This morning, I returned to the English school to try to register for the brief 6 hr course they were offering but for some reason, they wouldn't let me register. I understood that perhaps it was just meant to be an introductory class for foreigners and wouldn't be appropriate but I'm not exactly sure if my understanding is correct. Myriam said she will call later for me to try to decipher the exact issue.
Since I was out and about, I took advantage of being in the city to use my museum pass and see the small aquarium Nancy supports. There's a handy tram line that runs every five minute and connects several areas with the downtown core so I hopped on that and found myself at the aquarium in no time. The upper floor is reserved for an unusual collection of animal horns, stuffed animals (the real kind, not stuffies), and jarred specimens of sea life. They also have an impressive display of mounted beetles, moths, and butterflies, which made me think of Calvin, as I believe he had prepared something similar in his junior high days. Surprisingly, the stuffed animals included a few items from North America so I looked with fondness upon l'elan (moose) and le phoque (seal). They also had a stuffed platypus, which I briefly considered stealing for Abby (to augment her Grade 6 school project) but it wouldn't fit in my knapsack. A temporary exhibit hall displayed several black and white photos taken of the Antarctic, showing pitiable penguins that looked to be trapped on ice flows and the like. They had a running soundtrack of what appeared to be the calls of wild birds and the cold southern wind to provide more reality to the exhibit.
On the lower floor, a series of small aquariums lined two large corridors, each anchored with a larger tank offsetting a viewing area. While small in comparison to most aquariums I have frequented, all the tanks were in pristine condition and the sea life, very healthy. Most of the species were familiar but I did note three that were new to me, and piqued my interest, the first being the garden eel, which lives in burrows on the sea floor, and is named such from its practice of poking its head out while most of its body remains hidden beneath -- a few of these grouped together resemble plants in a garden. The next one was a really ugly thing called a batfish. It's quite odd looking and has a face only a mother batfish could love. The third was my favourite. I love rays and these appeared to be a marbled variety that I don't recall seeing before. There were several in one tank and they continuously floated over and under each other, sometimes stacked like three or four pancakes, seemingly taking turns being the one on the bottom. I became mesmerised by them and felt I could watch for a long time.
After dashing into a nearby cathedral for a quick look, I caught the next bus back. About ten minutes into the ride, four men in black boarded the bus, two at the front door and two at the back. These guys look serious, I thought. They then began approaching passengers and asking to verify their tickets and bus passes. Each time a person gets on a bus, they must validate their ticket or pass independently by swiping it against one of the machines. This is so that the ticket is marked as used; I'm not sure why validating a pass is necessary but perhaps they want to count uses. At any rate, I displayed my pass when the pair came over to check out my pass. But then, shortly after, there was a bit of a commotion as they discovered some poor, luckless young teenager near me who didn't have a ticket, validated or otherwise. Thug 1 and Thug 2 surrounded him and started their questioning. Thug 1 then got on his walkie talkie and made a big deal of calling in the infraction -- I understood the words 'use his phone to call his parents' and 'police.' They sat beside him or blocked the aisle so he couldn't make any kind of exit. They then remained on the bus with him for the next thirty minutes. At one point, the third guy came by and used the seat next to me, facing towards the aisle. [After two minutes, he turned around and apologized to me because he felt it was rude of him to be sitting with his back to me. I was quite surprised but of course said, 'Pas de problem!' Actually, I find the French people here generally very polite. This is one instance, but there are other habits which I notice too: virtually everyone in Ludres, the small town in which I live, greets me when I am out for a walk. And it is considered essential to start any conversation with anyone when you're out (e.g., at the post office, grocery shopping, buying bread, at a clothing store, etc.) with 'Bonjour' first before continuing the interaction or asking a question. And just like Canadians, if someone bumps into you or gets in your way, they are quick to say 'Pardon.' Makes me feel right at home.]
I finally had to get off a few stops before the end of the line but was curious as to what was going to happen to the kid. I understand that there's usually a fifty euro fine imposed but this seemed pretty serious to involve four guys for that length of time. I wonder if they make a big deal in order to try to deter people -- it's seems a pretty embarrassing experience.