Culture shock is not as bad as it sounds. In fact, it lead me to many adventures. When I arrived in Florida in what feels like a lifetime ago, I pretty much knew my way around New York City where I was born and raised, but Florida was a new wilderness. There are many adventures that happen walking down those New York streets, but aside from urban myths about alligators in the subway, the only wildlife was of the human sort.
Florida has changed quite a bit in the 29 years or so I have lived here. Occasionally, there might be a turtle crossing the road and plenty of mosquitoes, lizards and even garden snakes. Nonetheless, to truly seek out a Florida nature experience, you may have to battle the traffic to find your way to a park or preserve. This is a tale of the day a Florida nature experience found me!
Only the third week of settling into life in Kissimmee, I had managed to find freelance work at Tupperware Convention Center. I made the transition to tropical living with my clothes, lighter and brighter. I felt like a new job would take care of the rest. In spite of the new look, I still had the New York state of mind. Still hustling and bustling along and accustomed to taking trains and buses, I had become inpatient with the slow bus schedule of my new town. I decided to walk! There I was strolling along a nicely maintained sidewalk until I reached the end of the corporate property. The sidewalk came to an abrupt end, but I just kept on going.
The grass grew taller and taller. The ground grew mushier and mushier. I found myself asking “What have I gotten myself into?” My question was answered.
Quite by accident, I had met for the first time, a true Native Floridian. There I stood, still as a statue. I held my breath as I looked at his small beady eyes, his long snout of a nose, and his coat of armor. He looked right back at me.
In that split second, we were both frozen. I had never seen anything like this creature before. Gripped with fear, I threw up my arms and screamed!
Now, there is an ancient Mayan legend that tells of the Mayan Sun God who wanted to teach a lesson to two unruly young gods. He sat the two gods down on a couple of benches and gave them a good reprimand. The benches suddenly turned into two armadillos that jumped straight up into the air dumping the two gods on their backsides in a very undignified manner. They were very humbled.
That is exactly what happened that warm summer evening in Kissimmee. As I screamed, the armadillo screamed. It jumped straight up into the air! Then it ran off as fast as its strange little legs would carry it.
As I made my way home on that adventurous night, I could not help but feel sorry for that armadillo. After all, it was I who was the intruder. The armadillo was simply walking the path it has always called home. I guess it just found a more hidden path to walk from then on. If the armadillo could speak, it would probably say about me,”I don’t know what that terrifying creature was, but I hope I never see it again!”
Ever since that time, I have a sort of fondness for armadillos. It was a rite of passage into my new life as a Floridian that has lasted a very long time. I hope the armadillo found a safe place away from those treacherous cars that its armor may not protect it from. I even hope I see an armadillo walking in the woods again—from a distance!