Today started out great and went downhill. I woke up this morning and Brian had bought me the coolest Swatch watch for our 8-week anniversary! It's really nice and was a great surprise. How good is Brian?!
We had to be at Ding Ding Dang early today because we were taking the kids on an outing to Dalseong Park, Deagu's oldest park. We arrived at school and got the hundreds of kids into the school buses and on our way. The weather has been really beautiful here lately and when we pulled up to the park (after 6 rounds of "The Wheels on the Bus") I was happy to see that all the flowers were in bloom. It was really beautiful.
How was I to know that nestled among the beautiful flowers and greening grass was the saddest site I have seen in a long time? In the park there is a zoo. That is apparently the main reason we were taking the kids to this park and so I had to be a part of parading the little kids past the animals. Animals in small, dirty cages. A lone elephant, eating what appeared to be dust. Three mangy seals in an empty pool. Lions and tigers with no space to roam, eat or find shade. A chimpanzee lying in the fetal position in the dirt. It was horrible. Even the kids, who tend to show a typically Korean lack of feeling for animals, were disturbed by what they saw. One of my students, Peter, remarked that all the animals were old and sick. Or suicidal I silently added.
Seeing the zoo made me so sad and I eventually gave in to tears standing across from the lions. Having seen them in the wild and the majesty with which they carry themselves, I couldn't handle staring and taking pictures of the sad, scrawny, tired cats.
It made me wonder a lot about humanity. On most days I have a lot of faith in people and in our capacity for compassion and kindness. But there are days, and today was one of them, where I can't believe some of the things we have done. How anyone could stand across from a primate, look into it's eyes that look so much like ours, and then laugh at their miserable condition escapes me. As a scientist, I know that humans are animals much like chimps, elephants or lions. Today I realized that we are sometimes more animal than human.