ocean voyager underwater tunnel
i woke up at 7:30 and took a shower. i decided to make some decaffeinated coffee to complete my business trip experience. that wasn't as easy as it sounded since i've never used a coffeemaker before. i didn't know where to pour the water and made a mess when i poured the water into the drip container (i eventually figured out you put the water in the container in the back). i took a sip and poured the rest out - it wasn't very good coffee (there wasn't enough sugar anyway). i packed up my things, got dressed in yesterday's clothes, and walked to the federal reserve, about 10 minutes away. there must've been a cold spell the night before because there were a layer of frost on the plants. it took me a while before i could get clearance to go inside the museum; i got the name of our contact person wrong and the guard couldn't find her in their directory. while he was searching the computer, i was trying hard not to stare at his assault rifle leaning against the wall. eventually i did manage to get in.
even though the boss told me to be there at 8:30, he himself didn't show up until well after 10 - only because he had to pick up our IT guy from the airport, who flew all the way in from nevada this morning to fix the hardware problem. in the meantime i fixed the remaining bugs. i was hoping to get out of there by noon and head to the aquarium, but things dragged on, and i didn't leave until 2:30pm. a bunch of people from the office were playing the interactive, which made me nervous, because i was afraid there'd be more bugs and i'd be forced to stay to fix them; fortunately that didn't happen. so i quickly made my way to the nearest hotel and grabbed a taxi. i noticed the guy didn't turn on his meter and when i asked for a receipt he gave me a blank piece of paper (he later filled out the correct form after i asked him about it). the ride cost $10 (originally i was just going to walk down) but since i wasn't paying for it i didn't feel too bad. because i had my backpack and all my gear with me, security gave me a thorough screening. i was asked to open up my bags, even asked to take a drink from the bottle of lemonade i had (i thought she was joking but she was serious). admission is an expensive $22.50, but this was what i was here for, so money was no object. i took a deep breath and walked inside.
advertised as the biggest aquarium in the world, the interior of the new georgia aquarium felt more like a shopping mall than it did a traditional aquarium. exhibits were organized by regions, and each region had its own amusement park-like entrance. the aquarium had two floors, but the upper floor housed just the function rooms and a theatre. although technically larger than any aquariums i've visited, i think the variety of animals were no greater than any other well-stocked aquarium - just in greater abundance and a bigger tank. i was surprised, since i originally figured i could spent a whole day here, but after over an hour, i felt like i've already seen everything. some exhibits had descriptions, but they were really simple items geared more for kids, e.g. "these fish have big teeth!"
not to say they didn't have some really cool things there. one of them was the underwater glass tunnel with the moving sidewalk. their largest tank, it featured a pair of whale sharks imported from taiwan (the size of school buses, they'd eclipse the surface when they swam over the tunnel), at least two hammerhead sharks, schools of manta rays (like graceful flocks of slow-moving birds), and an assortment of other fish. i actually visited the tunnel twice, i loved it so much.
goliath grouper w/golden trevallies
school of rays
another cool thing was the petting pool, where you got to touch rays and sharks who would swim up to your hand if you put it in the water. rays felt like wet skin, but sharks felt like velvet. there was also a "petting" tidal pool but i got yelled at for pinching an anemone. for their celebrity animal the aquarium decided on their quartet of beluga whales - which surprised me, because when i went to that osaka aquarium, their celebrity animal was their only whale shark - and here at this aquarium, they had a pair of whale sharks but they weren't even advertising them as their showcase attraction! personally, beluga whales to me resemble overweight albino dolphins without the characteristic smile. one of the whales was rescued from a mexican zoo and was recovering from an unslightly skin ailment.
since i didn't have any breakfast or lunch yet, i decided to take a break and get some food from the cafe. i ended up with just a hot dog, a plate of fries, and a smoothie. i was surprised to see small bottles of wine being sold in the beverage display case. after i finished eating, i saw the rest of the aquarium, and went back to a few of the more interesting exhibits for a second look. by the time i was done, it was 5pm. it seemed a lot earlier though until i figured out way: there was still daylight outside. it dawned on me that atlanta is far enough south that they'd have more daylight than the amount i normally get back home in boston. i asked some bike cops outside how to get to the nearest subway station and started walking.
from the aqarium i walked southeast until i arrived at the peachtree center station. atlanta's subway system is called MARTA and it costs $1.75 to ride it south to the airport. i've been very fortunate this year to experience a wide selection of subways: boston, new york city, chicago, tokyo, taipei, bangkok, and now atlanta. atlanta was the only one that had carpet on the trains though. as we made our way to the airport, the sun was setting and the sky put on a beautiful light show of colorful bands. at the airport i saw a sign for hooters air (maybe next time). i printed out a new boarding pass and went to go wait at my gate 2 hours early. about an hour before departure, delta switched gates for the flight and i had to ride the airport subway train to another terminal. that's when i heard somebody calling my name, and it turned out to be the boss, who decided to go back to boston early instead of staying in the city for another day.
flying back to boston only took 2 hours (coming down to atlanta took almost 3 hours). despite the fact that it was a small plane, it was a pretty empty flight and i got a whole row to myself. i sat by the window seat the whole time, pressing my nose up to the glass and looking down at the lights of the cities and towns we were passing, like an elaborate lite bright project.
manhattan from 10,000 feet
when we arrived at logan, i let the boss off the hook by telling him i was grabbing the public bus, so we wouldn't have any awkward moment where he'd need to come up with an excuse not to give me a ride to the nearest T station. so i waited outside in the bitter cold for the silver line, bundled up in my jacket, hands tucked underneath my armpits, blowing out my breath so it looked like i was a fire-breathing dragon. eventually after 2 dozen rental car buses and logan terminal shuttle buses, the silver line bus arrived. the trip back gave me time to reflect on the past two days. it wasn't such a bad trip after all, there wasn't any major crisis, the clients were happy, and i got to go to the aquarium.
it'd take me over an hour before i got home close to midnight. after i showered i made some ramen for dinner before going to sleep. i sure miss that hotel bed!