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Hello Aquarium!

October 4, 2009
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Note: the italicized bits are from my bf, Matt. I knew I wouldn’t remember all the details of the trip so he filled it…this is a rather bizarre way to write and I’m sure worse to read.

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At long last I made it to an aquarium. I have a minor obsession with underwater animals, my koi tattoo and art thesis on squid may serve as evidence of this. Matt and I made a trip to COEX to see the fish there and run some other errands amongst the myriad of stores. The trip to COEX aquarium cost 15,500 won…a bit pricier than most outings in Seoul but I think it was worth it to sate my desire to see animals in tanks that weren’t stationed next to the restaurant kitchen. I really can’t complain as the National Aquarium in Baltimore is $35 a ticket for adults. I got my won’s worth anyway. The brochure assured us that we were in for some serious “edutainment” and we certainly got that.

For the first half of the tour, it seemed as if we were treated to more of an art exhibition than an educational experience – fish were segregated into ornate, colorful tanks that contained some things like toys and lacked aquatic plant life, sand or space for the fish to get around easily. I was happy to see a small koi pond with colorful, lively fish in it but of course some lady sneaked in some chips and was getting the fish all frenzied over them. Sigh. Next, was the Korean fish exhibition, a pretty drab area with the exception of “fish battles”; hypothetical fights between Korean sea life and foreign sea life.  Actually, this was a comparison exhibit that was to show how life here in Korea was in some way similar to foreign life.  Unfortunately they had described them as “fights” and so Kristin and I could only interpret them that way.  Also, the American Bullfrog would have destroyed everything in those tanks completely. I hope that one day my proficiency of Korean will allow me to determine the outcome of these battles…that won’t be for awhile.

There was a section with a fish-think-they’re-people theme where fish tanks were in everyday household objects that included a computer, a fridge, a bathtub and a toilet (I thought that was kind of sad).  This area was crazy.  Imagine every nightmare of finding live fish in your world.  Around your computer screen, or in a street light, or in your refrigerator.  Perhaps the most horrifying (to me) was the fish that lived in the soda machines. The Amazon area was after that – you could probably guess what was there…piranha, giant catfish, monkeys.  One of the problems was with their understanding of Amazon.  In the “Amazon” there were Egyptian Fruit Bats, earthworms, spider monkeys, and just strange species that I didn’t identify with Amazons at all.  All of the stuff was really pretty here though, with a lot of cool turtles and awesome fish. After a few tropical fish tanks came the sharks. At first, we hung out with the smaller sharks and sting rays in a pool where too many people had access to the surface of the water. Endearing its audience was a plucky little stingray that actually came out of the water and performed what looked like tricks probably for food…probably for chips. Some other stuff in tanks…then we turned a corner and stumbled upon to rows of seated children an adults in front of an empty tank. No…not an empty tank, a “Dancing Sardine Formation Exhibition” otherwise known as a guy getting in the water with hundreds of schooling fish and feeding them while they create elaborate patterns with their frightening number of members. It was beautiful. For real, it was incredibly beautiful.  Also, they picked an awesome soundtrack for it.  Very Planet Earth.

Once the show was over, we got to the deep sea section where the fish were ugly and strange. Non-fish things like jellyfish and Japanese spider crabs were fascinating but I’m pretty sure the latter served as fodder for Matt’s nightmares. The crabs have independent hands for their mouths, and they are about 4 feet across.  How this is not terrifying, I could not tell you. Oh, and there were penguins and children predictably pounding on the glass and a gift shop where I got an octopus puppet (of course there were no octopus in the aquarium but whatever).

I had a great time, and I was really glad to go.  It was a pretty inexpensive trip, and we got to see a lot of really cool things.  The National Aquarium in Baltimore is still my favorite, but this one was pretty impressive.  It was pretty cool to see all of the creatures, and it was a really good introduction into why native speaking English teachers are needed here.  Lots of strange grammar and weird mistakes that wouldn’t be caught without a better grasp of the language.

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