Writing Memoir

Swimming

body
Finally using the underwater feature of my camera.

Swimming is a confusing sport, because sometimes you do it for fun, and other times you do it to not die. And when I’m swimming, sometimes I’m not sure which one it is. – Demetri Martin

Can you swim? It’s an interesting question in an EFL (English as a Foreign Language) classroom and one that I took for granted as an American. It seems that all American kids learn how to swim and looking back I can’t remember anyone (although I’m sure there was someone) who didn’t know how to swim. Of course, I grew up in Hawaii and we had to take a water safety and ocean survival course in grade school.

We went to the nearest recreation center and had to tread water in the middle of the pool for some horribly long time, but most of us cheated by touching the side of the pool for a brief relief. Then there was learning how to float properly (who knew, eh?) so if by some crazy chance we got stuck out in the middle of the ocean, we knew how to conserve energy and survive.

While I didn’t grow up far from the beach, it wasn’t part of my family’s regular routine. We enjoyed the beach, many times, but we didn’t live for the beach. My mom never learned how to swim, something that I found outrageous, but she’s from a different generation and world, even today there are still a fair amount of non-swimmers in Thailand.

I have my father to thank for teaching me how to swim, for signing me up for swim classes at our local rec center. I’m not sure what kind of swimmer he was, how much the US Air Force required of him, his passion was golf, but I certainly did not get the feeling that he was uncomfortable in the water. After all, he had the peculiar habit of sinking to the bottom of the pool, cross-legged and timing himself. But don’t ask me what his time was, I always got nervous when he stayed underwater for a long time. I’d yell, “Dad! Dad!” at his watery form, until he came back up.

As a child, I was a strong swimmer because I loved it. One of my main childhood homes was in a townhouse complex with a pool, so I swam often. I used to carry my younger brother to the deep end on my back and then drop him off, watch him flounder, laughing, because every time I carried him, I lied to him, I told him I wouldn’t drop him off and every time he fell for it. Yes, yes, yes. I’d rescue him, too. I wasn’t going to let my baby brother drown. I’d like to think I helped him learn how to swim…in my own cruel sisterly way.

After we moved away from the pool, I stopped swimming regularly. The middle of the Mojave Desert didn’t provide much inspiration, although, it could have, I suppose if I wanted it badly enough. Becoming a teenager and then a twenty-something girl transformed me into a body-conscious ninny who was more concerned about how I looked in a bathing suit rather than simply enjoying the water.

But these days, I’m swimming again. Even though we lived next to the pool at two different places in Chiang Rai, Thailand, I hardly swam. In Siem Reap, Cambodia though, I can’t get enough of the pool. Probably because it’s HOT and dusty here and swimming has cool lasting benefits long after I’ve left the salt water pool.

It all began when, on a lark, a coworker asked if I wanted to join him at the gym because he wanted to get in shape. And on a lark, I said yes because I, too, had been thinking of the same thing. So, we two larks ended up going. I’m grateful. It surprisingly doesn’t take that long for your body to adjust. Now, I’ve got the b/f joining me and it feels like a treat as well because it’s at a fancy hotel.

How the other half lives...
How the other half lives…

I can’t say that I swim correctly or that I do laps. I like to play around and do what feels good. I know the regulars, but I can’t guess the tourists schedules so sometimes I’m around loud Australians and other times loud Chinese. I like it when I have the pool to myself, but I’m never really alone. Red dragonflies hover in clouds and land long enough for me to discover that they actually have purple bodies. Shiny skinks deceptively look like leaves twirling and sliding on the ground, and birds dive and swirl around because the pool is surrounded by greenery.

On cloudy days, I like floating on my back and luxuriating in a life with small-big moments of play and freedom.

What about you? Can you swim?

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48 thoughts on “Swimming

  1. You make swimming sound relaxing. I am not a swimmer. In fact, I do not like swimming. It makes me cold, even if I am swimming under the blazing sun. And secondly, I don’t like water getting into my eyes, and goggles feel annoying on my head. Can’t do the thing where you open your eyes underwater…and I need my contact lenses 😀

    Land sports like hiking is more like my thing. And obstacle courses on land 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Interesting! I’m loving these responses. I never thought about not liking swimming. You describe it so well that I don’t think I’d like it either, if I hadn’t done it already!

