Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Vancouver B.C. June 26, 2008

We had stayed up a bit late the night before and slept in later before getting up on Thursday. After the stunning, sunny Wednesday we awoke to drizzle, overcast skies, and decided cooler weather. We both were feeling fatigued and my back was hurting a lot. Since we had gone to UBC the day before it meant that Thursday was dedicated to going to Stanley Park. CK & I both were very excited to visit the aquarium there.

We got ourselves slowly together and onto the bus downtown. Within a couple of minutes we were able to catch the bus to Stanley Park and fairly easily found the aquarium. We hoped that by starting inside that the weather might clear/warm a little. There were the expected groups of people all making their way to the aquarium, but when we rounded the corner we could see that “throngs” was a more accurate word. The line to get in stretched alongside the entire building! Screaming children ran to and fro. Hordes of middle-school aged pre-teens giggled, shrieked, and tried to look cool.

We thought to ourselves, “right, let’s have a snack now and maybe it will calm.”. We were unsurprised to find that everything “veggie” at the snack shack contained animal ingredients (cheese, egg whites) and settled for the food we’d brought ourselves. We picked a table a little away from the crowds of people and enjoyed watching the crows beg for snacks; one even hopped directly onto our table for a moment! We also saw a beautiful, black squirrel!

Crow wanting some of our lunch

The queue did not get any smaller so with a sigh of resignation we made our way to the end to wait. We were immediately joined by what appeared to be a very stylish grandma, grandpa and their bored teenage granddaughter—from Texas. The granddaughter sent text messages to friends back home that she was standing lin line. The grandpa yelled at her for misusing her phone. Grandma talked business deals on her phone and ignored the two of them. Oh, and the only sideways glance CK & I have received (the “are those lesbians hugging in PUBLIC?“) was from the Texans…

Once we got in to pay we discovered part of the reason it had taken so long. Although there was a line requiring about a 15-minute wait and the potential to have 4 cash registers issue tickets, only two registers were being worked by bored, late-teens on summer job. We got through and into the body of the aquarium. The throngs outside all captured inside made for tremendous noise. We decided to start with the tropics area and joined the flow of people going that way.

What struck both of us pretty immediately was how poorly the aquarium did at providing information. We’d wait through the crowding to get a good look into a tank only to discover that often the species inside were not identified by signs. Some cases had no signs at all. Some had fewer signs than species displayed. No cases had any information behind the name of the species you looked at (e.g., where exactly they were found, the habitat, predators, prey, etc.). There were several obviously expensive, large signs with very compelling quotes from biologists who had studied a species or place, but nothing educational! This led both of us to find the aquarium rather underwhelming given the cost ($19.95/adult) and the huge crowds. Were this part of the aquarium better done that the cost and crowds would have been mitigated entirely.

Not to say that we didn’t enjoy what we saw. The seahorses were fascinating to watch (would have liked to know more about them). Watching a sea turtle swim in an enormous tank of sharks and rays is always enjoyable (again, no way to know what we were seeing exactly). The butterflies were very fun to watch as were the scarlet ibis (yes, one of the better parts did not have any aquatic creatures); but again no butterflies were identified with signs.

Man Scarlet Ibises

We did get to see the baby beluga whale born June 10, which was very nice. Momma Whale and Calf

We also saw dolphins being fed. Unfortunately we were just underwhelmed and overwhelmed by the whole experience. Later, back in Portland we'd reflect that there were so many "messages" telling us to do something besides go to the aquarium, but we persisted in going as we were each convinced the other wanted so much to go there!

So much so that after catching the bus downtown we decided to forgo any visit to Granville Island (which we had discussed while watching the crows -- taking a sea bus) or pubs. We figured out where the train station was, got ourselves quickly back to our neighborhood, and fell into an exhausted nap at the flat. Upon waking up we weren’t up for making much food and picked up some take away at Sweet Cherubim. I finally made cupcakes, we played a couple rounds of Spite & Malice, and went back to bed.

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