The Making of a Tree Hugger

Thanks to a liberal education and a couple of teachers militant about saving the rain forest, Offspring #2 embraced the concept of the “Eco Friendly” vacation with arms, legs and soul. I feebly cooperated in a futile attempt at bonding with a teenager. According to the source for all useful information, Wikipedia, “Environmentally friendly (also ecofriendly, nature friendly, and green) are terms used to refer to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies claimed to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment.” Somewhere during this vacation to Borneo, Offspring #2 fully metamorphosed in to an ozone saving, eco- friendly, tree hugging member of the green planet while I quaked at the danger such close contact with our rain forest friends presented. The threat of dying quite missing from the eco-friendly definition.

Our electric motored tour boat glided through the water minus the accompanying smell of gas allowing Offspring #2 and I, along with a dozen of our new best friends, to blend seamlessly in to the landscape. So unassuming were we in our scentless boat, animals got dangerously close, to the delight of many not aware of the myriad of disasters potentially accompanying close contact with wild animals.

The guide heard the shuffling of feet moving through the forest and we all strained our eyes to see what might emerge.

“Pygmy Elephant!,” someone shouted. The cameras started snapping. I looked in the same direction as the others hunting for this tiny specimen. Not until it lumbered in to the water for a bath did I see it. Unperturbed by the noisy exclamations of delight, primarily coming from OS#2, the elephant sprayed itself with water and disappeared under the water.

“It`s blowing bubbles under the water.” I said to no one in particular. Soon giant balls of poop popped to the surface and the elephant emerged apparently relieved. Now 10 feet from the boat, it went under again. I watched for tell-tale bubbles moving toward the boat indicating an elephant intent on capsizing our craft.

What if this diminutive pygmy elephant had decided the audience annoying thereby warranting a shower of poopy river water? Additionally there were the massive tusks rivaling that of that great behemoth the Wooly Mammoth. What if the OS2 and I were both gored and carried off impaled on those tusks? Her on one side, me on the other?

OS#2 leaned in for a close encounter with the bather. I snatched up a large chunk of her shirt just in case she fell in. Next time I`d prefer like a plate-glass window between us and the wildlife.

Eventually the elephant tired of the game or got clean and retreated to the forest leaving us to search for the next forest resident. Once again came the cry from our guide,” Poisonous Yellow Cat Snake in the tree!” All eyes strained for the snake while I tried not to burst in to tears. To my horror, OS#2 tried to stand for a closer look as the guide parked the boat directly underneath the sleeping reptile.

“MOM- GET OUT THE CAMERA!!” Did I bring a camera? The fear that had frozen me had overtaken all rational thought. The tour guide searched for a paper bag in which I could hyperventilate.

If the snake fell in to the boat I`d become the second person in history to allegedly walk on water.

If the snakes weren`t enough to keep one out of the trees, monitor lizards might have been a good second reason. All appeared to be sleeping- invisible- on the branch. Watching him taking leisurely yet assessing looks at the folks below brought on visions of his cousin, the Komodo Dragon, hunting us down.

Although not a fan of lizard types, OS#2 was elated at the numerous examples found dozing in the trees.

Someone in the back of the forest let out the Proboscis Monkeys for our entertainment. Even they came with a warning.

“DO NOT make direct eye contact with the monkeys. Ever.”

Now added to my bank of useless trivia was the news of monkeys wiggling their ears- prior to attacking. Innocent bystanders, or boaters as was the case.

The Proboscis Monkey- one dominant male lives the life of a sultan with a harem of females. On becoming the alpha male, his nose mysteriously grows to gargantuan proportions. The ladies like that.


Offspring #2-  “Mom- why is that monkey`s bottom so red?”

Ouisar-san-  ” Diarrhea rash from too many spicy leaves?”

We weren`t the only ones noticing this anatomical feature of the female. Soon we all sat quietly watching monkey porn. Some in our group took pictures. Really? Is there no limit to poor taste?

And then we found one of the reasons rain forest animals stick to the trees.

If that picture didn`t discourage the boat crew from disembarking, the leeches did. Once out of the boat, all were required to wear rubber boots with a covering of plastic socks  outside the boots to protect our precious blood supply.  7 blood sucking types call Borneo home. Luckily I don`t have pictures.

I do have pictures of the largest flower in the world. Also the most deadly. Up to 3 feet in diameter, the Rafflesia, smells like rotting meat, blooms for 3 days a year, and eats whatever happens to come its way. Including rats. It holds a well deserved nickname- the “Corpse Flower.”

