Overall, in the past year I have had fewer and fewer “bad China days”. These types of days are defined by feeling overwhelmed, defeated, irritated or even angry at China and living here. It is usually a result of reality not meeting expectation. I actually really enjoy our lives here (even when it is hard sometimes). At first, having a “bad China day” could result from numerous new experiences I would have. The longer I live here, the more I anticipate situations and know what to expect thus having less and less “bad China days”. However, last Friday was an exception.
The swimming pool in our complex opened July 1st. China has this weird thing about swimming pools, they religiously open only from July 1st to August 31st. Even if the weather is hot in June, they won’t open the pool. And September here is quite warm and they close it every year on August 31st. Anyways, strange but true! So the pool opened and I went and bought a pass to be able to use it. Also strange, the family pass is for two adults and one child - it caught me off guard since most family passes in the States are for 2 adults and 2 or 3 children. The pool is “open” from 2:00pm - 9:30pm, however, there is a sign posted by the pool that swimming when it is not “open” is considered at your own risk and the management will not be held liable for any injuries or accidents that occur. Fair enough, right? The sign doesn’t say “you can only swim when it is open”. We also know several others who have swam when the pool wasn’t open.
|This isn’t our pool, but one in a neighboring complex. |
It’s a little nicer than ours (and has a real fence surrounding it).
So, the first Friday the pool was open I wanted to go swimming in the morning. I figured it would be better to swim in the morning when there are less people and it shouldn’t be a problem based on information I had from 1) the sign posted and 2) other people’s experiences. Steven, myself and a friend went at around 8:30am and had the pool all to ourselves. Just before 9:00, several kids and their parents showed up at the pool. The kids all had on water wings and were “playing” in the shallow end. At 9:00, one of the managers showed up and told us (just us adults, not the kids) that we had to leave. I tried to argue that the sign didn’t say we couldn’t swim but my Chinese isn’t that good. He kept repeating the pool didn’t open until 2:00pm. When I motioned to the kids and said why can they swim, he said they were “learning” (at this time there was no other adult in the pool with them). Well, it didn’t really look like they were “learning” it appeared they were “playing”. I felt super frustrated at my ability to not communicate. Steven got upset and left. My friend and I stayed for a few more minutes (mostly because I was convinced that we weren’t breaking any posted rules). Well, about five minutes later a swim instructor showed up to teach the kids. So, yes, they were learning! Totally understandable that they wouldn’t want others in the pool during swim lessons, however, the manager never stated any phrases that would lead us to believe they were having lessons (like class, teacher, student, etc). So, we left.
I was so mad. I wasn’t mad that there were swim lessons and we couldn’t swim, I was frustrated at China. I was mad that the sign said one thing and the manager another. I was mad that he couldn’t just tell us there were swim lessons but instead insisted we could only swim during “open” hours. I was just really mad. And it ruined my entire morning. I hate that. Later that morning, I finally calmed down long enough to reason through what happened, confess my anger and frustration and move on from the incident.
All that to say, it was a “bad China day”. Since then however, we have been able to go swimming in the mornings, we just go earlier - at 7:00am. And we’re not the only ones there! Usually we have three to five other companions also taking advantage of the empty pool to swim laps. There are these two older women who are super sweet and get excited when we show up. And there’s a group of tai chi ladies who do their morning exercises poolside. I’m thankful we found a time that works, and I feel more comfortable swimming when other Chinese are there, it makes me feel confident that we aren’t breaking rules (although we still might be, rule breaking is common in China, but we aren’t breaking any posted rules). I have yet to go in the afternoon, not because I don’t want to, I have just been busy in the afternoons. And it’s been raining like crazy, which makes the pool water cold (they don’t heat it at all, not even with thermal covers) and makes it harder to get up the nerve to go swim!
I’m thankful we have a pool in our complex. It’s a nice way to “beat the heat” and I love being able to do some form exercise while in my third trimester. Starting out on a bad foot wasn’t the best way to make me feel welcome using the pool (that I pay to use), but my frustration is over and now I can actually enjoy it.