      I don’t like goggles, but I probably should because I’m a contact wearer, too. I usually close my eyes, but when I was playing with the camera one of my lenses popped off. Amazingly, the lense was stuck to my head, like near my eye and I found it through touch and popped it back in!

      How are you showering? 😛 Hahahahaha.

      Like

      1. I used to have lots of swimming lessons as a kid in Singapore. On the weekends it did not rain, my mum would also take me down to the pool to have a swim. I was a very tanned kid back then.

        I like showering, actually. I close my eyes and shower 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your photos. All that blue water and bubbles and flowing hair … Your b/f must have helped you with some of them. Right?

    I learned to swim in lakes. Here in the Pacific Northwest the lakes are cold, especially early in the season. Unfortunately swimming lessons were always in early June, so we had to grit our teeth and wade in–fast or slowly. I didn’t know anyone who didn’t know how to swim. It was expected. Although I’m not particularly good at sports, I’ve always liked to swim. I’m an expert at floating on my back. My feet don’t even sink. It must be because I’m not very muscular.

    When we moved to the Philippines, swimming was even better. The pools and ocean are so warm there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Floating on your back, yeah, when I took that picture of the Japanese woman I was surprised that her body was not floating like her head. Like you, I float, but I also kick and back stroke through the water. It just seems like a glorious way to watch the sky.

      Lakes! Yes, lakes are freezing and scary. I find lakes and rivers scary because I wasn’t raised around them, but oceans, I’m okay with.

      Yes, the b/f had to help me, but he never put his head underwater because he wears contacts and didn’t bring his googles, so he just stuck the camera underwater and clicked.

      I’m glad you liked the photos. Damn challenging to do, but I’m hoping to practice some more! Cheers ^^

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I agree that rivers can be scary. But lakes? They just sit there. I like swimming in oceans, but I’m always on guard. Waves, currents, sharks, poisonous snakes, sharks … now that’s scary.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Don’t laugh, but lakes seems so vast. I know, I know, the ocean is vast, right? But again, I was raised around oceans, not lakes. Maybe it is the stillness that scares me and rivers with all their currents, brrrrr, I don’t want to fall into a river!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. i never learned to swim but wish i had. my mom had a near drowning experience as a child in cambodia and was always afraid to bring us near water. of course we loved going to the pool or the ocean if we did, but still never learned. i really would like to learn though, for water safety reasons, so i won’t drown. -_-

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I find it ironic that my mom lives in Hawaii, but can’t swim. I wish she’d learn, but at this point in her life, I think she’d just be terrified. Who knows? I’ll have to remember to ask her.

      You though are young enough to learn if you want to! Of course, you can also stay away from water and always wear a lifejacket!

      Like

  4. I love swimming! It is the only sport I don’t mind doing (I think it is because I don’t feel myself sweating, I hate sweating). I don’t have any pool nearby in Suzhou though. From June to September I was swimming in the gym in Shanghai, but now that is over.

    You know what? Most Chinese people can’t swim. At first I was very surprised by this. I think not knowing how to swim is dangerous! You never know when you would need it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really? Hmmm. It must be an Asian thing, but truly I see lots of Asian tourists in the pool and when the Chinese girls were not in it, I just figured they didn’t want to wear a swimsuit. It must be considered not important unless they are training for the Olympics 😛

      What a great point about not sweating. I don’t like to sweat either. I don’t sweat much, so I’m lucky, but I think it’s because it’s so damn hot here that is the main reason why I like it.

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  5. Love these underwater shots!

    Also, I love swimming. It wasn’t always that way though. I remember back when I was having swimming lessons I wasn’t a big fan. Being a short person, I could never touch the bottom even in the shallow end, so as a child, it terrified me! Then there was my dad who used to carry me in his arms into the waves when we were at the beach, with me screaming my head off. Then something clicked in the pool during one swimming lesson, and I couldn’t get enough of it after. I did have friends in high school who didn’t know how to swim and I was totally shocked – it feels like one of those things everyone should grow up learning.

    The funny thing is, we have a pool at the top of our apartment building. I’ve lived here over a year and a half. How many times have I used the pool? Erm… once. See in the summer it is literally too hot and humid, then you’ve got the small open window before and after summer to use it. Still no excuse!

