I took a tour of a botanical garden the first week of March. The brochure promised vast fields of pristine flowers and a stuffed koi pond. But winter was still around and I walked along pruned pathways of dead flowers. I stared for minutes to catch a murky glimpse of a school of four dirt-colored koi.
However, because this was Korea, the park doubled as a petting zoo, tripled as a bear sanctuary, and quadrupled as a sculpture garden, each bizarre in their own way.
The petting zoo had goats and reindeer. And next to the reindeer were beagle puppies. An indoor portion of the petting zoo had plexiglass walls and partitions where I could see, but not pet, a flock of ducks, two turkeys, and a passel of cats.
The bear sanctuary had about 100 bear, 20 or 30 to a cage. Randomly, on the sidewalk in front of one of the cages, was a young cub, riding a scooter
And then came the sculpture garden, a series of bear sculptures along a path. Each sculpture was numbered with an accompanying sign in Hangul explaining what was happening. Because I couldn’t understand what the signs said, I came up with my own narrative:
1. A new bear cub, Zach, is suckling on his mother and dreaming of riding a scooter in front of quasi tourists who really just wanted to see flowers. While still a cub, his father gives Zach a slingshot.
2. Zach loves the slingshot and takes it everywhere. He shoots rocks at reindeer and beagle puppies, just hard enough to annoy them. He tries to shoot rocks at the ducks and turkeys, but the rocks bounce off the plexiglass.
3. Zach’s dad chastises him for shooting at animals and you can see a tear roll down Zach’s eye as he holds his slingshot tight.
4. All is forgiven when Zach goes fishing in the koi pond with his dad. Zach keeps the slingshot around his neck as he swipes at the koi. They each get one fish, having the entire population.
5. Zach plays with friends as he grows, jumping rope and shooting marbles, wrestling and rough-housing.
6. Zach’s family goes to the safety day picnic. Zach and his dad enter a three-legged race. They struggle at first to get their rhythm, but end up winning. After the win, the family sits down to eat. But a sow has caught Zach’s eye.
7. Zach’s parents see less and less of him. The sow teaches Zach to ride a scooter and Zach teaches the sow how to use his slingshot.
8. Zach and the sow get married. At the wedding, he tucks his slingshot away.
9. Zach, the sow, and their son, James, are the last sculpture along the pathway. James has the slingshot, and Zach his showing him how to shoot it… away from the animals.