Saturday, July 9, 2011

A New Home for Flip and Flop

Another thing that comes with me leaving for Canada for a year is having to find a new home for my turtle companions.

From what I understand, the turtles began their lives in the pet section of a Home Plus type superstore here in Seoul, were picked-up by a friend of a friend, then transferred to my friends when the original owner departed for his home country, then the were transferred to me when my friends went back to Canada, and here they have been - sharing my wee apartment for the last two years.

I'm come to the conclusion that turtles should not be sold at Home Plus. They are irresistibly cute in the shop - their little round shells no bigger than the diameter of a squash ball. But they will grow... and how!

What most pet shop owners won't tell you is that the cute little bitters you see in the tanks will actually grow to be the size of a small dinner plate and live for 35-40 years. Every week or so I swing-by the turtle tank at my neighbourhood Home Plus and one week there will be 10-15 little guys swimming about - the next: none. This means a lot of little turtles being sold to people who most likely have no idea what they are committing to. It's become a well-known fact that many turtles get put into the Han River when they get too big for a people house. This doesn't end well for the turtles.

As you might be able to tell by the photo, my turtles (Flip & Flop) have grown. Though I was happy to provide them with a new aquarium complete with filter and sunning rock when they first arrived at my abode, they have long since outgrown it. I completely change their water, clean-out the filter, rinse the gravel, and scrub-down their rocks (a labour-intensive 30 minute process) every 5 days now. Their diet has added a significant increase to my monthly grocery bill, and they simply need a bigger place.

Believe it or not, I am a dedicated enough turtle father that, if I were staying here in Seoul, I would head to Dongdaemun market, get myself a 33 gallon aquarium, and start a new life for my two semi-aquatic pals. But, as I will be leaving, and can't see myself bringing two pet turtles to Canada from Korea for a year, and as I don't want to saddle anyone else with the now sizeable job of being a turtle parent, I was looking for another option.

It appears that I have found the perfect one in the form of Utsav - a very cool Indian restaurant in a quieter corner of Hongdae.

I found a very promising photo on a friend's facebook a while back - showing a beautiful courtyard with a pond in the middle of a resutaurant - under high ceilings and a skylight... and TURTLES!!! The rabbit and I went to visit there today with hope in our hearts.

The owner is a proud turtle father, himself - having had his oldest one for over 15 years. He currently has five red-eared slider turtles free-roaming in the courtyard of his restaurant - a huge 9 x 4 meter pool with fountains. This appears to be quite the turtles' paradise in all seasons.

We were afraid that perhaps this guy receives inquiries all the time from people looking to unload their grown-up turtle broods, and it turns-out he has. Turtles can be aggressive though, and if they aren't big enough, they simply won't do well in a competitive turtle environment.

I brought my camera to show some Flip & Flop photos just in case of such a reply. The man was convinced, and within a week or two, I will be taking my friends on a journey south to Hongdae for a teary farewell, and an introduction to a new life of greater freedom and much more varied cuisine.

You know how I can tell that this restaurant owner loves his turtles? Because one of the first things he asked me is what my turtles' names were. Turns out that all of his turtles are named after Indian cuisine: Tandoori, Palak, Paneer... and I can't recall the other two. He speaks of them like a proud papa, and I know he'll take good care of my babies.

You know how else I can tell this place is the right one? Lee Hyori says it's okay through her choice to film an episode of her TV show there, and what's good enough for Lee Hyori, is good enough for Flip & Flop.

I will be having a turtle release party very soon, and I'll be bringing-along their favourite rock, a tin of cubed shrimp, and a head of green lettuce, because they will need something to comfort them when the shock that they are, in fact, not the only turtles in the world hits them square in their little turtle faces. I imagine they will stick together the first while, and I imagine that Flop will fight tooth and nail to defend Flip's honour when called-upon.

This is a good thing, and I know I can visit them from time to time, but saying goodbye will be sad.

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