The epic tale of the courageous Tsing and Tao

Pacific Ocean. September 26, 2004

‘Yes, Tao?’

‘It’s a big world out there. What should we do?’

‘Tao, we can do anything. We can swim with the salmon in the river. [Do salmon swim in rivers?] We can watch the seahorses mate and have their tiny seahorse babies. [Um, gross.] We can sunbathe on the rocks and watch the birds fly high above us!’

‘Can we really Tsing? Can we do whatever we want? Are we free?’

‘We’re free Tao. I promise.’

LA Chinatown. September 27, 2004. Inside a 7×5 plastic Tupperware container.


‘Yes Tao?’

‘Are we still free?’

‘Yes, Tao.’

Unfortunately, Tsing and Tao were not free. Far from it. They were in LA’s Chinatown, which is really the most un-free place you can possibly be for turtles or humans, for that matter. Crammed in a 7×5 Glad Tupperware container with an artificial rock, Tsing and Tao were never going home. There would be no family of adorable baby turtles for them. This is the story of the brave Tsing and Tao, two $5 Chinatown red-backed turtles who spent a hellish year with an Aderall influenced, overly emotional, always procrastinating college junior: yours truly.


Fall Quarter held a great deal of promise for Tsing and Tao. New home, new owner, and really cool looking orange pellets to call food. Things were looking up until Tao started getting really paranoid, climbing around the entire tank only to slide down the clear plastic walls. No matter how hard he tried, he just could not get to the ridged turquoise opening that signified freedom. All he could see from his new found prison were 4 girls going in an out of an apartment with Napoleon Dynamite playing constantly on the TV. It was too much to handle. How many times can someone watch that stupid movie anyway? Morons. Finally, one day, Tao had enough. He crawled underneath Tsing for warmth, and died.


All alone, Tsing was actually starting to enjoy his spacious bachelor pad after he properly mourned the death of his good friend Tao. I’d compare this to how Puff Daddy felt when the Notorious B.I.G. died – sad, but kind of relieved since he was able to have his own space and become a reigning music mogul. Not quite the same for Tsing, but you get the idea.

The only problem was, Tsing was constantly tired since he was rudely awoken by multiple  violent earthquakes every single day. His new owners, who obviously had ADD, never managed to sit quietly and do their homework like other students. Instead, they procrastinated all day long, and sometimes did a series of thundering somersaults in the living room to pass the time. For a tiny 2 inch turtle, this hurt. Any seismologist would have likened this level of movement to an 8.5 magnitude earthquake that happened daily.

It was annoying.

But, all in all, it was an enjoyable life, Tsing figured. He was the king of his small castle, and that was enough for him.


Spring was nice. Winter had left Tsing a little lethargic, making his owner wonder if he was dead. She poked and shook the Glad container frequently, making sure Tsing was still moving. This gave him headaches.

In April, Tsing felt some camaraderie with his owner since she used him to get the attention of a boy, who will be named HT. Hot Todd. Hot Todd didn’t even like turtles, but his owner would call him frequently, using the turtle as an excuse with asinine excuses such as: ‘Hi, do you have Katie’s number? She has experience with turtles and Tsing is doing something weird. Really weird. Swimming backwards or something.’

Tsing felt good about himself, since it was he who was the catalyst of a blooming, but short-lived, teenage love affair.


In the summer, his owner and Hot Todd broke up, leaving her incredibly cranky. This resulted in some neglect. She would forget to feed him the orange pellets sometimes. Sometimes she would feed him potato chip flakes. The daily somersaults became more regular, and made Tsing’s brain boil as it bounced around his head.

Then one day, after feeling particularly guilty for neglecting Tsing, she decided to give him a nice heat lamp, because turtles like heat lamps. Although it was a tad warm, Tsing appreciated the kind gesture. The heat made his fake rock hot, so he jumped around frequently. Unfortunately, Tsing’s owner mistook this for Tsing having a great deal of fun, and bought him another heat lamp. Two heat lamps. This created a LOT of jumping around, kind of how humans jump around on hot sand on the beach. Or on hot coals.


Tsing Wong died on September 14, 2005. He was found by his owner, who noticed that he was looking a little brown and crispy, and that he hadn’t moved for over 3 days. Knocking him over with a rolled up newspaper, she realized that her dear friend was gone.

Tsing had a dignified memorial service in the garden of 545 Glenrock, and was buried with a plastic spork and knife. His beautiful red-backed shell can be found next to empty Corona bottles.

And that, my friends, is why college juniors should not own reptiles. RIP Tsing!