It being the gorgeous Sunday that it was, Andrea and I strolled home on foot after picking up my ukulele.
We were about halfway down the main road when we heard shrill twittering. I’ve only heard birds so piercing before when I was in Australia and passed under a tree full of small parrots (or galahs or something). They drowned out all other sound. Conversation, storefront music – even traffic sounded like it was being fed into an auditory shredder and coming out in strings of shrieking .
So as we came upon a pet store with grimy front windows and an open door, it was no surprise that hundreds of birds were once again responsible for the din.
I’ve walked past here many, many times over the past six months and never seen this store. Considering I furnished the majority of my apartment at the store across the street (Eco Mart) – not to mention the fact that I love birds – I find this really strange. Did I really never notice it? I understand that the door was never open because it was too chilly, but were the windows really that dirty that I didn’t see an entire store stacked with bird cages?
No matter. We were here now. And just because it was so raucous, we had to step inside.
Maybe since our hearing was overblown (and thus impaired), our other senses compensated, because the smell was overwhelming. The first thing that hit us right after we walked in was the reek of stale seeds, mounds and streaks of bird droppings, and dusty feathers.
There were also two enormous budgies. Honestly. I’ve never seen them that monstrous.
As a fun piece of trivia, “budgie” comes from an abbreviation of “budgerigar” which is the anglicization of “betcherigah“, the Australian aboriginal word meaning “good to eat bird”, because they used to eat them. Having seen the size of my miniature pet parakeets in the past, I’ve always wondered how in the hell they ever found enough meat on them to ever consider them having any taste at all.
But these ones took the cake. Or..meat pie?
They were roughly the size of anorexic cornish hens. You can kind of see them in the above picture, though it doesn’t do them justice, even next to the finches. But really, they were nearly twice the size of the lovebirds!
They must have been putting steroids in their millet.
I’ve been really missing my budgie back home (indulgent photo sharing):
…so I gleefully seized the opportunity to be around birds again, even if they were wrecking my ear drums.
Seeing the condition of the cages made me really sad, though. Literally just cages stacked on top of each other, there were at times more than twenty birds crammed into a single 30″ x 24″ x 24″. There were sick birds, birds with patches of feathers missing, birds whose backs-of-their-heads had been pecked to the bare skin. Many clung to the cage walls looking out.
Not only that, but the store itself – let alone the cages – looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in well over a year, if not a decade. Hence the smell. Empty cages sat in corners, their interiors strung with thick, dusty cobwebs like someone had emptied an entire can of silly string into them.
The owner sat in the windowed back room, unconcerned with our presence in her shop. Thus we had no inhibitions in taking photos.
Nothing was too exotic and different; there were dozens of budgies, of course, but also lovebirds, tiny cockatiels, finches, and some interesting parrots that looked like hobbit-sized red and blue macaws. The latter were definitely the calmest and smartest, looking at us quizzically and judgmentally, but sadly none of my pictures of them turned out.
In fact, with all the mad hopping, flapping, mating (yes, there were lovebirds doing it), and chummy birds playing with each other, it was a miracle any photos turned out at all.
We spent about a quarter hour browsing. In part this was because it was far too narrow and dark to stay longer, not to mention we were breathing in all sorts of dust, feathers, and…well, even less pleasant things. Ultimately though, I think, it was our pressing compulsion to go home and play ukulele that had us make our exeunt.
Leaving the dimness of the shop and stepping into the buttery warm sun, Andrea and I enthused about how nice the spring is. Neither of us have felt we’ve done Korea justice since we got here, but the winter is enough to make Koreans themselves hole up – this store as a case in point. It’s nice to walk around now and start seeing shops spring from the walls as colourful and interesting as the new plants sprouting between the cracks in the cobblestones.
Although we did walk out of there with our ears muted in much the same way one’s hearing gets all ring-y after going to a concert and standing next to a speaker. (#noregrets)
Anyway, here’s hoping that this summer’s going to bring a lot more than the past six months cumulatively have so far! I’m feeling pretty optimistic and am excited to start discovering more new stuff just around the riverbend!