Monday, January 19, 2009

When You Wish Upon a Yeti

So we went on our DisneyWorld trip this last week. As much as I had been opposed to the trip in the beginning, I found myself starting to enjoy myself. Everything ran smoothly for the most part since my parents went the distance and bought a vacation package through a travel agent. It was four action-packed days of park-hopping and large crowds. Who would have thought that New Years is always a busy time for DisneyWorld? Not I. We went to all four of the theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, MGM Studios, and Animal Kingdom). We had direct transportation to and from a resort (albeit, the Motel 6 of the Disney resort experience – but still nice and clean) and a meal plan. Just thinking about that carrot cake brings back fond memories and gushing salivary glands.

It was interesting having to share a hotel room with my family, now that both my sister and I are in our mid-twenties. One thing is for certain and that is that nothing has changed. Except maybe the size of the bed. Whenever I had been forced to share the bed with my sister as a child, it had always seemed bigger. We would always fight over someone crossing the center line of the bed and I think I may have actually bitten her at one point. Since we’ve become adults, the bed seems to have shrunk to the size of an ill-fitting suit. We battled each other at night, as in the past, kicking and one of us hogging all the blankets. I can’t help it but I’m a thrasher. I wake up and I’m wrapped up tighter in my sheets than a Jimmie Dean sausage link. At one point, I physically pushed my sister’s face with my hand. I don’t really remember why. It’s not like I didn’t give a warning. I had even submitted a verbal disclaimer that I could not be held accountable for my actions when I was sleeping. As a result, she spent two nights sleeping on the floor until finally she resorted to a medicated form of sleep rather than risk a stiff back in the morning.

When we weren’t sleeping, we were constantly walking or waiting in lines. Walking is something that is difficult to accomplish when you have child strollers and children wearing backpack monkey leashes in every direction. There were these fancy little monkey shaped backpacks for children and the leash was cleverly disguised as the monkey’s tail. It was chaos at its closest definition. Don’t get me wrong. Kids are cool and all but not wild monkey leash children. As my sister pointed out when she saw a leashed child “that kid’s going to closeline us all if he takes off running.” I wonder if there is hope for an off-leash theme park. Because at DisneyWorld, I half-expected parents to pull out packages of string cheese and bite off bits to throw to their children when they behaved themselves and sat. Or maybe a squeaky toy shaped like a rolled up newspaper.

I got to see a few temper tantrums. I’m always severely disappointed in the tactics employed by children in order to get what they want. In my opinion, lying on the ground, kicking your feet and screaming so loud your skin turns the shade of a red M&M is not the most effective mode of communication. A little girl did that as I was waiting in line for my flight to Africa. Everyone looked at her with alarm and moved as close to the front of the line as possible, as if that would guarantee them not being seated next to the little banshee.

One of the best rides I went on was the new ride at Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest. The roller coaster includes going backward and downhill in the dark and of all things, a yeti. The attention to detail was impressive, with a hiker’s lodge and a yeti museum to glance at while we wound through the ropes. When you were done with the ride, like all other rides, everyone was funneled out through the gift shop to stock up on souvenirs to be sold at next summer’s garage sale. One of their most prominent souvenirs was a stuffed yeti. It was basically a round white fur ball with feet and eyes. I was not impressed. The yeti appeared too genial. It could at least be growling or be gnawing on a dead deer carcass. The sweet, furry yeti would be like making the Loch Ness monster a character in Finding Nemo. It’s just a distortion of stories that originally, at their best, gave a reason for the production of the nightlight.

My sister and I split up from my parents each day because it just seemed easier to decide where to go when there were only two people chiming in on the decisions. Also, when together my parents tend to choose the presentations, rather than attractions, such as the American Adventure. That title is full of deception because I fell asleep faster than I do in church. I dozed off just as the soldiers were talking about how there was no food at Valley Forge. I fell asleep during the Lights, Motors, Action stunt show that involved live high-speed car chases and explosions. I fell asleep at the Country Bear Jamboree. They don’t deserve the name “Jamboree” because it was possibly the most boring bunch of bears I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Now if they had Cirque du Soleil bears, I definitely would have stayed awake.

While my sister and I wandered separate from our parents during the day, we sat down to a family meal every night. One night, we went out to eat at a place called The Brown Derby, based on the restaurant frequented by Hollywood stars during the golden years of cinema in Los Angeles. A little girl was sitting with her family at a table nearby and had a friendly, neighborhood yeti in her possession. Throughout dinner, she made the yeti dance and sway, occasionally sharing it with her siblings, but only under direct supervision. Before dinner came, I made a trip to the bathroom and the little girl and her siblings were in there too. Probably hopped up on cotton candy and lollipops shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head, the girls were singing to each other, each taking a turn with classic Disney tunes. One of the girls had the best lyric, belting out in her best Little Orphan Annie voice “when you wish upon a yeti!” The rest of the song was hummed but I found myself nodding to the beat while reaching for the soap dispenser.

Later on, after dinner, the singer/owner of the stuffed animal left the table with one of her sisters, leaving another little girl behind with the yeti and direct orders.

Raising her finger and wagging it in the air, she spoke to the younger sister.

“No touchies!”

The little sister stared at the yeti on the table in front of her, her face lingering inches away from his jovial grin. She nodded briefly in response but kept her gaze fixed on the yeti, like a dog staring at a snausage just out of its reach.

DisneyWorld was, overall, one of the top places I’ve ever been to people watch. There are foreigners, senior citizens in line for high-speed roller coasters, line gophers (a technical term we heard used by Disney workers for people who cut in line), overwhelming moms, and straight-up crazies. We even got to chat about what it’s like to work at Disney with a former Snow White while watching the Pixar Block Party Parade. She told us about how the characters, like Snow White, Cinderella and Jasmine, all need to have a reason ready why they need to leave when they have lines of people. For example, maybe Snow White needs to go bail Dopey out of jail for a drug possession charge. Also, Disney characters with heads are never allowed to remove them in the park. Apparently, Minnie Mouse once got pushed into a pond and was drowning, so she took off her head and she was fired as a result. Now it’s these types of things that should be on a backlot tour, not movie props from Lassie. It also would make for some excellent reality television. If you like that kind of thing.

Now, it’s back to reality. I survived the 17-hour flight from New York to Johannesburg, managing to be productive by watching three in-flight movies (Hancock, Mamma Mia and Baba Mama, in case you are curious), reading and cat-napping. It helps that I always pass out during take-off (another example of my mad sleeping skills), probably snoring with my mouth wide open. Maybe it’s the altitude change. I really can’t explain this superpower. It has a mind of its own. I had a couple of good seatmates who respected my personal bubble: a South African college student who discussed with me her love of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington and an American guy heading to Senegal to study the effect of American hip-hop on music in Africa. He is going to teach kids how to break-dance and rap. Now that would be something to see.

I am back inMozambique now. We just had our mid-service conference and oodles of standard mid-service medical check-ups this last week. And later today, it’s back to Nampula for this gal. I had a great time at home during the holidays and I know it helped refuel me for my second year of work. I will miss everyone at home just like last year but word on the street is that the second year flies by even faster than the first one did.

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