Oatland Island Wildlife Center

I believe I am an au pair (pronounced “ow pwah” according to DP) in an alternate universe.  I have spent much of my life caring for other people’s children, mostly belonging to family members, but also a fair amount who were non-Lao. When in the company of the latter, I find that it is not uncommon for people to look at me as if I a) have stolen a baby; or b) must be a full-time nanny.  I don’t take offense and also acknowledge that I could be reading into things; still, I have received numerous cryptic stares, particularly when I am out with blonde-haired-blue-eyed little ones.  I should start speaking in a foreign language on our excursions (honestly, who hasn’t done that?) for extra flair.

For the record, I think I would make an excellent nanny.  One day, if all else in my life falls through, I may move to the other side of the world in response to a foreign diplomat’s want ad.  I understand that most au pairs are young, unattached, and don’t have children of their own; so naturally, I am working under the assumption that one of the hypothetical things that “fell through” is procreation.  I’ve been drafting my (hypothetical) resume Objective:

Looking to enrich children’s lives through full-time care that emphasizes compassion, proper nutrition, multiculturalism, and discovery of the world surrounding us.

That probably sounds a whole lot loftier than I intended, when really I just want to run amok in the woods all day.  I wish all of education were as basic as daily adventures.  No lesson plans, no grades, no parent-teacher conferences that end in self-loathing (on my end, not the parent’s).  I fancy my personal contribution to a future generation that actually cares about the impact of saltwater intrusion on amphibian species; or escorting a gopher tortoise to his burrow on the other side of the highway; or knowing the best stump in which to find Toxorhynchites larvae.

This donkey kept following me.
The protected gopher tortoise.
The wolf observation compound was my favorite.
Low tide observed from the marsh boardwalk.

In this current version of the universe, I usually save the adventures for non-billable hours (although this is debatable).  Some kids and I spent this past Sunday at a wildlife conservation center.  It is always refreshing to see the young, fearlessly tottering head-first towards an alligator enclosure.  As for me, I was singing, “Brian Fellow, Safari Planet!” in my head the whole time, a la Tracy Morgan in his hilarious SNL skit.  I am not ashamed to admit that I probably enjoyed it more than the kids, although it would’ve been nice to ride in a wagon while someone dragged me around for two hours.

Just as we were leaving, as if on cue, a gopher tortoise was approaching the road at the Gopher Tortoise Crossing sign. He stopped to make sure we weren’t going to kill him, then grumpily scooted across (I know he was grumpy because Mochi makes the same face when I have offended him in some way).  As you were, Mr. Tortoise.


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