Life takes some incredible twists and turns. About a million years ago, I was born in San Antonio, Texas, a city that’s a little bit America and a little bit Mexico, and then, back when I was still pooping in diapers, mom and dad carried me off to Garland, a suburb of Dallas. Over the decades, I have had one or two opportunities to return to my birthplace, but only as a tourist and only for very brief visits. Mostly, I’ve been estranged from the locale that could rightfully be called my hometown.
Then, in the latter days of September of 2015, a few months after I’d left my post at The American University in Cairo, a very sudden job offer in San Antonio came my way while Azza—my Egyptian wife of five years and new America émigré—and I were camped out with family, in their guest bedroom, in another part of the Lone Star State. Of course, I signed on the dotted line, right where my new employer told me to. We then loaded up, headed to south Texas, down where the beautiful language of Spanish is ubiquitously spoken, and set up house.
All these years later, I am back in San Antonio, the place where I (literally) got my start. From time to time, when I’m tooling around the city, I get this weird déjà vu feeling. As a matter of fact, this past weekend, Azza and I went to the San Antonio zoo, and while standing in front of the flamingo cage, I had this odd sensation that I had stood in this exact spot before. The bird scene before me seemed bizarrely familiar. I lifted my camera, took a few photos of the pink, hook-nosed birds, while goosebumps rose on my arms.
We spent three hours among the animals and enjoyed our time more than I can accurately articulate here. I’ve always been a nut for creatures—this nuttiness was especially acute when I was a tyke—and I felt that old delight resurface as we moved from cage to cage. For some reason, on this particular outing, I especially liked the fish in their various watery enclosures. They swam past us, flashing a zillion neon colors as they went. In fact, I was so captivated by them it took me a while to actually notice that in one particularly large aquarium there were two hippos, their grotesquely large bodies magnified by the water, floating among those finned and gilled darters.
I’ve included a few photos here and am upset with myself that I didn’t get a good shot of the gibbons as they swung through the treetops, picked insects off on another, and otherwise reminded me of how humanlike they are. While watching them do their monkey business, I got so enthralled—my mouth was probably agape—that I simply forgot to lift my camera and click the shutter.