Waking up in Wellington, New Zealand this morning, I am still humbled by the kindness of strangers. A handful of them made my stay in Australia magical (and of course are no longer strangers). These humane humans also devote their lives to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing wild animals.
They’re people who “just say yes”: Yes, I’ll give my spare bedroom to a wombat-obsessed American for a week. Sure, I’ll bottle-feed an injured possum with a thumb-sized bottle every two hours for a month. Right then, I’ll drive you around Canberra for a day of sightseeing. Yeah, I’ll pull over on the highway right now and check this dead kangaroo’s pouch, using a flimsy plastic grocery bag as a glove. Yup, let’s drive two hours each way to pick up a scabby wallaby from another wildlife carer who doesn’t have space for her. Absolutely, this blind elderly wombat can live with my family and I for the rest of his natural life. Yes. Yes.
You know how when you’re traveling in a foreign country everything is a thing? The littlest tasks like filling your car with gas, making a phone call, frying an egg. It’s like you’re a little again and the grown-up locals have to show you how to do the most basic things. But my hosts never made me feel dumb, just laughed with me when I laughed at myself. Then they would usually make everything okay by putting an animal in my lap.
I was in Australia for two weeks and only spent one night in a hotel. I am the luckiest. Here are some of my main kind strangers (now friends). I’m sure the animals are grateful for them, too.