One thing you must know is that tigers fascinate me more than anything in this world. I don’t know what it is about them, but I find their exoticness to be incomparable. I used to literally dream of holding one in my arms.
I feel that my love for tigers subconsciously has something to do with being born in their year according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar. Consciously, I don’t know why that would even matter considering I’m not Chinese.
As I got older my obsession with tigers remained constant. I’d dream of traveling to destinations where they were present so that it would increase my chances of encountering one. I even added “meet a tiger” on my bucket list because we all know that having any wish written down on a bucket list is destined to fruition.
Not many people know this, but I wrote a book on the Syberian Tiger when I was eight years old; it was an informational book with a purpose to educate the reader about the living creature because tigers were obscure to us. I cross-checked facts using Encarta and the Encyclopedia Britannica, traced the face of a tiger for my cover, and took so much pride in being able to precede my full name with the words Written and Illustrated by. After getting the perfect grade on the book, Ms. Kaplan asked me if she could keep it after I present it to the class. Of course, I said “yes” even though I didn’t want her to.
Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait too long to accomplish this goal. Just several months ago I visited a zoo in Indonesia and got to experience the most incredible feeling with not one, but two tigers. The first experience involved this beautiful one (shown right) who stared at me for a long time before he started to lick my right arm repeatedly. My heart pounded like crazy in excitement! I begged my cousins to take a video & picture of it, but they were scared shitless and begged for us to leave. I eventually did because the guard told me I couldn’t be in there. He said that the tiger shouldn’t be licking me the way he did… Womp womp?
The second experience was with this stunning white one (shown left). Unlike the one above, she roared for a while. I waited for her to calm down and take a nap before I slowly (and silently) sat next to her for a quick photo op. Next thing I knew, she woke up and stared at me for what felt like the longest 5 seconds of my life! All I knew to do was to remain calm and talk to her softly. And all of a sudden, she leisurely laid her head on my lap and let me caress her. My eyes filled with tears of euphoria.
If there’s anything this unique experience has taught me, it’s that Walt Disney is right: If you can dream it, you can do it.
Even though the encounter didn’t involve me wearing a traditional khaki outfit with a rimmed helmet, or holding a professional camera with telephoto lens in South Africa, my first experience couldn’t have been any more perfect—all I needed was the camera feature on my iPhone 4S and my Canon Powershot SD1400 to capture the moment I had been waiting for.