Monday, October 31, 2011

Day 6: Rule # 32: Enjoy the little things

Here in Taiji, the good days aren't necessarily good, and the easy days aren't necessarily stress-free.

The day began with news that the boats had gone out. What a horrible thing to have to digest in the morning. You want a terrifying Halloween? Forget haunted houses, come to Taiji. There's nothing more terrifying than waiting to see if the boats will find dolphins. For hours there's nothing to do but sit and helplessly watch. We continually scan the ocean and try and decipher whether any of the boats (or the tiny dots way out on the horizon) look like they're coming together in a drive formation. To say it is stressful is an understatement.

By 9:00 am the banger boats started heading back in, empty handed. It seemed early for them to be giving up, especially considering the weather was so nice. Sunshine and flat seas, just what the dolphin hunters need in order to spot the fins of an unsuspecting pod. This did not alleviate any of the stress. Some of the boats were still pretty far out, and had they found dolphins the others would have turned around to help. One by one all twelve (very slowly) made their way back into the harbor, right between our two lookouts. I wondered if this felt anything like the walk of shame...

Not only was it strange that they'd given up so early, but we were spread out across town at our different vantage points and no one saw any real police activity. One single cop car passed by in the morning, but that was it. So where were they all? And why did the boats come back in so early? And why did it take them so long to come back in? And why were myself and two others up on Takababe being spied on by an unknown person hiding in the bushes? It was all very strange, although everything that happens in this town is strange. Maybe there was no real meaning behind any of it. Or maybe something else was going on that they were distracting us from. It makes me dream of the day when there are one hundred of us here, and nothing goes unnoticed. Then again, if I'm dreaming, there's no more need for our presence here.

Even after the last banger boat returned the morning continued to be very stressful, which I will not get into here on this public blog. It was also hot! I haven't gotten a sunburn in a looong time. All else aside, I spend the morning in sunshine, listening to birds chirping and starring out at a million dollar view of the Pacific Ocean. I actually really enjoyed that part. Then of course I felt incredibly guilty for enjoying weather that enabled the fishermen to find and murder dolphins. Everything here is a double edged sword. I think it's important to enjoy the little things here in the ninth circle of hell, otherwise you'll probably lose your mind.

Looking out at the entrance to the cove - Takababe Mountain

After destressing a bit in my hotel room, Leah took me to see the Taiji Whale Museum. This is nothing like the Whale Museum at home. From what she tells me, inside the building are a bunch of skeletons and whale fetuses (acquired by their own whaling and drive hunts, I'm sure) as well as cute and cuddly fuzzy pink stuffed dolphins so that you can love on them. While it does talk about their whaling traditions, it says nothing - absolutely nothing - about their dolphin drive fisheries. Well clearly this is a strong tradition, given the fact that they're hiding it to every extent! Once you've paid in the museum you can enter the dolphinarium section and see alllll the captives. OR you can walk around the side in the parking lot and look through the trees and see some of the tanks, which is what we did. While I would like to see what is inside and do a more thorough check on the dolphins, unless I am absolutely sure it would benefit them it's not worth giving the museum money.

What a distressing sight it all was. The pool closest to me has 3 bottlenose dolphins and one striped dolphin. The striped appeared to be handling captivity the worst, and logged there with just his rostrum out of the water. Though it is a very tiny tank, he did not approach or swim amongst the bottlenose dolphins. Striped dolphins are naturally a very gregarious species. This loneliness must be absolutely heartbreaking. This is the first time I've ever seen a striped dolphin, and I hate that it was under these conditions.

A lonely striped dolphin @ the Taiji Whale Museum

The next tank over housed one Pacific white sided dolphin. This dolphin kept making extremely loud exhalation type noises with its blowhole. Leah told me this was called "chuffing" and happens a lot in captivity when they are stressed or agitated. Guess that makes sense why I've never heard of it, the dolphins we see don't have a reason to do this! You could also hear very loud above water echolocation, and at one point I heard an awful screaming sound from one of them.

Trying to get attention @ the Taiji Whale Museum

There was a tank further back, which as far as I could see had at least one other Pacific white sided and bottlenose who both kept doing an exaggerated spy hop. Maybe they were trying to see the other dolphins? Or maybe they were just longing for attention from the staff standing nearby. The workers were spraying something in the water, but I have no idea what. Some sort of chemical to help keep the water clean, I suppose? Just like at Dolphin Base, they got very active when there were people around, even though they were not shown the slightest bit of attention. Not a pet, or greeting, or even eye contact. It reminded me very much of how the Canadian DFO wanted everyone to treat Luna
I've been thinking of starting a finventory at Dolphin Base and the Taiji Whale Museum. Could be difficult to obtain what I need for this though...

In theme with rule # 32, Leah and I went out for a Halloween celebration dinner. We broke away from the usual spots and came across a place that serves a great margarita pizza and ??? drink. I couldn't read the menu, but the title of one section was 'fruity liquor' so I randomly chose one and asked for it. Apparently what I ordered was 'hot and sour' and I said "oh, cold?" and he brought me a delicious (also pronounced dericious - there's actually a sign outside of the one of the restaurants that says that!) apricotty beverage. To participate in the Halloween Spirit Leah and I did a bit of face painting, and knocked on a few doors at our hotel!

Happy Halloween from the SJD Crew!

So maybe it wasn't the best of days, but thanks to rule # 32, we're ending on a good note. :)

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