AKL Savannah Guide Elaine, evening of 3/23/2006
On Thursday March 23rd, I went with my girlfriend and roommate over to Animal Kingdom Lodge for a late night dinner at Boma. None of us had ever been to AKL before, so we didn't really know what to expect other than having seen a couple of pictures and heard a few things by word of mouth. We went over with some extra time before our reservation time so that we would have a chance to poke around and explore for a bit. Our first impression was that of awe, inspired primarily by the incredibly detailed and impressively themed lobby. We spent quite a while browsing the Zawadi Marketplace and testing out the big comfy chairs in the lobby. My roommate had to take a call on his cell, so my girlfriend and I told him we'd catch up with him a little later and went off on our own. We were kinda looking for a restroom, but more than that we were just kind of wandering aimlessly trying to take it all in. We wandered through the doors in the back of the lobby and into what I guess was one of the Savannahs. It was quite dark that time of night, and there were only a couple other people out there at the time. I was a bit suprised to turn a corner and see a CM standing in the back near one of the exhibits chatting it up with a couple of guests about the cultural differences between her native South Africa and our United States. If you, like myself, had never been to AKL to see for yourself, apparently they have "Savannah Guides" out there for most of the day (or maybe all of it? someone whos's stayed there would have to clear that up for me) to talk with guests about the animals and about their home countries and cultures and such.
My gf and I, intrigued immediately, wandered over and started listening to this guide, Elaine, talk about her home and their way of life. For example, did you know that as a child in South Africa you are taught to speak three different languages? Yup. Two of which are used pretty much everywhere throughout the country and you will become fluent in both, and then the third language you learn depends on which region of the country you were from and you will probably only become semi-fluent in using it). She also talked a lot about what it was like to come over to the US and see it for the first time as a foreigner. She was really funny in how she talked about American airport security and them having a bizarre thing for inspecting shoes, rude people in NYC who didn't even have the time of day to render a greeting, and how one person she spoke to tried to argue with her that she couldn't really be from South Africa because she was white ("Oh my gosh... you're right. I AM white! How did this happen?!?").
After the other folks who were talking to her left to go back indoors, my gf started asking her about the cats in South Africa (my gf is a huge fan of the big cats... this is an interest that probably stems from the fact that her dad had a pet lion when he was young). Anyway, without missing a beat Elaine launched into a laundry list of all sorts of species of cats native to her country, many of which I'd never even heard of before. She then started telling us about all the incredible experiences she'd had working with lion cubs and cheetahs (Did you know that a cheetah is not a true cat in the sense that it cannot retract its claws as other cats do? Because of this, a cheetah's paws actually more closely resemble those of a dog than they do a cat.) My gf looked so excited by this conversation with Elaine that I though she might burst.
By the time Elaine had to go in (another guide had come out to replace her), we had been standing out there talking with her for probably a good 20-30 minutes. We thanked her graciously for sharing with us all of her fantastic stories, and then headed in ourselves to try to find the restroom (which was by now a priority for me) and then track down my roommate so we could go have our dinner.
Oh yeah... I almost forgot. And Boma was great too! http://www.disneyworldtrivia.com/for.../2thumbsup.gif