I’m almost positive that every person who goes to Australia, for whatever reason, feels as if they must make a photo of them with a kangaroo or a koala their Facebook profile picture. I am no different. In the US, we are only able to see these cute critters in zoos. In Australia, not only can you touch and play with these animals at various wildlife parks, but you’ll often see them just hopping around. It’s hard not to freak when you see them. So, I was determined, like all those Australian abroad students before me, to find the perfect adorable animal profile picture.
My odyssey began at a nearby zoo. On my first trip, I happily volunteered to be in an exhibit, thinking I would get to hold a koala. The perfect picture was imminent. My excitement only built as the zookeeper told me to hold out my arms and close my eyes. I did, but instead of a fluffy, fuzzy animal, I felt something large and leathery and scaly…
I had more opportunities, of course. My roommate and I went on a wine tasting tour through the beautiful Hunter Valley. Along the way, we stopped at a wildlife park where we were given paper bags full of food for kangaroos. The kangaroos were almost too excited to see us (our food). While I was feeding one of the babies and (naturally) taking snapchats with him, his mom hopped up to me enthusiastically. She was about my height, so this was a somewhat terrifying sight. She threw her arms onto my shoulders, accidentally ripping my shirt with one set of claws as she used the other to swipe the bag of food out of my hand. Then, she ate the entire bag of food, bag included. All I had to show from it were some holes in my shirt. And still, the picture eluded me.
But I would not be denied. A few friends and I then went to a wildlife park where we were allowed to touch and feed even more animals – my excitement levels were through the roof. Though the kangaroos mostly lay around in their designated resting area (meaning no humans allowed, sadly), the wallabies were ecstatic upon being fed. At one point, five wallabies and a parrot crowded around me to eat from my one handful of food; my friends dubbed me “The Wallaby Whisperer”. The wallabies stole our hearts by nibbling the food out of our hands, and then crushed them when we realized that our food was the only reason they approached us. Once we had no more to give, we learned that wallabies do not like to take selfies with you, and they do not like to be patted on the head (wallabies and kangaroos will often swat you away if you touch the tops of their heads – my roommate learned this the hard way). We were sad to find that koalas spend almost all of their time sleeping, but when we overheard the awake koalas making this frankly creepy noise, we opted to hang with the sleepy ones. Dreams do come true: this is where I finally snapped it, the perfect profile picture.
[Frankly creepy, right?]
When I told a few Australian students in one of my classes how excited I was to finally have a profile picture with a koala, they all laughed … and then proceeded to excitedly ask me if I see lots of squirrels at home. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to be more excited to see a squirrel than a kangaroo or koala, but once I thought about it, I realized squirrels are almost the kangaroos of America. As my mind proceeded to explode, I thought: what other American things are like that? Is jazz flute the didgeridoo of America? I thought: what would trying to get the perfect profile picture with a squirrel be like? I shuddered a little, and then remembered my own picture. I smiled. I had succeeded.