    And my mum was of the generation of not knowing how to swim. She learnt to swim after she moved to the UK. A few years before my grandmother passed away she wanted to learn to swim, but the bathing suit put her off. So she put her sewing skills to use and sewed a modest skirt onto the bottom for her. And learnt a little bit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It does feel like something everyone should learn, doesn’t it? It’s an important skill and I have taken it for granted. I’m glad that I know how. Which reminds me, I used to date a lifeguard and contemplated getting my certificate, too. But it’s intense.

      Pool at the top of your building? Yeah, that does sound hot. You’ll just have to get up there in the morning 🙂 There, I’ve given you homework! xxoo

      Like

    1. Thanks, JP! I’ve decided I need more fun in my life and it was high time that I stopped feeling so serious. xxoo

      Like

  6. I love swimming. I used to drag myself on the 20A bus to Loughton aged 8 to learn to swim – can you imagine now an 8 year old going swimming on their own, let along catching a bus. It’s one of the joys of going to Thailand that I can swim in an outdoor pool or the sea. Very jealous Lani, that you can swim every day – keep it up brilliant fun

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know, right? How times have changed. An 8 year old should be able to take the bus and go to his swim lessons. We had so much more freedom than children have now.

      Thanks 🙂

      Like

  7. Yeah I know how to swim, was for 20 years in a swimming team and did it for several years professionaly.
    I also love to swim in my rare free time, especially when there is clear water and I can see the fishes swimming beneath me. However as soon as I can’t see the bottom or it is too deep even I get nervous/ panicked :p
    To float on your back (or stomach) without moving at all is just a matter of practice as you need to activitae just a tiny bit your core muscles. It also helps to have enough air in the lungs, you should try to float and then breath out all the air, you’d be surprised how quick you can sink!
    All the years I thought it was normal that people can swim, afterall I didnt know anyone till I met my wife who couldnt swim. From her I learned that in school the kids are taught that swimming is very dangerous and will get you killed…(yay for Chinese education),

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    1. Wow, how fascinating. Does your wife want to learn? Esp since you are such a swimmer? I’m sure Nathan is going to learn!

      So, you’re an expert. Must be nice. I know how to float, but how can you sink? Like sit at the bottom of the pool? How do you do that?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My wife doesn’t want to learn at all 😦
        In order to sink and sit on the floor you have to breath out all air u till you don’t float up anymore. Might sound scary put with a few kicks or strokes you easily get up again

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Great photos! I love swimming. I would play int he pool for hours, even after three hours of swim practice. But since I grew up in clear pools, not being able to see the bottom of the ocean or a lake makes me nervous. Seriously. Anything could be down there. Marauders in scuba gear. Sharks. Moray eels. The Loch Ness Monster.

    I only brave the freezing lakes in NH because the scenery is so gorgeous.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 😀 I dated a guy who didn’t like to swim in the ocean because he was afraid of the fish. I’d be more afraid of coral or the reef or being sucked out to sea than fish, but what do I know? 😛

      Let’s go swimming together!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love to swim. Though I live by the sea, I swim in a pool (twice a week) – this is the North Sea we’re talking on the North Yorkshire coast. I grew up further north than here and as a youngster swam in the sea and in Scottish lochs (including Loch Ness) but my tolerance of the cold has lessened with age and I have become more wary of what lies beneath. Still when we do go to warmer climes, I’m happy to dip into lakes and the sea. Thanks for an interesting post and some great photos.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked it Kate and thanks for stopping by. Swiming in the North Sea sounds super cold, but crisp and probably bracing, too! That’s a completely different kind of swimming to Hawaii, but good for you for swimming 2x a week.

      Like

    1. Aww, that’s a nice compliment. Yeah, I wasn’t sure what I was going to write, originally something about working out, but I knew I wanted to write something to go with the pics and then the natural theme of swimming emerged. Got to love inspiration and just riffing on a theme.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I heard swimming is the best exercise for you, because it really gives you a workout and it’s easy on the joints. When I go jogging now I feel a lot of pain on my knees and shins (I’m gettin old!), so I keep telling myself I need to take up swimming… but I really suck at it. I also don’t like getting my hair wet and showering (I know I sound like a prissy, but the chlorine really does horrible things to my hair). I should try the swim cap.

    Anyway, I think it’s great that in Hawaii everyone gets swimming lessons. I think it should be mandatory as well, since it’s definitely a life saving skill.

