The ostrich opened its puppet like beak wide enough to deep-throat a grapefruit, stuck out its tongue, made to yawn, but instead shat a big load that splattered upon my boots. Appearing satisfied with this move, it rejoined its jowls together, cocked its head to the side, and stared me down with its ping pong eye. Fluttered its two inch eyelashes at me like a satiated hussy, it then turned and strode off to rejoin its reptilian necked brethren who were being hand fed by a group of giggling tourists. No sooner than I had the chance to examine the damage to my recently soiled boots another ostrich ran over and gobbled up the entire pile which laid nearby.
I took a picture of an ostrich eating another ostrich’s feces. Perhaps it’s time to find a real job.
I thought that my two year old daughter would enjoy going out to the Granja de Avestruces, 7km outside of Villa de Leyva, to find out what ostriches are, poke them or something, have an educational experience. As it turned out, she did. She laughed as the ostriches snaked their necks around and pecked at her little hands. No, we did not spend money to feed them like the other tourists. It just seemed far too strange to me to pay to feed someone else’s animals.
“Shouldn’t the owner pay to feed them himself?” I half way snarled to my wife.
“It is for the experience of feeding an ostrich,” she fully snarled back.
I decided to one up the tourists and make an offering of an entire two year old instead. They pecked at her little arms and hands, she would pull them back and sqeal, laugh, and then bait the beasts yet again.
My initial interactions at the ostrich farm turned me a touch sour to the whole endeavor — the entance fee was double what we expected it to be, the lady selling tickets hesitated to return my change. Being shoved into a tour and forced into a dark room to watch a forty minute video on the majesty of the ostrich did not help my cause. Like a pouty child I don’t like other people telling me what to do — especially when I have to pay for it. “How can anyone like being lead around like a gaggle of dumb cows on parade?” I whined.
From the description of this place I thought I could just walk around at leisure, checking out some ostriches. I did not know that I was to be in for a course in Ostrich 101. I watched the video and complained, “I came in to see some ostriches, why would I want to watch a video of ostriches when the real ones are running around right outside?” I could watch a movie about ostriches in frigid Harbin without even having to pay an admission fee. My wife flashed me a look, and I knew I was in need of what so many mother’s in my country would call an “attitude adjustment.”
I thought of what my wife told cranky Petra as we were walking to the ostrich farm. As she kicked and whined in the Ergo, yelling, “I don’t want to see the things!” (meaning the ostriches) my wife told her:
“Petra, it’s your choice, you can be happy or you can be sad.” Petra understood.
“Happy,” she said.
“Then sing a song.”
Vamos aya, vamos todo aya, vamos por la granja, la Granja de Avestruces.
Giving it a try, I took out my notebook and wrote down snippets from the incredible edible ostrich movie:
Ostrich parts can be used for cornea and tendon transplants.
Ostriches are the only birds with two toes.
Ostriches are the world’s heaviest birds.
They have stupid wings that don’t work.
You can eat ostriches, and they taste good.
One ostrich egg = 24 chicken eggs.
The tour group was then lead outside and handed a empty ostrich egg to pass around. We then looked at a poster of an ostrich giving birth. For ten minutes the guide talked about the finer points of ostrich birth. On the poster was a close up shot the size of a man’s chest of an ostrich cunt — or whatever they lay eggs with — being stretched to full capacity by a half way passed egg. With my eyes firmly transfixed on the half way inside out birthing part by order of the guide, I realized that it was my choice:
I could be happy or sad. Looking at photos of birthing ostriches does not generally make me happy. I walked away to see the real ostriches I paid to see.
I got shit splattered upon my boots, but so be it. Watching my kid laugh and laugh as she pet the long necked bulbous bodied beasties, was enough to make me smile too. I looked at the ostriches. I had never been so close to such an animal before. “Strange,” I kept saying to myself. I was now thinking like I should have been: like a tourist looking upon something strange that they never seen before, photographing it. Digging the experience, I began making the most of my place and position. I was now having fun — shitty boots and all.
Perhaps the most important lesson in travel is to develop strategies to consistently grasp your surroundings and make the most of whatever situation you find yourself in: whether that be hunting armadillo in the bush, or taking the crocodile tour in Ventanilla, interviewing cock fighters, or being lead around like a dumb cow of a tourist. This strategy takes a lifetime to develop fully, but the constantly changing kaleidoscope of experience, emotions, people, and situations that is inherent to travel provides a lot of opportunity to practice this subtle art of life.
I stopped a mood, opened my ears, and learned more about ostriches that I ever dreamed that I would. Though I did not find out why these strange animals seemingly delight in eating each other’s shit, I did take away more than a curmugeon’s fare for the experience. I also found 21,000 pesos — more than the admission fee to the ostrich farm — laying in the road on the walk back to Villa de Leyva.
“It’s your choice: you can be happy or you can be sad.”