A leisurely lunch with a longtime friend always provides an opportunity to catch up, so my recent lunch with Lanis Petrik not only got me caught up with her family, but also gave me insight into her position with the Brookfield Zoo. Petrik’s job with the zoo is that of teacher/program manager.

As part of her job, Petrik plans yearly trips for the summer. Many of the trips are directed towards those in the teaching profession, who are able to earn graduate credit. Teachers on the trip enjoy the various sights, but also are given the opportunity to visit schools in the country they are visiting, thus learning about the educational systems of other countries.

This year Petrik, who lives in Riverside, is planning a trip to Alaska, the last frontier. Alaska will give those on the trip to view arctic animals in their natural habitats with the guidance of zoo staff who lead the groups.

The trip is called “Alaska, Your Way” because you can opt for either an eight-day cruise or simply fly into Anchorage. The land portion of the trip will include a visit to an animal rehab center, a yak farm and a “musher”–someone who has team of dogs and a dogsled. Accommodations will be at a lodge in the Denali Park. Of course a trip to the local zoo is a must.

Petrik says she and her husband, Tom, have been very fortunate over the past 10 years to experience trips to places like Peru, the Galapagos Islands and Africa. In some 10 trips to Africa, they have visited Kenya, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana.

According to Petrik, people who have gone on the trips have had great fun. Since most share a common interest, the zoo holds meetings prior to the trips to acquaint the people with each other and give more information on what they can expect to see while on their trip. Many continue their newly formed friendships with reunions following the trips. Traveling with the zoo gives people an added opportunity to learn more about nature and conservation.

Like most area, residents I don’t take advantage of the many things the Brookfield Zoo has to offer aside from viewing the animals. But I did have a question relating to the wombat.

As a child, I made many visits to the zoo and always recalled the number of places where one could drop coins in to “Save the Wombat.”

We always put coins into the slot in an attempt to save the wombat. but I never knew if they had indeed been saved. The answer: Yes, they were.

Seems all those coins added up, and there is now in Australia a preserve with wombats. Somehow I feel that I and all the children who dropped coins into the coin banks have an interest in the Brookfield Conservation Park in Australia.

To learn more about the zoo, or the Alaska trip contact the Brookfield Zoo or go to their website www.brookfieldzoo.org click on “travel” to get the complete itinerary.

As we completed our lunch and visit Petrik mentioned she and her husband had received an award from the Olmsted Society for external restoration they had done on their home located on Akenside Road in Riverside. How nice! How very nice!