Thursday, August 26, 2010

Zane and the Fishies

Zane Rogers Ackermann, six months old on our 46th wedding anniversary August 22nd, is a sponge. He is in the 90th percentile of height (length), the 50th percentile of weight, and a very handsome baby. But the most striking thing to me is how he reacts to new experiences. Take, for example, our recent visit to the aquarium here in Cape Town.

We are committed to saving Tuesdays for Zane. This particular Tuesday was to be our first outing so Kurt briefed us on procedures, loaded the stroller into the car, dressed Zane in warm duds, loaded him into the car seat, and off we went. Notice how pensive he is - just tolerating all the fuss.

We drove to the Waterfront, parked, assembled the car seat and stroller, and took off for the short stroll to the aquarium. Elapsed time so far was about 15 minutes. Hoping that this would be a good experience, we purchased season passes and went on in.

It was apparently the day of the week when local school classes come for an outing because there were groups of children everywhere. Our first stop was at a large cylindrical tank full of darting silver fish. Zane was mesmerized. He watched those fish for ten minutes with his mouth open and hands waving. You can only imagine what was going on in that little mind. He was not finished with those fish but we finally decided to move on before he overdosed on excitement.

We’ve noticed that this little person has an input mode. By that I mean his eyes get bright and wide, he becomes absolutely quiet, his mouth opens and he shows all the signs of intense concentration. I don’t remember my own children doing this behavior, but then I was at work most of their babyhood hours. Grandparenthood gives us an entirely new set of opportunities.

We went through a number of exhibits before arriving at one which drew interest. The penguins were moving around, into and out of the water, and Zane followed them with interest. He loved the sound of the running stream.

So we watched those little guys and gals in their tuxedos perform for quite a while.

Then we moved on to the big fishies and the kelp tank. It can be a hypnotic experience, just sitting there and watching the kelp sway with the wave action. We stayed there wondering how the neurons were dealing with the little fish / big fish issue. Were we giving him nightmares?

The next tank held fish of many sizes. The ones attracting Zane’s attention the most seemed to be schools of small darting fish that moved in waves in order to avoid the larger fish. Brightness and movement seem to be key to interest at this stage.

Betsy and I needed a rest so we tried to interest Zane in a bottle or his pacifier. Forget that! The sharks were way cool!

Eventually we wandered away from the displays and into the cafeteria for tea and coffee. Zane got distracted by the flags fluttering in the breeze, and we eventually talked him into a bottle. We left, strolling over the cobblestones, through a craft market, and back to the car, noticing that he had fallen fast asleep, input processing complete for the moment.

All in all it was a successful first outing for us as grandparents. We are looking forward to many more.


In Search Of ...

Meandering … an honorable pastime. Meandering in Cape Town … a pleasurable pastime! We began the day with two goals: breakfast in one of our favorite spots – then find a birding location for our favorite in-laws.

Goal one is a little café in Blaubergstrand. You might want to translate that as the beach of the blue mountain. Betsy is watching a family meandering over the shoreline rocks in search of tiny fish. The blue mountain, Table Mountain, is in the background. Our breakfast was terrific.

Goal two sent us to locations on the other side of the blue mountain. We didn’t know exactly where we were going – just a general idea. Our first stop was a good-sized, as it turned out, dog-walking park named Island Park. Winter in Cape Town is the time for many of the bushes to bloom. Betsy is standing beside an eight-foot tall shrub covered with little white blossoms. Stunning!

Yellow blooms covered other shrubs and there were Calla Lilies everywhere.

We finally spotted some (significant) birds. There were any number of coots cruising around and a few pelicans. I get a kick out of the fake red eyes on the coots. They’re actually deemed attractive by females during the breeding season.

The area seems much like we we’ve seen along the waterways in Florida, only on a smaller scale. The boats tied up at the docks tended to be canoes instead of yachts.

Other neat stuff that we spotted on Park Island included a Pelargonium (Geranium) that only my brother Marshal would recognize,

and a Weaver Bird nest under construction. A finished product was nearby.

We had come out to this specific location because of a rumor of a pod of resident hippos. When we asked a dog-walking couple about them, they said we were in the wrong place and that we should backtrack down the main road a bit to a location called Rondevlei (Ron-de-flea). So, off we went.

This was a real park, admission fees, brochures, toilets, museum, the works. The trails were over four feet wide and covered with a heavy-duty rubberized mat. There were occasional breaks in the matting – round in shape with a pattern on one side which looked a lot like animal toes. Never any more than three or four in a row – it looked like a hippo might have used the path for short distances between grassy areas. This realization brought some degree of discomfort, particularly when we saw the Hippo Crossing sign and the path through the rushes.

Rondevlei has two observation towers from which you can see the bird hides and locate the large gatherings of waterfowl. We did not see the pod of hippos, so we set off down the trail.

Along the way we found some interesting flora. This plant is one whose flowers are pollinated by rodents. I rather suspect that it is not native to the area but belongs several hundred kilometers to the North.

We did find some birds including this group of Sacred Ibis.

However, the find of the day came as we sat for a minute at the end of the trail. This little critter, a mongoose, seemed to be scouting for a meal. Perhaps a cobra?

So, did we find what we were searching for? Hard to tell. We had a great time – took a nice long walk in the fresh air – found some beautiful flowers – saw some interesting birds – met Riki-Tik-Tavi. I’d have to say that, yes; we found what we were looking for.