OS#2 was so disappointed that a mere fly corpse was inside.

OS#2 was now reeling off a list of the awesome (dangerous) things she had seen. I just wanted to go home.

AHH- the oasis of our Eco-friendly lodge….

After a day of gawking lovingly at animals that could kill or maim us, I was as ready for a shower as everyone else was for me to take one. Gas lamps lit the outside corridors to each room, cisterns of rain water sat outside waiting to flush the toilets. No bottled water. To this I decided saving the planet is an admirable goal, but not at the expense of air conditioning and a hair dryer. I prefer the fully loaded hotels.

At dinner, the general manager shared his new find. He had caught a baby reticulated python on the main walkway in to the dining area. The python`s brother was found dead after someone “accidentally” stepped on his head.

OS#2 was practically jumping up and down as the snake was pulled out of a canvas bag.

“His skin is so shiny and the design intricate- wouldn`t he make a great handbag?” This brought a ubrupt end to my conversation with the tree huggers. They don`t find humor in jokes about animal pelts, the ozone layer, or eating dolphins. OS#2 was the only one willing to talk to me for the remainder of the visit.

The baby snake had the last laugh as sleep eluded me that night while I envisioned super-sized mommy escaping her hiding place under the deck to come up through the toilet and bite my big butt during a middle of the night trip to the bathroom.

Thank God the next day would be a tamer day searching for orangutans.

In the meantime, how can you tell the difference between a monkey and an ape?

This entry was posted in Moving to Japan, Offspring and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

48 Responses to The Making of a Tree Hugger

  1. Lisa (Woman Wielding Words) says:

    I don’t know how to tell the difference between a monkey and an ape, but I do recognize an amazing adventure when I read one. You are giving your kids memories to last a lifetime. Thanks for sharing the joys and hazards of your journey with us.


  2. Shall I be sad or glad that you weren’t the second person in “history” to walk on water?

    Lordy, Lordy, Emily, this post is hysterical, but I don’t think I could have done it. Clearly eco-friendly is not for me. And I thought Haiti was bad.

    Wasn’t the heat god-awful? I should have given you one of my handy-dandy battery operated fans to take with you. I know it might have meant checking a bag, but, good God, my friend, it would have been work it. It’s no bigger than a paper back book.

    Feeling sorry for you from the civilization that is Kentucky,


  3. Kate Allison says:

    I have no idea how you tell the difference. (Avoiding obvious puns about the monkey taking the last train to Clarksville or whatever.) But I’m sure we can both tell the difference between a snakeskin handbag and a crocodile one, and that’s the main thing. 😉


  4. Pigeon Heart says:

    This is great! How much fun!? I love the ”Offspring” references. Very entertaining.


  5. Ali in Alabama says:

    I am loving your blog! What an awesome adventure you and the kids are having! I used to think of myself as adventurous, but I don’t know if I could do it! Keep writing about it so I can have adventures vicariously through you!

    Monkeys v. Apes: is it that monkeys have those long tails for tree dwelling? I will anxiously await your answer in the next blog!


  6. Peter says:

    What a great trip! I would have been right behind you if the snake dropped in the boat – I am definitely not a fan.

    It is great to read your blog – thank you! As I run around each day trying to evade the perils of PowerPoint and whatever is lurking in the next conference room, your posts are a terrific reminder of the wonderful world that is out there!


  7. Tori Nelson says:

    The nose. Sweet Mother of Nature, that nose.


  8. 2summers says:

    1) This post is HIGH-larious.
    2) That crocodile photo is amazing. Did you take that?? I’d like the rest of that story, please.
    3) In Africa we have monkeys with bright blue testicles.


    • amblerangel says:

      Yep- I took it. Because we were so close I didn`t have to use the zoom on my new- and very disappointing – camera which explains why it`s so clear. The story on that is we were riding along on a substantial boat and the captain saw the croc sunning itself. As the boat got closer, the croc opened his mouth in a show of bravado. It stayed like that- perfectly still- until we pulled away. Then is ran in to the water at about 100 mph. Yes- it CAN chase you down.


  9. Your kids should be forever thankful to you, I know I would!!! What an experience!! so what is the difference between the difference between a monkey and an ape?


    • amblerangel says:

      You have to tune in next week for the answer….. but once you hear it you`ll say “Oh yea-I have noticed that” My kids have the same view of me as all teenagers when asked about their parents, “She`s an embarrassing dork”… oh well.


