A Rea(LIST)ic Reminiscence

I create lists for everything: to-do lists, quote lists, remember-this-when-you-are-old lists, shopping lists, lists of lists (that was a list in itself…can we say listception?) I’m that kind of person that will complete a task, realize that it wasn’t on the list, write it down, and then proceed to cross it off. It’s that systematic and succinct nature of jotting down separate lines of related information that appeals to me.

For this month’s blog, I wanted to try something a bit different. As you may or may not know, I live on the campus of the Crocodile Bank itself, along with 6 of my fantastic colleagues. Life here is pretty unique, so over the past few months, I have been curating a few “time capsule lists” to document my experiences. These are lists that can be revisited when I need a good laugh or a reminder of the special experiences that I have been fortunate enough to have. Today, I would like to share some of these lists with you! I hope they speak for themselves and offer an authentic look into my daily life at the Croc Bank and beyond.

Things that we do at the Croc Bank:

  1. Shovel large amounts of chicken, buffalo, and emu meat…you know, for the crocs!
  2. One fish, two fish, big fish, small fish… sort fish by size.
  3. Breed mice.
  4. Scoop lots of crocodile poo.
  5. Talk trash (both recyclable and biodegradable trash.)
  6. Climb up the Great Mountain of Compost.
    compost CFP
    Arpita and Garima, two of our fearless AIF Fellowship leaders, ascend the Great Mountain of Compost and pose upon its summit.

  7. Live in a little forested paradise…
  8. …with the beach right in our backyard!mcbt beauty
  9. Enjoy the few minutes of morning coolness before the heat of the day sets in.
  10. Forge through ambiguity while trying to communicate using the few Tamil phrases you know.
  11. “Candle” turtle eggs to view their development.
  12. Bask the Baska.

    A family of Baskas basking. (Photo used from Wikipedia).
  13. Monitor the monitor. Asian Water Monitor, that is.
  14. Use wet leaves dipped in sand as a cleaning product (by the power vested in friction, it works!)
  15. Crack a bunch of lame jokes at lunchtime.
  16. Laugh at the funny gurgling sounds that the egrets make. (If you would like a sample, please listen to this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzkY4z4-Amg)
  17. (Sometimes) get attacked by crows.
  18. Laugh a lot!
  19. Wednesday cooking competitions: Girls vs. Boys.

    Pasta night with the team!
  20. Pout when the Wi-Fi isn’t working, but also feel grateful for having such superb Wi-Fi in the first place.
  21. Discuss both US and Tamil Nadu state of affairs.
  22. Shower our beloved dog, Toffee, with heaps of affection, to which he is inevitably indifferent.
  23. Contort our voices to high-pitched gibberish when speaking to the animals.
  24. Wish that the animals could understand us.
  25. Enjoy the moonlight reflecting upon the ocean.

    No one but the moon, the ocean, and I.
  26. Eat omelets with jam (which is delicious, despite what anyone else may say.)
  27. Eat lots of curd, all day, every day.
  28. And on Sundays, we eat biriyani!
  29. Lovingly chop up a salad for the iguanas.
  30. Be awesome.

    Awesomely perching upon a fallen tree.


Names of the important crocs at the Croc Bank:

  1. Jaws III (our 17 foot Saltwater Crocodile)
  2. Thor, the feisty Salty, who lives in an enclosure with the other, less important Salty named…
  3. “The other one”


Things overheard in the park:

  1. *Points at iguana*… “Is that a parrot?”

    I believe I can fly!
  2. “How many people have been attacked by a crocodile here?” (The answer is none.)
  3. *Makes kissing noises at the reptiles*
  4. “Do they bite?”

    I don’t bite…promise.
  5. *Attempts to throw a chapatti to a crocodile *
  6. *Takes professional wedding photos in front of the mugger enclosure*


Celebrating adventure in its simplest form (in other words, “A list of things that are genuinely exciting to me, but not to others”):

  1. Going across the street to choose from a tantalizing selection of sweet and salty biscuits.
  2. Using every single Tamil word/phrase I know in one conversation, even if it is irrelevant (such as randomly inserting the phrase “marittu mele poonai irrukke,” which means “there is a cat up in the tree.”)

    My lovely co-workers and Tamil teachers.
  3. Thoroughly enjoying street food after building up my immunity for the past 6 months.
  4. Bus rides, auto rides, train rides…all things public transportation!
  5. Eating eggs with jam (see List 1, Item number 26.)
  6. Eating elantha pazham (this delicious fruit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jujube)
  7. Bucket showers.
  8. Seeing the incredulous look upon people’s faces when I tell them I live in the Crocodile Bank.
  9. Making lists out of everything.


Important Tamil Words and phrases:

  1. Sappidacha? (Have you eaten?) Mostly used in place of “How are you?”
  2. Poothum! (Enough!) Useful for instances when well intentioned aunties pile your plate high to “fatten you up” because you are “so skinny.”
  3. Roomba jasti! (Too much!) Useful for when the auto driver asks for 350 rupees for a 5 km trip.
  4. Muthalai, paampu, aamai (Crocodile, snake, turtle.) Very useful every day.
  5. Roomba vaeil! (It’s very hot!) Always useful when you live in Chennai.
  6. [Word]-aa? An amazing little vocalization that turns almost anything into a question! For example “Ready-aa?” means “Are you ready?”
  7. Poittu vareen! (Literally translates to “I’ll go and come back.”) In Tamil, you never say “goodbye,” as this implies a permanent end. Instead, you say “I’ll go and come back” or “see you later” with the intention of meeting again in the future. A beautiful way to say ta-ta!

And with that, until next time! Pooitu vareen!

Avan will have the fantastic opportunity to work among over 2,000 beautiful reptiles and amphibians. Her placement lies at the intersection of her love for science and education, deep interest in development work, and lifelong love for animals. She aims to learn from the experts and be able to form a practical waste management strategy, supported by experimental results. Avan is excited to finally visit South India, meeting new people, tasting the cuisines, and indulging in the culture of the community where she will be staying. Prior to AIF, Avan has served as co-president of a student organization called SHARE, which sends unused, surplus medical supplies from local hospitals to under-supplied clinics abroad. She has also participated in the Critical Language Scholarship program to learn Hindi.

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2 thoughts on “A Rea(LIST)ic Reminiscence

  1. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS!! Made me want to relive every second of my time at the croc bank, so nicely written. 🙂

  2. Things I loved about this post:
    1. Photographic evidence that you made Arpita and Garima climb the mountain of compost.
    2. Clever word-play with binomial nomenclature and common names (see List 1, Item numbers 12-13).
    3. The caption for moonlight photo. William Carlos Williams would approve.
    4. The fact that you cross-reference your own lists (see list 4, Item number 5).
    5. That you made it at all. What a creative way to blog!

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