Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ocean Park: A Pacific Pier course

We have long been regulars at Ocean Park, our local zoo and rides fair-style park. Basically, Ocean Park is a huge complex with a 30 year plus record of serving up fun for folks in a pre-Disneyland world. Even though Disneyland is now here in Hong Kong, Ocean Park continues to thrive. Ocean Park has built more rides (much scarier sort of Great America amusement park type rides) and has bumped up their education and conservation theme. And at that nexus of animal and education and Ocean Park is where we recently found ourselves. The kids and I all just took and thoroughly enjoyed a “Pacific Pier” course at Ocean Park on sea lions and seals.

While the class was well executed in its own unique Ocean Park way, the actual registration for the course was unbelievably obtuse. We signed up for three courses that we wanted last spring and were put in some sort of lottery. We had to send in checks for each potential class registration as well (passport numbers, Hong Kong identification numbers etc.) As the courses come up, Ocean Park calls us and tells us we are in the class. Other times we receive checks back in the mail, indicating that we did not get the class. The only problem there, besides us forgetting what we signed up for, is that the returned checks we received can sometimes not our own.

My only complication to the class was that at 7pm on October 10th, I realized our annual passes to Ocean Park expired on October 10. Our October 11 course was scheduled to begin before the ticketing office was to open. Since the courses were so hard to get into, I was a little desperate and called Ocean Park immediately. Someone picked up, figured out a solution, called me back, and walked me through an on-line re-registration process. When we arrived early the next morning for our course, the admission staff had a note taped to their front gate with the peculiars of our situation. There is a saying here that goes something like “what works works” and essentially it is true. The functioning of things like telephone companies, public transportation and now Ocean Park continue to amaze me.

Relieved to be there, the kids and I enjoyed learning all the differences between sea lions and seals. The class was conducted in English and thus the only native English speakers were quick to answer and were the stars until the instructor pulled out origami. We all had to make sea lions out of origami. It was incredibly difficult but we did it, with some help from the 4 year old boy and his mother who were sitting closest to us. Origami is a bit like the metric system for us here. Everyone, except us, uses it and loves it. The paper sea lions were a nice, though somewhat frustrating, reminder of the class. For me, far better and much more laughable reminders of the class have been countless times watching the kids emulate sea lions swimming (front flippers only) and seal swimming (back flippers only).


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