All photos and text are property of Dave Forney and may not be used without express permission.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Hey Mr., That'll Cost you $5!

We just got back from a few, long-overdue vacation days. While in Balikpapan (the closest city to Tarakan that has a decent "Western" type hotel, and even a Pizza Hut...but no McDonalds,) we took the chance to go to a crocodile "farm." Cost all of about $2 for our family of seven to get in. After walking around the holding "pens" and seeing a ton of crocs of various sizes and types, we settled down to enjoy some good ol'-fashioned mid-day, "throw the huge hungry, growling, angry-l00king croc a chicken" game. I wish you could have heard those suckers growl! I included one of the "nice" pictures below. The ones with chicken feet sticking out, and feathers flying...well, you'll have to see those some other time. Don't want to give your kids nightmares.

Let me tell you--it can be addictive. I mean, how many places in America can you barter with a guy to give you chickens at a buck each, and then chuck them into a pond full of giant, and very hungry crocs!! Man! Now that's livin'! For us, not the chickens. To be clear, the chickens were dead (to the disappointment of my boys and myself.) Ya, they probably got them for free from the local chicken farm--the ones that died from a mysterious illness. Can you say "bird flu?" I think I'm beginning to cough. Oh, man was it fun!

Each of the kids got to throw at least one chicken into the crocs. Good wholesome family fun!

Then I asked one of the dudes selling us the chickens, if it'd be possible to hold a croc and take some pics with it. Not one of the big ones, just a baby (though if Joy weren't along, Britton and I might just have succumbed to the temptation to try a Steve Irwin tackle on one of the green, slime-covered beasts!) Keep in mind, this is not the U.S. where everyone is scared of being sued. People figure if you're dumb enough to do something, go ahead...but you're on your own if things go bad. So the guy saw our white skin and thought, "now here's an opportunity to make some dough."

"Sure," he says. "But it'll cost RP 50,000." That's a little less than five bucks. Knowing how much stuff costs around here, I knew that this price was WAY high--basically a "western" price for gullible tourists. I like to "help" people out, but I don't like to get ripped off either. So I offered him half that, to which he immediately said yes. Oops, guess we were still getting ripped off. But come on, two bucks total for all the kids to hold a croc and take their picture with it. Seemed worth it.

Poor little guy got handed around from kid to kid, each of whom had to touch and feel it all over, and ooh and awe over it. It was great fun.

At some point after Joy got done with her turn (I was a bit jealous of that little bloke!), she told me to take a look around. We're quite used to being stared at here, but this was hilarious. An entire group of young school kids had come with their teachers--presumably for a field trip to see crocs, not white kids. However, the Indonesian kids were far more interested in watching us, than they were of seeing the crocs. Indeed, everyone there was getting their money's by watching crocs, and everyone else by watching us watching the crocs. What fun!

And then, it happened. The inevitable cell phone picture-taking paperazzi! Everyone has a cell phone, and nothing is as cool as having pictures of yourself with the "bule" (white) kids on your cell phone. So the chicken dude that had just "sold" me the chance to photograph my kids with a croc, asked if he could take some pictures of himself with my kids. He was already down there snapping away as he touched and pulled and oohed and awed and generally gawked at these critters. I couldn't believe the irony! And I just couldn't help myself. I said, "Sure, but it'll cost you RP 50,000."
Suddenly, it all sank in...for him, and for everyone else watching the spectacle. He was doing the exact same thing to my kids, that my kids were doing to the baby croc. After playing the joke out for a few more seconds--telling him that maybe I could let him have the pics for half price today since he'd gone half price for me, I finally told him I was joking. But we weren't the only ones that thought it was funny. The whole place was laughing--even croc dude himself. Below, he's checking out his new pics on his cell phone.

I'm not exactly sure how or why they go together, but the croc farm was also home to two elephants. The kids got to hang with the baby elephant for a bit, and were all to amused as the little guy kept trying to spray them from his drinking water bucket.

Of course, not to be outdone again, Joy had to get in close and personal with the "wildlife." But this time she got more than she bargained for. Turns out baby elephant was pretty fond of Joy and wasn't about to let her get away.

It took a minute or two for the elephant dude to pry the elephant's trunk away from his loving embrace of Joy. Of course, Britton was right in the thick of it as well, telling both mom and the elephant to calm down. Everything would be o.k. And it was o.k. It was a great day at the alligator farm, and a great couple of days of vacation.


Randall and Rachel Beita said...

Sounds like you all had fun!!! It is great to get family time. I know what it is like being "white or gringo". I am married to a Costa Rican but our 6 month old baby is even whiter and blonder and more blueeyed than I am and everyone wants to hold him. We live in Costa Rica and lead short term missions trips of Costa Rican´s to other Latin American contries and work in mostly rual parts and he is ALWAYS the center of attention to where on our recent and first trip with him I had to leave the medical clinic we were with one afternoon and go home just so he could get some good rest.

I came to your blog through your wife´s and just recently stumbled across her blog from Crystal´s blog. Anyway I have really enjoyed getting to know her and your family a little.

Anonymous said...


I loved the story and the pictures. What a hoot! I wish I could have been there to see it all happen, but your story telling is the next best thing to being there! I was glad to see the alligator's mouth was taped shut when the kids were holding it. This brought back memories of the picture of you and Hannah with your arm around a huge tiger.


hondacubber said...

Good to hear you got off the Island for a vacation! Awesome story and pictures. We can relate from our trips to the zoo and theme parks on Java. Have you seen the croc farm in Tarakan? Did you fly an MAF plane do or take an airline?

theda said...

very cool. I thought you were especially funny.

Auntie said...

Loved the post. . . Sounds like some great adventures!

Jennifer said...

Great Story about the croc man Dave. Way to"turn the tables in a fun way." I'd say you got your money's worth. ;0 "the system". It looks like it was a great time. Awesome biology lesson!! I love all the pictures as well! :)

Unknown said...

Cool stuff.....when you come back next year maybe you can bring back one of those crocs for the fish pond at Compton....wouldn't that be cool....right now there is 3 ft of snow out there....merry christmas you guys!!