, Kokamo, also closely watches her active baby as she goes about her daily life in the exhibit and he goes about his baby antics and is into everything. He practices pounding on his chest with his fists like a silverback gorilla does to show dominance. Monroe watches every move the adults make and then copies them.

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 Another adult female listening to all the action is Imani. She is Frank’s surrogate mom who waits in her
bedroom with Frank until it is their turn in the exhibit yard. Imani is included  in Winston’s troop with Frank now.
Gorilla females can have a baby every 4 years, and, hopefully, in the future, Monroe may get another playmate in addition to Frank.

 

After a full day of non-stop activities, Monroe, Kokamo, Winston, Vila, and Kamilah, sleep together in their bedroom on wood excelsior and other nesting materials. In the morning, after having their morning meal (including low starch primate biscuits), Winston, and Kokamo carrying baby Monroe in her arms, make their grand entrance into the exhibit together for the world to see the leaders of their family troop. The others follow, until all 5 troop members are in the exhibit eating their raisin treats.

 

Monroe "playing" with an elderly family member.

Monroe “playing” with an elderly family member.

And they all watch Monroe and Frank while they play, explore, romp and get attention and admiration of the guests at the Safari Park while Maka awaits his next snack of banana baby food at the San Diego Zoo. It’s a wonderful gorilla life.

Monroe and his antics.

Monroe and his antics.

Sitting and watching Monroe.

Sitting and watching Monroe.

Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I are talking about.

Satu, the dominant male amoung the Orangutan family, wonders what Janey and I are talking about.

Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.

Janey and I have a conversation in the Orangutan exhibit.

Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.

Maggie with the San Diego Zoo Global on the left and Mary Moore, volunteer Orangutan expert, on the right.

Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.

Bai Yun and her baby hugging at the San Diego Zoo.

Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.

Mr. & Mrs. Giraffe at the San Diego Zoo.

An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.

An elephant puts her foot out so the keeper can give her a pedicure.

OH, what a big yawn!

OH, what a big yawn!

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