  10. Thank you for sharing this!
    So interesting and with you explaining it, so entertaining!



  11. Monkeys have tails, apes do not…

    Okay, that was a very ugly monkey, I would appreciate some cute monkey photos next time hee hee…I love little monkeys, they’re cheeky and adorable, that one was probably the butt of a lot of jokes..heee hee hee

    Oh and the flower, that is so cool, it looks smelly lol.

    Loved the baby snake, love snakes, I once petted one called Madonna 🙂


  12. jacquelincangro says:

    Well that’s a monkey nose only a mother could love! He should be named Pinocchio…
    Looking forward to more tales from Borneo and more monkey photos.
    Great post!


  13. I think it’s a good thing that “Offspring #2” has converted to environmentalism, you never know she just might stop wasting paper and electricity, and if she could convert #1 as well then that would be perfect.
    And that sounds to me an amazing trip! I would die to go to Borneo or some place like it!


    • amblerangel says:

      I totally agree. If this trip doesn`t convert one it`s impossible. Just about everything we saw- plants and animals- is about 20 years from being extinct. More on that later! Thanks for stopping in!


  14. Michi says:

    What an awesome vacation and learning experience. Borneo, I’ll have to keep this in mind. So glad you’re back again. 😉


  15. Sounds like you have a budding zoologist there! They’re always moving towards things most normal people would back away from. OS #2 would love Africa!

    Looks like a previous comment of mine might have gone astray again . . . about Japanese toilets?


    • amblerangel says:

      Hey Lisa- I`m loving your blog series on the caption contest.
      I can`t find one from you about that?


      • Still waiting for you to enter a caption! 😉

        Previous comment: The other day you said you would never have considered coming to Africa before reading my blog. Well, I would never have sat through an entire documentary on Japanese toilet design and manufacture if it weren’t for yours!

        The engineering of the Japanese toilets is quite amazing. It turned out to be quite a funny documentary too, as there was a (British) English voice-over vaguely translating all the Japanese, and they put their own spin on things. e.g. At the head office of the Toto (?) company, they have a talking toilet at reception telling people where to go. The English voice-over referred to the receptionist as “old potty mouth”!


      • amblerangel says:

        That is HILARIOUS! I would love to see that. My sister left a devout convert to the Japanese toilet! And I`m flattered you would sit through that! So glad you noticed that comment was missing!


      • What I want to know though, is what happens if there’s a power failure? Do the toilets have a “manual mode” too?


      • amblerangel says:

        Yea-on that-have to get back to you!


  16. Ashmore says:

    Fantastic photos! Of course, I especially love the pygmy elephant. If you want to bring it home, all your crazy ‘Bama friends will be lining up to adopt it (including me). ROLL TIDE!!


  17. Thanks for sharing your pics and your adventure. I would love to do something like this with my kids.


  18. Olga SE says:

    The pictures are great!

    Emily, I have an award for you, it’s awaiting you in my blog.


    • amblerangel says:

      Olga- why thank you! I was JUST thinking of you yesterday. Ever since WordPress changed the system around I don`t have a good way to keep up with my favorite blogs- I was thinking I hadn`t been to your site since the changeover-as well as many others. I`m now setting everything to RSS feed so I can read like a newspaper every morning to fix this!


      • Olga SE says:

        Emily, I’m glad you liked the award as I was afraid your blog is far too popular for one. 🙂 You know, I haven’t posted a lot recently being too busy with my new project in Russian.


      • amblerangel says:

        It`s always nice to be appreciated! I know I don`t exactly fall in to the criteria in the strictest sense but always happy to pass along and find new good blogs!


  19. CSI Susie says:

    This is one of my fave posts for sure- you know I love the critters. I cannot, however, stand monkeys or apes or any of that sort so the big nose red reared ones would have made me throw up, I am certain.


    • amblerangel says:

      Honey- the monkey porn would have been too much for you I`m sure. OS2 is all into the save the rain forest and the extinction of most of the animals in the pictures. Which I`m glad someone cares because Orangutans will be gone in 15 years they say.


  20. bercton says:

    Awesome capture of the wild!


  21. Dana says:

    I prefer to keep my tree-hugging antics FAR AWAY from life-threatening animals… even if they are endangered ones. Crocodiles and alligators scare the hell out of me, and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to get up close and personal with a poisonous snake, either. Or a pygmy elephant, for that matter. I’ll just be a “friend of animals” in the academic sense, thanks. 🙂


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