A rained out swimming pool experience

Taipei City Zhongzheng District Sports Center

Since I returned to Taiwan in late spring last year, besides using Taipei City’s convenient and affordable YouBike renting system more and more, I haven’t been exercising much.

In this context I want to point out that I’m really grateful for the municipal sports centers that step by step have been built in all of Taipei’s 12 administrative districts, many of which I have tried out.

The gyms are open every day, with the exception of a short break during Chinese New Year, from 6 AM to 10 PM. The very reasonable fee is 50 NT$ for 70 minutes, and one can shower on the premises if needed.

Though due to very different cultural traditions, most of the swimming pools included in those sporting facilities are of very little interest to me, as the average water depth there is about 1,50 meters and therefore not really suitable for some serious swimming.

Ten days ago I finally found a city-owned 50 meter pool deep enough for my taste. Despite its restricted opening hours in the morning and in the evening, I was looking forward to going there regularly.

Alas, I had reckoned without the host! There is a test to be passed before anyone will be allowed into that deeper pool, for what I considered to be safety reasons.

So yesterday at 8:00 PM I went there spontaneously and paid my 200 NT$ registration fee, which included an insurance. I also had to leave the phone number of a friend to be contacted in case of emergency.

Besides me, two other male foreigners and a local girl were waiting for the great moment. We were given ten minutes to warm up and then the lifeguard asked us to jump into the supposedly cold water one by one.

I considered it a pure formality, but it turned out that I was very wrong. It was actually about speed: 1,000 meters, or 20 lanes, had to be mastered in less than 30 minutes.

After about 1/3 of the distance, and especially considering the pace of my “competitors”, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to fulfil the requirement on time as I was simply too slow.

I did actually swim for half an hour as fast as I could. It was probably the most demanding physical activity in a long time, and felt great! However, I missed the mark by far.

As a result, I will not be able to use that pool. This is particularly ironic as I learned to swim and stay afloat at a very young age, because my father put great emphasis on it since I was a little boy.

In this case I didn’t want to join a professional swimming club or participate in any competition, so from my perspective proving that I wouldn’t sink to the ground (immediately) should have been enough.

Nevertheless, rather than feeling annoyed or disappointed, more than anything else I’m amused. As an alien living far away from my place of birth, I have to adapt to local customs.

When in Rome, do as the Romans! Even when their rules and regulations sometimes don’t make much sense to me, or they hope that I somehow set Olympic records…