Here comes the story of three animals living in a zoo: A tiger, a dolphin and a swan. The tiger gets bored with his life and he gets stuck in his own boredom. The dolphin basks in the ovation during his performance at the dolphin show. And there comes a swan preparing himself for his next long flight to the sky. After a long day getting fed up with the tiger and the dolphin, the swan felt relieved when he received a message from his fellow swan that reminds him that there is a beautiful sky awaiting him outside.
The idea of the tiger, the dolphin and the swan came across my mind a month ago when I visited the Safari World in Bangkok, Thailand. Actually, I was not interested in going to the zoo, and I never had any intention of traveling thousand miles away from Hanoi to visit a zoo. When my travel buddies told me that we would head to the zoo in the second day in Thailand, I first thought that it would be fine as long as all the team enjoyed the trip. I changed my mind immediately when I heard that the entrance fee for the zoo was THB1,000, which is equivalent to USD27. For all whose minds cannot immediately make sense of such amount of money, THB1,000 may be enough for a day wandering around Bangkok, accommodate you a ticket for a three-hour travel by boat from Phuket to Koh Phi Phi and afford the procurement of three good books in Kinokuniya Books. The moral concluded here is that people cannot make sense of an absolute number without putting such amount into a comparative context or considering things that have been forgone. (I beg any economist to drop by and get me right at the concept of “opportunity cost”.) Anyway, the trip was not so disastrous and if the trip had not taken place, there would be no reason for such post written in this blog.
Coming back to our trip to the Safari World in Thailand, when it comes to the term “safari”, I expected that I would have a chance to travel on a tuk-tuk or kind of stay at the upper deck of a double-decker bus while witnessing the lion roaming over the meadow, the giraffes turning their heads to the curious eyes of the tourists or the elephants taking their heavy steps. There comes a saying that the reality will ruin the expectation (or the expectation ruins the reality, instead), which was partly true to my case. Instead of seeing the lively jungle as it could be seen on the documentaries in the Discovery channel or the Animal Planet, I could only witness several Bengal tigers lazily lying under the shadow of the trees, the bears tiredly sleeping in the artificially nature shelter where the sun could not reach or the giraffes hungrily raised their long necks to get the food from the tourists. Such circumstance immediately reminded me of “Life of Pi”, where the main character “Pi” defended for the existence of a zoo. He aggressively opposed to the idea that “animals in the wild are happy because they are free” or the desire for freedom of these caged animals is just a production originating from the imagination of the mis-informed people. He argued that “Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food low and where territory must constantly defended and parasites forever endured. What is the meaning of freedom in such context?” He added: “A sound zoo enclosure is the equivalent for an animal… Finding within it all the places it needs – a lookout, a place for resting, for eating and drinking, for bathing, for grooming, etc. – and finding that there is no need to go hunting, food appearing six days a week, an animal will take possession of its zoo space in the same way it would lay claim to a new space in the wild, exploring it and marking it out in the normal ways of its species, with sprays of urine perhaps.” You may agree with him upon your view of the photo where a polar bear getting starved on the gradually melted iceberg, which has gone viral recently. However, you cannot empathize with him anymore once witnessing what happened in the zoo.
In the zoo where such boring atmosphere reigned, I could, however, find some happy creatures. I mean the dolphins. As a child, I bet that you may watch the trained dolphins in the dolphin show with the admiring eyes. The dolphins seemed to be very satisfied with life in the zoo. They basked in the standing ovation of the tourists every day. They were eager to perform the repetitive tasks as directed by the trainers. They made good friends with their trainers indeed. Perhaps they even did not know about the freedom which has been stripped of or the existence of the blue ocean that their grand grandfather might have swum.
There is another species that captured my attention during the visit. You may guess that it is the swan. I was not interested in the swan at the first place. But I wonder if the swan could escape from a zoo like this, I mean an open zoo like the Safari World. Perhaps it is the only species that could make its own choice of staying in the zoo or flying away to run after its true calling. It can fly, can’t it?
And recently, I had a conversation with a close friend of mine, who is currently pursuing her master degree in Germany. She shared with me about her life in Germany, things that she realized after one year studying abroad and how she was in love with the academic life right there. She has just come back to Germany after her short trip to Turkey. She shared an album on her Facebook account, which was filled up with her joyful moments in the faraway land, with a nice caption: “To all my dear fellow swans that are still hesitant to take off.” I was truly and deeply moved by these simple words. Thank you so much, my dear fellow swan!