For my first post that isn’t part of a reoccurring series, I thought that I would share a funny story about Naveen that happened shortly after we started dating but I didn’t hear about until very recently.
One night, after they’d finished their midterms, Naveen and his roommate decided to have a few drinks to celebrate. After a couple hours of this and several levels of intoxication reached later, they began to stumble their way across campus back to the sh*thole of an apartment that they were living in at the time.
Along the way, Naveen heard something rustling nearby and went over to investigate, where he found a raccoon with its head deep inside a trashcan.
Having never encountered a raccoon before (there are none in any of the countries he lived in growing up) and only able to see a furry brown rump with a bushy, ringed tail at the end of it, Naveen assumed in his drunken state that it was a cat and gave its tail a stoke.
Fortunately, the raccoon was so preoccupied with the garbage that it wasn’t even aware that it was being petter and after a while, Naveen continued on his way with no awareness of how close to death he had just come.*
Months later, we encountered a raccoon looting some of the green compost bins left out for collection on the street and he appeared startled.
Naveen: “What is that?”
Me: “It’s a raccoon. Have you ever seen a raccoon before?”
Naveen: “No, I’ve seen cartoons about them but I’ve never seen one in person. What does it do?”
Me: “It wanders around at night and eats trash instead of foraging for food like it’s supposed to (like most animals in the city). Don’t get too close to them, they might look cute but they’re really aggressive when they want to be and they carry a lot of diseases.”
Naveen: “Oh, okay.”
He didn’t bring up the fact that he had petted said animal until much, much later. Probably because he anticipated what my reaction would be after he found out exactly what raccoons were all about and worried I might force him to get a rabies shot.
Me: “YOU DID WHAT?!”
Anyways, once you know that nothing bad really happened then it is kind of funny to picture a drunk Indian man petting ‘a large cat eating trash’ (in his own words).
Honestly, I can’t laugh at Naveen too much for this though. It’s a relatively easy mistake to make when you aren’t familiar with the wildlife in the area and it’s something that I have done personally. When I was travelling in the Amazon Basin almost a decade ago I mistook an agouti for a baby capybara and spent over an hour chasing it through the jungle trying to get a picture thinking it was a rare find when in actuality it’s a staple pretty much anywhere in the forest.
So if you’re among the few ignorant people laughing about ‘stupid foreigners not knowing our animals’ you might want to reconsider your attitude or eat your words when you go to India and have all the locals laugh at you when you inevitably make a mistake.
Have you ever mistaken one animal for another? Were you surprised by the wildlife in a country other than your own? Tell me in the comments section below!
*Raccoons are no joke where I’m from. They’ve been known to attack people without any provocation, kill unsuspecting pets that happen to be outside at the wrong time, open ‘animal proof’ garbage bins, be a favourite host of the rabies virus and sh*t up a storm in your attic if they manage to squeeze their way inside. If you see a raccoon on the street in Canada or the United States my advice is to stay the hell away from them. If they had opposable thumbs these f*ckers would rule the world, no question.