    When I lived in Niigata (snow country) I was shocked to see that they train all of the young children to ski, and there’s even mandatory ski classes in the winter (they start as young as 9!). I was really shocked. It would be lawsuit all over the place if they did that in the United States.

    And lovely photos!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mandatory ski lessons! Wow, now that’s a high class society. Skiing is not cheap! I suck at skiing, but I’ve only done it properly once. It was terrifying, really, but I was with another Hawaii friend who really was scared out of her wits, so I felt brave. Hahahhaaha.

      Yeah, I’m glad this is a salt water pool, as I don’t like chlorine either and it would probably be damaging to my hair as well. Swim caps are not just for old ladies 😛 Give it a try! I should and then I’d look professional! (sort of)

      Running! Ug. I can’t run. Too much effort. Too hot. I don’t know how you all do it.

      Thanks dear.

      Like

  11. Great pix. Salt water pool in a fancy hotel, now you’re talking!

    I checked the prices of using the facilities at a 5 stars hotel here and it was London prices.

    Happy Holiday/ Merry Christmas, Lani. I will be spending my Christmas in Athens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great. It’s going to be a Greek Christmas. Looking forward to hearing about it. 🙂

      Happy Christmas to you, too!

      Like

  12. No I can’t swim. Several siblings have tried to taking swimming lessons as an adult, but they kept sinking. Guess they weren’t relaxed? One sister, who won a windsurf board would to out with her lifejacket….and she couldn’t swim. Hmmmm yea. Hubby had to be around…

    But all the nieces and nephews have been taking swimming lessons and can swim.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess swimming isn’t your thing, eh? That’s okay. I’m sure you’d kill us on the bicycle any day 😀

      Like

  13. I’m not a beach person. I like it for an hr. but last 20 years, I actually prefer to sit in the shade on a beach. I get a lot of sun as a cyclist anyway… So no, in Hawai’i, twice, I didn’t go to beach just to sit out in the beach for sun. More to dip my feet in water and look at shells.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Walking on the beach is nice. I particularly like it when it’s quiet and cool and never appreciated a rocky coast until I made it up to the Pacific NW.

      I’m not a beach person either. I’ve lived in the famous beach country of Thailand for 5 years and never went. (Except once when I was visiting, prior to moving here, and I didn’t hang out on the beach. I think I barely touched the sand.)

      I don’t know. Got it out of my system when I was a kid, I guess 😀

      Like

  14. Love your writing so much. And you’re right, we all grew up knowing how to swim in Hawai’i (except Sean Kaneshiro, kept that secret for him for over 26 years. I even tried to teach him a few times.)

    But as someone who was on a swim team since I was in 4th grade, Mililani, MHS and then at USC, and now that I have a daughter that swims as a team sport too, I find that for me the act of swimming can be both a sport and a meditative experience. I feel like I’m freest in the water, weightless and able to move far faster than on land. Devyn, who I took to California to teach her myself to swim in the ocean, like I did but much colder, feels the same. Her favorite vacation is her in any ocean …

    But you can also feel like you’re drowning too. At a meet, doing what you’ve done a thousand times, but now with the pressure of performance can create stress far more weighty than any item I could affix to myself. You learn to balance, to find the peace, the quiet mediation of the movement, the knowledge that you’re on a team, yet the only person you’re really competing against is yourself. The control of breath, the feeling that you can live in both the water and the land. Which is both calming and scary at the same time.

    Now, as I’m older and watching Devyn find her breath, I am far more comfortable teaching her that it’s only a race with yourself, that the stress and competition of her against others goes against the very principle of swimming .. . to move as one with the water.

    With swimming and in life, there are always times where we find ourselves swimming against the current, such is life in and out of the ocean, but when we can remember that we all float when we have to, either situation can have a positive outcome.

    To me swimming = water = life.

    And hey, it’s fun to see the team tee-shirt that say, “You think your sport is hard? Try doing it while holding your breath!” Thank you Lani for your words and your gift. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What? I had no idea Sean couldn’t/can’t swim! And you, on the swim team! I feel like I’m getting to know you in a completely special way. Yes!

      I do remember on FB seeing Devyn in her swimsuit and goggles, but had no idea that she took after mommy 🙂 That’s great that she loves it as much as you do. And it must be pretty frickin’ cool to teach your daughter something like that. Empowering.

