It’s excursion day here at the IJK! All the congress participants had the chance to take a daytrip to a special destination in or around Wroclaw. Angelica was feeling a little under the weather, so I (Bri) spent the day exploring the Wroclaw Zoo and getting to know the other students in my excursion group.
The zoo itself was a great experience. The facilities were overall very nice, and the animals seemed well taken care of. The Wroclaw Zoo is quite unique, as it has many animals that are rarely seen in other zoos. My favorites were the aardvark and the manatee–I’d never seen either in real life! The zoo also featured a few distinctly Polish species, which was pretty cool. There was a large grassland area with enormous Polish bison and an exhibit with a local species of bobcat, which had recently given birth to three adorable kittens.
The Wroclaw Zoo is also known for its enormous indoor complex dubbed the “Afrykarium,” which, as you may have guessed, is an unexpected portmanteau of Africa and aquarium. The Afrykarium features a diverse slate of animals found in and around Africa, in both aquatic and terrestrial exhibits. There was everything from black footed penguins (the only species of penguin found in Africa) to naked mole rats and hippos. It was a very cool exhibit, well designed and interesting.
On a more serious note, in addition to investigating what drives modern Esperantists, part of our project this summer is intended to test the language’s ability to facilitate international communication and open up avenues for new experiences. Today’s excursion was a fairly concrete affirmation of Esperanto’s stated benefits.
We spoke only in Esperanto throughout the excursion, and it was a surprisingly encouraging experience. I got to know students from all over the world, and share in their excitement and happiness as we enjoyed the zoo together. Our group today was comprised of students from Poland, Germany, the US, the UK, China, and Togo. All but two of us had different native languages, and we would have never had the chance to meet had we not participated in the IJK together. Our conversations today weren’t entirely profound, but it was really exciting just to chat and learn a bit about each other and about the animals at the zoo. I’m really glad I decided to take part in the excursion. I feel a good deal closer to the other participants, and I’m a considerably more confident in my ability to use and understand Esperanto.