Monday, August 20, 2007

Another trip to Oita

After our failure to see the body exhibition last time we went to Oita, we had another go today. It was definitely open - and crowded! A Saturday in the school holidays, one day before the exhibition closed! There were so many people there the air conditioning was stretched to breaking point and it was getting hot in there.

Photos here if you want to check it out. Here is a link to the original German process. The one we saw was not the original, and the specimens were all obviously Japanese.

I was actually rather grossed out (sensitive pregnancy hormones?) and felt like I was just gawking at dead bodies. It all seemed so unecessary - Gray's Anatomy (the famous book, not the TV series) does a better job of describing and picturing anatomy in a way to make us understand our bodies. Plus most of the specimens were clearly elderly with wasted muscles and enalrged bones from arthritis. The organs were beige/grey and shrivelled. And only one female, whose bits ended up in different rooms. Not exactly enlightening. As they say in the Wikipedia article, a computer simulations, with colour and zoom capacity and motion would be far more effective.

In the end, what the kids enjoyed the most was the visit to the beach on the way home! Amy has a ton of summer homework, including drawing pictures and writing a little bit about some of the things she did. Her picture from this day included no plastinated dead bodies - but a picture of her snorkelling in the water, seeing jellyfish, and then seeing another one in the sand, which she poked and prodded in her own little science experiment that she clearly found much more memorable.

Lena has finally made peace with deep water, and was thrilled to go up to her neck. She loved to swim alongside me and we both glided over the sand in the shallow water, ostensibly looking for fish, but mostly looking at each other. She was so cute in her fish-shaped goggles, learning all the things her body can do in the water and calling on me to 'be watching' every few minutes. Amy followed her own course with the snorkel while me and Lena had goggles. Of course, Amy kept finding all the good stuff, and we had to keep going back to where she was to marvel at the latest discovery - mysetrious mounds of sand like spaghetti (perhaps deposited by something burying a hole in the sand?), mudskippers, jellyfish, the occasional big fish, shells and stones. Amy wished we had brought a net and bucket. Maybe next time.

I can't believe how much more FUN we had without the ubiquitous flotation devices. Safety-conscious Japanese have a bit of a mania for them. One kid, swimming in foot-high, clear, calm water, was wearing a life-jacket as well as his ring. But, remembering the lilo scares of my childhood (and distant memories of Jaws?) I am convinced it's safer without them, because the kids will not go out of their depth and are forced to practice breath-holding, balance, swimming and other skills. It was incredible to watch Lena's latent water-baby emerge.

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