      You made me think of the term swim therapy. Thanks, McJen. Love you.

      Like

  15. I enjoyed reading this. 🙂 Overall I’m a terrible swimmer But one thing I can do that I really enjoy is back float. I’d never had constant swimming pool access until I moved to Florida, and the pool and beaches are my favorite part of living here. Very relaxing right after I write. I have some of my best creative ideas in the pool. Unfortunately it’s too cold to swim in the winter, even in Florida. Will have to deprive myself until spring. 😦 Sigh.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like it. I like getting to know bloggers, readers + writers. I had no idea you were in Florida and I could have never guessed you were a swimmer/beach/pool diva. 😛 So, I’m going to assume you are in Southern Florida and not in the Deep South swam Florida bit?

      Oh, I believe. Tropical places can get cold. The pool was super brisk today. 80 degrees is freezing, yup, when you’re used to the 90s. *dear god* And 70s is like sweater weather…

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I love boats and all bodies of water. I was born at a resort lake and remember blowing bubbles at the edge during swimming lessons at a very young age, maybe 4 or 5 years old. I also remember frolicking every day with friends, pushing each other off the docks and hiding underneath them. For a few days during the heat of summer the shallow areas of the lake would get large blooms of green algae and we would still swim but come out looking like something from a horror movie! Oh….the smell was awful because along with the algae you would be playing and swimming and turn around to find a dead fish next to your face.

    As beautiful as the Gulf of Thailand looks as we walk the beach, I know what gets dumped in it from the nearby canal. Plus, I don’t have jellyfish in the pool.

    For the past 10 years or so I have found pools to do “old lady” exercises. I looked up on youtube what warm ups synchronized swimmers do. I found many and have adapted floor exercises to the water and can give myself a full body work out. I have a pool where we live now and enjoy having it all to myself on most days!

    My most favorite thing to do is float……I can relax so much I have to remind myself not to nap! We like to go on cruises and when I am on the ship I like to:

    Float in the pool, while floating on the ocean, while floating in the Universe!

    Thanks again for another great post!
    Lin

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lin! I like swimming with fish, but I prefer to have them living! Looking up youtube exercises sounds like a great idea. I’ll have to do that myself with I’m alone and I don’t look too silly 😛 I remember I signed up for a aquasize class in college. I was so tickled that was an option! (along with ballroom dancing 😉 In any case, it’s great that you are swimming…such good exercise.

      Happy Holidays ^^

      Like

  17. What a fun post! Living in Southern California we absolutely love the water. You’re right, I know few people who cannot swim in some fashion or another. My parents got a pool after I moved away from home and my kids grew up swimming in their pools. I love the water, we all love the water and we spend a great deal of time in and around the water in our family. Did you get one of those disposable underwater cameras? Very interesting. Even at the gym working out in the pool is one of my favorite things. Makes me think when I get back to the gym next week I better hit the pool!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you liked and could relate to the post 🙂 Swimming is indeed magic and so good for you, too. I have to get back myself, holidays and all – got too busy! But no more excuses.

      No, the camera is not disposable (although I wish it was). Just one of those impulse purchases when I was back in the US. I needed a camera, but nothing was in my range, so I got this one on a whim without doing any research on it. It’s okay. My last one, a Lumix was WAY better…so I need to buy a new one.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. What a wonderful story of how you learned to swim. I was also taught by my father but sadly, his ways weren’t conventional. The worst part was, I didn’t learn until I reached my 16th birthday when I was invited by a friend to go swimming in the nearby river.

    So we were a group of four. I pretended I knew how to swim but the obvious couldn’t be hidden later on. When they were getting far from where I was at, they warned me not to get close as it was already too deep to where they were frolicking in. But ego had me swim until I couldn’t feel the earth at the bottom. I started to panic. I nervously flapped my hands and moved my feet but I couldn’t float. I was getting more and more submerged by each move. Just when one of them was about to rescue me, I was already too tired to move so I stopped. Like I gave up. It was there that I floated. When I floated, my instinct told me to crawl, by extending my hands alternately bring them back as far as possible, dragging as much water back (with a bent forearm and a cupped hand) as I possibly could. The rest is history.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, that’s quite a story. I’ve never heard about learning to swim like that, but I suppose it is more common than we think.

      Do you enjoy swimming now?

      Like

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